Empire in the United States
By Sharon Clasen
1949, members of Opus Dei have been expanding Escriva's Empire in
the United States. Attached is a list of Opus Dei-affiliated foundations,
which includes schools, university residences, retreat centers,
etc. based in the United States. These efforts appear to fill a
community service, but privately the Founder says "university
residences, universities, publishing houses...are these ends? No,
and what is the end?...to promote in the world the greatest possible
number of souls dedicated to God in Opus Dei..." (Cronica
magazine, v, 1963)
purpose in making known this list of Opus
Dei-affiliated foundations in the United States is three-fold:
To show the patterns of location and purpose of the foundations
in the United States.
2. To disclose the finances of these foundations.
3. To point out the discrepancies encountered while trying to research
The patterns of Opus Dei-Affiliated Foundations.
her book People of God, Penny Lernoux says that Opus Dei
"is an efficient machine run to achieve world power. Opus Dei
boasts that in various countries it influences 487 universities
and high schools, 52 radio and television stations, 694 publications,
38 news and publicity agencies and 12 film and distribution companies."
These statistics are outdated now, but they are an indication of
the influence that Opus Dei wields in the world. Below is the breakdown
of the foundations identified in the United States. This is a preliminary
and by no means a comprehensive list.
Dei has some student residences for college students which are open
to the public, as well as numerary centers which offer spiritual
activities for college students. Both types of residences are strategically
located near prestigious schools including MIT, Northeastern, Boston
University, Notre Dame, UCLA, Colombia, Harvard, Boston College,
Princeton, Marquette, University of Illinois, Brown University,
Georgetown University, Rice University, UC Berkelely, Stanford University,
University of San Francisco, St. Louis University, American University,
and more. In addition to providing a housing solution for college
students, these residences serve as recruiting centers by targeting
young, naïve, bright and busy students. Opus Dei holds recruiting
workshops for their numerary members, who are told to recruit students
who are involved in many campus activities, preferably influential
ones, such as student government, or the student newspaper. Members
are also taught what questions to ask "their friends,"
how to invite them on a retreat, how to talk to them about confession,
and how to approach the subject of becoming a member of Opus Dei.
prestigious college-prep schools in Chicago, Washington DC and Boston
are recruiting grounds for the students of the elite class who would
be applying to some of the above-mentioned universities. These students
are potential candidates for the Opus Dei residences, where they
might be able to experience first-hand "living the spirit of
Opus Dei" by living in or by attending activities at one of
these centers. Many centers of Opus Dei also offer after-school
tutoring for this adolescent age group.
Dei also boasts of their supplementary education centers or "service
projects" in many inner cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago,
Washington DC and New York City. These apparently good works are
not isolated ventures either. They work in conjunction with the
above-mentioned recruiting centers, so that numeraries can invite
potential recruits to become exposed to those that are less fortunate
than themselves. Opus Dei manipulates the charitable intentions
(or social guilt) of potential recruits by exposing them to poor
people. For example, the numerary member would be directed to tell
the recruit something like, "See how generous God has been
to you. You should think about returning the generosity by considering
a vocation to Opus Dei." ("I
Was Shocked by Hidden Agendas Behind Opus Dei "Service Projects"
by Tammy DiNicola, Former Numerary)
Retreat Centers located in Boston (Arnold Hall); Chicago (Shellbourne);
Houston (Featherock); San Francisco (Trumbull Manor); Washington,
DC (Longlea); Florida (Roseaire) provide spiritual formation for
members of the Opus Dei community in each location. The retreat
centers also serve as recruiting grounds for those with potential
to join Opus Dei. One former numerary testifies that vocational
crises are staged, whereby the priests are informed by the directors
of those who might be considering a vocation to Opus Dei.
to the list, there are foundations in New York (Irving Home Arts,
Inc.), Washington DC (Stonecrest Home Arts, Inc.), Chicago (Lexington
Center, Inc.) and in Boston (Bayridge Residence and Cultural Center),
which are responsible for the care and maintenance of Opus Dei centers
in those cities. Supervised by numeraries, numerary assistants are
responsible for the care and maintenance of Opus Dei centers. Lexington
College in Chicago, the only women's hospitality institution in
the U.S. for the economically challenged, is one of the recruiting
grounds for numerary assistants.
type of venture is the Catholic Information Center in Washington
DC. Although this organization operates under the Archdiocese of
Washington DC, it is clearly run by Opus Dei. On a recent visit,
I noted the following facts: there was a chapel dedicated to Escriva;
it is run by a priest of Opus Dei; it sells all of the books by
the founder and that match the spirit of Opus Dei; and it offers
spiritual classes of Opus Dei. When I asked the cashier what the
relationship between Opus Dei and the Archdiocese was, the woman
told me that she did not know the exact terms of their agreement.
This organization appears to be the successful prototype for the
Catholic Information Center in downtown Houston, whose director
is also a priest of Opus Dei.
echo Michael Walsh, author of Opus Dei: An Investigation into
the Secret Society Struggling for Power within the Roman Catholic
Church, Opus Dei will no doubt say that the foundations on the
list do not belong to Opus Dei, but to the members of Opus Dei.
He says, "But it is a sophistry to distinguish either of these
kinds of enterprise from purely Opus Dei ones. First, all profits
made by numerary members in whatever capacity accrue to Opus itself.
That is the consequence of the obligation of poverty which they
have taken upon themselves. Even supernumerary (or married) members
are under pressure to give as much as possible to the organization.
Secondly, no numerary member certainly, and probably no supernumerary
member either, will enter upon a business enterprise without having
discussed it at length with his or her director; the obligation
to be entirely open with the director applies in this sphere as
in any other. And there is a third point:
of Opus Dei, whether they are acting individually or through associations
which might be cultural, artistic, financial, and so on, do so
through what are known as 'auxiliary societies.' In their dealings,
these societies are equally subject to obedience to the hierarchical
authority of the Institute. (1950 Constitution, paragraph
the above, one can observe a pattern of residences set up near prestigious
universities, high schools as the feeding grounds for these residences,
and service projects as another means for recruiting, with retreat
centers and home arts centers serving as their support organizations.
I would also like to point out that Bayridge is a successful prototype
for university residences, as the Midtown Educational Foundation
is for other service projects around the country. It is apparent
from the network that the array of organizations is not random,
but very organized. If one member did perhaps help with the founding
of one of the residences or schools, that member is taught that
he or she could be replaced at any time, as members are expected
to make themselves open to "the needs of the Work." Members
must be willing to transfer to some other part of the country or
Lithuania, even, if that is what "the Work" needs. The
members' names are listed on the Boards of Directors of the foundations,
but are very easily replaced if that member leaves Opus Dei, in
which case they would not get one penny from "their enterprise"
even if it had been very successful financially.
Finances of the Opus Dei-Affiliated Foundations
second purpose in presenting this list of foundations is to provide
some indication of the wealth of Opus Dei in the United States,
because Opus Dei is accountable only to the Pope. In a recent article
"Opus Dei lifts lid without revealing secrets," by Isambard
Wilkinson, The Daily Telegraph, London, March 23, 2002, the author
interviews a numerary Luis Gordon in Spain. When asked about the
accusations that Opus Dei is dripping with worldly riches, Gordon
said it was impossible to gauge its wealth. "There are no figures."
list of foundations shows that there are indeed some figures, though
they are not comprehensive. The largest foundations in terms of
assets listed are the grant-making foundations, used to support
the corporate works listed above. The Woodlawn Foundation, with
assets of close to $15 million, appears to be the umbrella organization
that gives grants to more than 40 other Opus Dei-affiliated foundations
in the United States. It appears that there may be some sort of
re-distribution of wealth, because many foundations contribute to
Woodlawn, and then Woodlawn gives grants back to the foundations.
The Clover Foundation, based in New Jersey, has assets of $27 million,
and gives grants and loans to Opus Dei-affiliated foundations overseas,
such as the School of Medicine at the Universidad Panamericana,
Mexico City, Mexico, the University of Piura, Lima, Peru, and others.
Another foundation, listed at the same address as the Clover Foundation
is the Association for Cultural Interchange, Inc with assets of
$67 million. This foundation has made grants to the Hotel and Catering
School for women in Nigeria, the Vocational Training School Program
in Nairobi, Kenya, missionary programs of the Bishop of Huncavelica
in Peru, East Asian Ed. Society in Hong Kong, an Educational Development
Program in Australia, a school for young girls in Guadalajara, Mexico,
a Lebanese Association for Dev. And Culture in Beirut, Lebanon,
the Study Center for Ethics and Human Rights (Komati Foundation)
in South Africa, Student Residence at Louvain University, Study
Center at Guaymura University in Tequicigalpa, Honduras, the Vatsalya
Cultural and Educational Center in New Delhi, India, a Linguist
and Cultural Program at Chaucer Study Center, and the Strathmore
College for Boys in Nairobi, Kenya. Two of the holdings of the Association
for Cultural Interchange, Inc. include a University Residence and
Cultural Center in Jerusalem and an International Student Residence
National Center Foundation, with $67 million dollars in assets,
does not make any grants, rather, it supports the operations of
the Opus Dei Headquarters building in New York. This is also the
case of many of the foundations which support Opus Dei high schools
or retreat centers.
interesting note is that there is an organization called Opus Dei,
Inc., based in Wisconsin, which is not required to file any IRS
forms because it is a church, so it is not possible to see how this
organization fits into the United States network.
Dei directors are paid very little for their services to the organization.
For example, for Vancourt, Inc. the statement on the IRS Form 990
reads as follows, "The directors and officers of Vancourt,
Inc. do not receive any compensation in their capacity as directors
or officers. The organization gave compensation of $575 a month
to each one for other services performed in carrying out the programs.
They also received meals and lodging on the premises."
of Opus Dei give their entire salaries to Opus Dei. They are also
pressured to initiate contact with anyone they know who might be
willing and able to help Opus Dei, even if it is in gifts, the lending
of a vacation house, etc. Another way that Opus Dei controls the
money of its members is by having an unwritten rule of the "apostolate
of not giving." Members are not allowed to give gifts to anyone,
not even to members of their own family. They are encouraged to
ask their families to pay for trips to Rome, etc. Following is an
example of how members do not have any control over their money:
Fisac says in his interview with ODAN, "One day that I will
not forget because I have its bitterness in my soul, a companion
of mine, who had studied at High School with me, visited me and
told me about his family's desperate, financial situation, and asked
me to lend him some money. I told him to come back the next morning
as I could not make that decision myself. I consulted my director
and he absolutely forbade me to give him anything, he himself was
forbidden to consent by the spirit of Opus Dei." (from Fisac's
Interview with ODAN)
conclusion that can be drawn from the way Opus Dei conducts its
finances is that by having numeraries and numerary assistants fill
the positions at their schools, residences, and other corporate
ventures, Opus Dei has minimal labor costs. The tragic consequence
of numeraries and numerary assistants not being paid is that if
they leave Opus Dei at some point, they are cast off without a penny.
Even if their families had made donations to Opus Dei, and former
members ask for the money back, they usually do not get it back.
supernumeraries are encouraged to treat Opus Dei like another child
in terms of finances. For example, if a couple has five children,
then Opus Dei is entitled to a dowry equal to that which might be
planned for the other five. All members are encouraged to make huge
sacrifices for Opus Dei.
most alarming practice by Opus Dei is their treatment of numerary
assistants, who work as servants in the centers of Opus Dei. They
are recruited from the poorer classes in society to do all of the
cooking, cleaning and laundry for the centers of Opus Dei. They
are told that this is their vocation from God, to give up the prospects
of getting married and having children, in order to serve the needs
of Opus Dei. They work extremely long hours, doing physical labor.
(See True Stories, "My
Basic Human Rights Were Violated.")
researching this list of foundations, I found many discrepancies
in trying to find the foundations on Guidestar. For example, The
Opus Dei Headquarters is listed under the National Center Foundation,
but the name of the building is Murray Hill Place. Many other foundations
list different addresses on Guidestar, versus what they list on
the IRS 990 form. Some I was not able to locate. Three of the centers
in Boston - Bayridge, Brimfield and Cedarwood were listed as Jewish.
I lived at the first two and visited the third, and can attest that
they are not Jewish, but perhaps they do not want to stand out since
Brimfield is in a Jewish neighborhood. Two other centers, Roseaire
in Florida, and Southmore on Chaucer Drive in Houston are listed
as Protestant. The Peninsula Foundation is listed on Guidestar as
Community Health Systems. Some of the IRS 990 forms cite that the
activities are done in conjunction with Opus Dei, but many do not.
Some say they have Roman Catholic activities, and others cite Christian
of May 7, 2003, many of the above discrepancies on Guidestar have
been cleared up. Now the descriptions are more general and say religious
I still could not find the foundation name for the conference center
Longlea, for which an anonymous donor paid $7.4 million in cash.
The County Clerk for Culpeper County could not find the record for
the new owner's name.
May 8, 2003