Opus Dei’s Influence on the U.S. Judiciary

Leonard Leo can take credit for installing four Supreme Court justices”- John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “As executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo has been the quiet architect of a pivotal shift to the right throughout the federal judiciary” including “dozens of lower court federal judges across the country.”

It was Leo who prepared Trump’s “list of judges and the people that he's put on the bench.”

Leo is on the board of directors of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center located at 15th and K Street, two blocks from the White House. The Center is “a rallying point for ultra-conservative Catholics eager for a voice in the secular halls of government power” and “advances a hard-right political agenda,” according to Church and State, Americans United for Separation of Church and State's magazine.

Other members of the Catholic Information Center’s Board of Directors include:

  • Pat Cipollone – Trump’s White House counsel, the president’s principal legal adviser. Cipollone is a partner in Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato and Missner LLP.
  • Gerry Mitchell – another partner in Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato and Missner. Their attorneys have “unparalleled expertise” in the federal courts and “before the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice” according to the firm’s website.
  • Brian Svoboda – partner in Perkins Coie. The firm’s “Areas of Focus” include “Political Parties, Campaigns and Committees; Corporate Political Activity and Campaign Finance Compliance.” Its attorneys are admitted to the “Bar and Court” of the “District of Columbia, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”
  • Thomas Yannucci - partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Brett Kavanaugh’s former law firm.  Yannuci “has acted as trial and appellate counsel” in suits involving “the DOJ, FDA, EPA, FTC, SEC, ITC, FEC, CIA, NLRB” and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).
  • Cindy Searcy – another vice president of the Federalist Society.  The Federalist Society is a “hugely powerful, nationwide organization of conservative lawyers” instrumental in developing candidates for federal judicial roles.

Opus Dei

Opus Dei is a secret society and an official arm of the Catholic Church. Its roots are in fascist Spain.

In 1982, Pope John Paul II designated the group as a “personal prelature,” that is, they are under the sole jurisdiction of the pope and no other prelate. Its website states, “Opus Dei’s mission is to spread the Christian message that every person is called to holiness and that every honest work can be sanctified.” As of 2017 there are 92,892 lay members and 2,212 priests worldwide.

Non-Catholics are welcomed as “cooperators” who “assist the educational and social undertakings promoted by the Prelature.” Priests not ordained into Opus Dei can be a member of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, “intrinsically united to the Prelature.”

Only the identities of Opus Dei priests are public. Members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and all lay members’ and cooperators’ names are secret unless self-disclosed, such as being openly affiliated with the Catholic Information Center.

At the top:

“Opus Dei is an efficient machine run to achieve worldly power,” wrote investigative reporter Penny Lernoux in her book, People of God. 

“Opus Dei pursues the Vatican's agenda through the presence of its members in secular governments and institutions and through a vast array of academic, medical, and grassroots pursuits. Its constant effort [is] to increase its presence in civil institutions of power. [T]heir work in the public sphere breaches the church-state division that is fundamental to modern democracy,” noted Gordon Urquhart, author of The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church (1995).

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power …. Its members form a transnational elite. They seek to colonize the summits of power. They work with stealth – ‘holy discretion’ – and practice ‘divine deception,’” declared Robert Hutchison in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei

“Opus Dei is mostly middle- and upper-class businessmen, professionals, military personnel and government officials. Its members control a large number of banks and financial institutions,” according to Martin A. Lee, author and activist who has written books and articles on far-right movements.

For example, Opus Dei also operates the Leonine Forum, “Cultivating Catholic Professionals for Lives of Virtuous Leadership.”

Among the 2017-2018 New York City Fellows are those employed in Wall Street brokerages, law firms, leading publications, universities, medicine, industry and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of N.Y.

The 2017-2018 Washington D.C. Fellows include those employed in the federal government: White House, State Department, the House of Representatives, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, prestigious law firms, conservative think tanks, higher education and medicine.

As an example of “military personnel,” veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh “claimed that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Vice Admiral William McRaven and others in the JSOC were members of the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei.” JSOC is “the elite Special Ops force”  who killed Osama bin Laden. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals … This is not an atypical attitude among some military -- it's a crusade, literally," Hersh reported. “He added that members of these societies have developed a secret set of insignias that represent ‘the whole notion that this is a culture war’ between religions.”

In government, Larry Kudlow is Trump’s director of the National Economic Council. Plutocracy is “just what America needs,” Kudlow wrote in December 2016. “Putting the incredibly wealthy in charge of the U.S. government” is described as Kudlow’s great idea.

Kudlow is one of Fr. John McCloskey’s notable converts to Catholicism. McCloskey was director of Catholic Information Center from 1998-2002.

Another McCloskey convert is former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, now Trump’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Mick Mulvaney, director of Trump’s White House Office of Management and Budget and interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “has reportedly met with a long list of lobbyists, corporate executives and wealthy people with business interests before the government.” His meeting with Opus Dei’s Jeff Bell, architect of Reaganomics, covered “religious and political matters.

Trump appointed C-Fam (formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), the “intensely anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ group” headed by Opus Dei’s Austin Ruse, to the U.S. delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

As to members who “control a large number of banks and financial institutions,” Pope Francis has appointed many of them to the Vatican.

Secrecy prevents certainty

Due to Opus Dei’s secrecy, we can only guess about non-disclosed membership. Some have done so anyway.

“It’s widely known that Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas belong to Opus Dei – and that Chief Justice John Roberts may also be a member,” stated Matthew Fox, a former priest, progressive theologian and author of more than 23 books.

Others have also identified Scalia as a member, perhaps because his wife attended Catholic Information Center events and his son has spoken there.

Scalia’s influence, however, is not in doubt. The Federal Society “really grew up as a organization that promoted Antonin Scalia's conservative judicial philosophy.” On Nov. 10, Trump awarded Scalia the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., for his “especially meritorious contribution” to this country.

Alito has been also been described as to close to Opus Dei  by Church and State Magazine.

Some are linked by association. “Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas.”

When John Roberts was nominated for the Court, Opus Dei’s Austin Ruse said his fellow conservative Catholics could “breathe easy” and Leonard Leo “also assured conservative Catholics that Roberts will not follow the same path as Anthony Kennedy.”

“Leo, perhaps the most integral private individual in the selection of Kavanaugh”   was present at the White House ceremony when Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kavanaugh’s legal thinking is “shaped by Scalia.”

Gorsuch, was raised Catholic, went to the same elite Catholic prep school as Kavanaugh, but is now Episcopalian. He did his doctoral study on “natural law,” a theory asserting that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature that can be understood universally through human reason, first taught by the Catholic monk, St. Thomas Aquinas. On Oct. 19, Gorsuch spoke “at a conference of Catholic legal scholars seeking to expand Christian influence on public policy” which was closed to the public.

During his time at the U.S. Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch took a “strong stance” for “religious freedom” in the Little Sisters of the Poor case. He also concurred in the Hobby Lobby case in favor of the Green family.

Pope Francis met with the Little Sisters of the Poor while in the U.S. in support of their lawsuit. The year before, the pope granted a private audience to Hobby Lobby’s Green family, asking them “how their Supreme Court fight against President Obama’s contraception mandate was progressing.” They won.

The nuns’ lawsuit was against the Obamacare provision that those seeking the same religious exemption to providing contraceptive health care coverage to their employees as “houses of worship” must fill out a two-page form explaining why. The nuns’ argued that filling out the forms “makes them complicit in providing women with contraception.”

This became a cause célèbre for conservative Catholics and may well have tipped the Electoral College total in favor of Trump.

In September 2016, Trump promised that “If I am elected president, [t]he Little Sisters of the Poor, or any religious order for that matter, will always have their ‘religious liberty’ protected on my watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.”

In October, Trump sent a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference: “I will make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.”

In the final days of the campaign, Trump gave an interview on the Catholic EWTN, “the largest religious media network in the world.” Trump again sympathized with the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Religious liberty” was in “tremendous trouble” and “the biggest issue right now is the Supreme Court judges,” he said.

Trump won all the rural and Southern Evangelical-majority states, as expected. But, “his victory in the Electoral College came down to a razor-thin edge of only 77,744 votes across three states: Pennsylvania (44,292 votes), Wisconsin (22,748 votes), and Michigan (10,704 votes). These votes represent a Trump margin of 0.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania, 0.7 percentage points in Wisconsin, and 0.2 percentage points in Michigan.”

There are more Catholics than Evangelicals in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. While there are more Evangelicals in Michigan than Catholics (25% v 18%), the Evangelical vote alone wasn’t sufficient to give Trump a win.

Trump won 60% of white Catholics while receiving only 46% of the national popular vote. As public opinion seesawed during 2016 campaign, every poll that included the respondent’s religion showed Catholics choosing Trump at percentages higher than the general electorate. (See also herehere and here.)

“Both white and Latino Catholics cast more ballots for Trump than for Romney in 2012.” Evangelicals “went overwhelmingly for Trump, but that was also true in 2012 when they weren’t even sure Romney was Christian. They aren’t the swing voters. Catholics, on the other hand, were plus-2 for Obama in 2012 and plus-7 for Trump.”

Now the Justice Department, too

Last week, Trump replaced Jeff Sessions with Matthew Whitaker as Attorney General. Whitaker had been Sessions chief of staff. He was recommended by Leonard Leo.

"I recommended him and was very supportive of him for chief of staff for very specific reasons," Leo said Friday. "Jeff Sessions needed a reliable conservative, a strong manager, and someone who had credibility who had previously served the department," he added. "Whitaker was a very good former U.S. attorney …."

Sessions liked him, but even if he didn't, the plan was already hatched for him to take the role, according to one source familiar with the matter.”

Although not a Catholic, in a 2014 Whitaker said he regards judges based on their views on natural law and “secular worldview.”

“He has taken some incredibly extreme views on legal issues. For example, he discusses that he approaches things – legal issues – you know, he wants to see them first from the Christian perspective and then from the constitutional perspective. That is not necessarily something we are used to hearing the attorney general say."

Whitaker is also staunchly anti-abortion. He is opposed to same-sex marriage rights saying that “it’s traditionally been up to the churches and to God to define that.”

But there are consequences of Whitaker's appointment on other issues to be considered.

It was reported on Oct. 18 that for the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into clerical sex abuse of minors. Seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania received subpoenas and the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, NY, also served the diocese there. Until now, only state officials have conducted such probes. Washington D.C. and 19 states have also begun new investigations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia “issued subpoenas that seek years of internal records, including any evidence of Church personnel taking children across state lines for purposes of sexual abuse, any evidence of personnel sending sexual material about children electronically and any evidence that Church officials reassigned suspected predators or used Church resources to further or conceal such conduct. Any of these could be the underlying crimes for RICO,” the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act originally designed to target the Mafia.

As journalist Patricia Miller noted, any federal investigation “could be impeded by higher-ups in the Justice Department.”

So with five Supreme Court justices, the Attorney General, and who knows how many other officials installed by Leonard Leo, we have much to worry about.

30 users have voted.


Looks like I'll be wanting to increase the amount. Hope the Catholic Church can be exposed even further and their crimes can be effectively prosecuted. If that needs to happen at the State level so be it.

14 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

revelatory (so to speak) to me, given i'd heard the words 'opus dei', but hadn't ever tried to discover their roots, thus their reach. by definition, the organization is a cult.

10 users have voted.
thanatokephaloides's picture

@wendy davis

fascinating and quite revelatory (so to speak) to me, given i'd heard the words 'opus dei', but hadn't ever tried to discover their roots, thus their reach. by definition, the organization is a cult.

Use the "gold standard" for evaluation as to whether an organization is a dangerous cult. The Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) is the best tool for this, and Opus Dei maxes out on all the Bonewits categories except (maybe) "Hypocrisy".


edit: Reconstructed the link to work and display properly.

7 users have voted.

"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

to open an investigation similar to the one in PA of the Diocese of Louisville and other branches of the Catholic church. I read the other day that 60 Catholics sent a letter to our AG encouraging an official look into the abuse issues. SNAP put out a letter that Kurtz has not been responding to this issue seriously. Kurtz is feeling the pressure. He just put a letter into the Louisville paper. Here's the text.

Archbishop Kurtz responds: Story is disappointing

I am deeply disappointed with the Courier Journal article criticizing the way in which the Archdiocese has responded to sexual abuse by priests over the past 15 years.

I must say that we cooperated fully with the newspaper, and both Dr. Reynolds and I talked directly with the reporter.

I strongly stand by the steps that have been taken to this point of responding to victim survivors, removing those with a substantiated accusation of the sexual abuse of a minor, promptly notifying the police, and fostering safe environments in our parishes and schools. I am committed to vigorously continuing these efforts and responding to all good faith recommendations to improve. I can appreciate the pain and lifelong harm done by these heinous crimes. No child should ever be subjected to abuse, particularly by someone whose task it is to nurture a child’s faith. I have met with a number of victim survivors who have shared their pain, and I will continue to do so.

During the week of Nov. 11, I will attend theUSCCB 2018 Fall General
Assembly in Baltimore. I support the action items being proposed to address concerns about the Church’s and the bishops’ response to sexual abuse here and elsewhere.

Finally, I would like to reinforce my full support for Dr. Brian Reynolds. No one has put more time and effort into changing the way our Archdiocese responds to sexual abuse and making sure that our parishes and schools provide a safe environment for children and youth.

Sexual abuse is a deep wound in our Church and in our society, and I invite all Catholics and all in our community to join with me in prayer and action.

Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.

Archbishop of Louisville

10 users have voted.

"Without the right to offend, freedom of speech does not exist." Taslima Nasrin

@Fishtroller 02 The usual self-serving bs by a bishop! I hope the Kentucky AG does open an investigation.

12 users have voted.

Betty Clermont

I particularly wanted to read about the roots in fascist Spain, but that link doesn't work.
Any suggestion?
Sorry to trouble you.

6 users have voted.
thanatokephaloides's picture

@on the cusp

I particularly wanted to read about the roots in fascist Spain, but that link doesn't work. Any suggestion? Sorry to trouble you.

I believe the link you want is here. (Betty, you might want to adjust the link in the original Essay.)

6 users have voted.

"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

@thanatokephaloides @thanatokephaloides I've corrected it.

4 users have voted.

Betty Clermont

Lookout's picture

with deep ties to the Koch's also influences the selection law school professors

It's a big club but you ain't in it...and I'm glad I have no involvement with the criminals.

Interesting essay, thanks.

9 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout As a matter of fact, two board members of the Catholic Information Center are employed by the Catholic University of America, the only "pontifical" university in the US run entirely by the bishops. Their business school is subsidized by the Koch Brothers and there are many other connections as well. The Catholic Church/Koch brothers/Opus Dei are all intertwined.

5 users have voted.

Betty Clermont

Raggedy Ann's picture

Period. Pleasantry

10 users have voted.

"The herd management intent is simply to get you into one of the corrals. Nobody is right, if everybody is wrong.
I am a free range DFH."

Alligator Ed's picture

are remarkably similar to those of radical Islamists, who place religion (their's of course) before government.

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power …. Its members form a transnational elite. They seek to colonize the summits of power. They work with stealth – ‘holy discretion’ – and practice ‘divine deception,’” declared Robert Hutchison in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei

"Divine deception" is also mirrored in Jihadist islamism as a dispensation from telling the truth if your aim is to further the power of the fundamentalist interpretation of the Q'ran.

The O.D. role as protectorate and enabler of sexual deviancy has, as a comparison, to radical Jihadism (and even Orthodox Islam) the demeaning of women and children, condoning sexual abuse and sexual mutilation of the young female.

The separation of church and state is essential to a functioning republic (although ours hasn't been such for quite a while). This cleft between Theology and Governance exists for good reason. Using the same logic as reported in this fine essay, well-researched as usual, why should we not be living in a Caliphate rather than under some Papist rule or other dogmatic faith setting the rules for civil conduct?

There is no more justification of O.D.'s precepts than there is for the proof of the existence of God.

One cannot reason with either the insane or with religious zealots. Of course neoliberalism deifies greed as the sole motivating factor for the existence of the State. In the case of greed, the only redeeming virtue is a perverse Calvinism--"we are rich (and you ain't) because we are smarter, work harder than you accursed impoverished low lifes."

11 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

@Alligator Ed

The separation of church and state is essential to a functioning republic (although ours hasn't been such for quite a while).

The churchie people have got their saints in a row to overturn the separation of church and state. Kavanaugh was the last piece to get in place to overturn a lot of things. I'm betting that even if there had been evidence of him doing something bad he'd still have been confirmed. And there's a good chance that this is why democrats and Obama didn't fight for Garland. He wasn't moldable enough.

7 users have voted.

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

Bollox Ref's picture

the falangist way.

Makes the masons seem quaint.

6 users have voted.

from a reasonably stable genius.

6 users have voted.

Betty Clermont