Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Opus Dei Reveals It Paid Nearly $1 Million to Settle Suit vs. D.C. Superstar Priest John McCloskey: Questions We Should Ask

One of today's big stories: Opus Dei has revealed that it paid nearly $1 million in 2005 to settle a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against the superstar Opus Dei priest John McCloskey. Michelle Boorstein broke this story in Washington Post last evening. As she reports, McCloskey has been well-known in religious and political circles due to his close association with such luminaries of the political right as Newt Gingrich, Sam Brownback, and Larry Kudlow, all of whom he ushered into the Catholic church.

After the woman who came forward with claims that McCloskey groped her during pastoral counseling sessions made her report to Opus Dei officials in 2002, the group investigated the claims and removed McCloskey from his high-profile position at Catholic Information Center in D.C. in 2003. As Michelle Boorstein reports,

The guilt and shame over the interactions sent her into a tailspin and, combined with her existing depression, made it impossible for her to work in her high-level job, she said. She spoke to him about her "misperceived guilt over the interaction" in confession and he absolved her, she said. 
"I love Opus Dei but I was caught up in this coverup — I went to confession, thinking I did something to tempt this holy man to cross boundaries," she said. The Post does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Though the unnamed survivor states that she is satisfied with Opus Dei's response, I note her use of the phrase "coverup" in her statement to The Post. Per the reports now being issued, Opus Dei has known about McCloskey's behavior since 2002. Though the group removed him from his D.C. position in 2003, he was still permitted to exercise enormous political influence — because Opus Dei covered up this story until right now. For a glimpse at that enormous political influence, we can turn to Frank Cocozzelli's magisterial report on McCloskey and his political associations (and hard-right ideology). Writing in May 2006, Frank states, 

A review of some of Rev. McCloskey's statements reflects a very reactionary view of the world. In a book review of one of his converts, CNBC supply-side economic analyst Lawrence Kudlow, McCloskey simplistically divided all Americans as "...two Americas. One group in America is made up of Bible Christians and faithful Catholics who possess standards and convictions based on the natural law, the Bible, and the teaching authority of the Catholic Church and strive to live accordingly." Then, in language reminiscent of Inquisitors past, he characterized "The other group in America, whatever its religious affiliation" as not believing "... in a normative moral truth or in a God to whom they are accountable in this life and in the next according to their actions here," ultimately describing them as "...culture of death." 
This is a very troubling statement from a man who is often a panelist on many reputable television political roundtables and who maintains power within the Church. He was until recently the director of the Opus Dei-run the Catholic Information Center of Washington, D. C. What do these comments say about him or some of his well known converts such as Senator Sam Brownback or journalist Robert Novak? Do they believe that other good people of faith such as mainstream Protestants and Jews have no morality? Do they believe such people are fostering "a culture of death" simply because their creeds may differ from that of the right reverend of Opus Dei? McCloskey's insulting words clearly indicate that they believe such nonsense.


McCloskey is actively involved in several staunchly neoconservative think tanks and policy institutes that seek to bring about the triumph of orthodoxy within America's mainstream Christian denominations. These groups are engaged in a war on progressive faith, that Joe Conason keenly observed as having"...overlapping personnel and total reliance on the largesse of conservative foundations and corporations."   
Such overlaps in the pursuit of this agenda are epitomized by the Institute for Religion and Democracy ("IRD"). The names of its advisors and directors , as well as its sources of funding , appear over and over again on many of the New Right's political agent organizations (McCloskey sits on the IRD's Board of Advisors. As Media Transparency observed, "IRD directors are on the boards and actively involved in other ultra-conservative groups including the Project for the New American Century, Institute on Religion and Public Life, Ethics and Public Policy Center, and American Enterprise Institute." The IRD's links to Kristol and other PNAC operators just are too numerous and strategically placed to be merely coincidental.   
The overlap is extraordinary. vii It includes Catholic traditionalists such as Mary Ellen Bork, Brent Bozell III, Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon, Rev. John McCloskey, Michael Novak, William Simon Jr. and George Weigel. And the overlap continues directly to William Kristol's PNAC and the IRD's common financial sources: the Bradley, the Coors' funded Castle Rock Foundation, and four Scaife sister foundations. More importantly, all these actors make it their interest to meddle in the affairs of social justice-oriented religious denominations for the purpose of imposing upon them an orthodox political agenda.   

In summary, Opus Dei knew about McCloskey's behavior and the credible allegations of the woman he sexually assaulted in a pastoral context since 2002. It removed him from his high-profile D.C. position in 2003.

But it has remained silent for fifteen years about this story — fifteen years in which one survivor of clerical sexual abuse after another has come forward and pled with church officials for transparency and accountability. During that period of time (though McCloskey is now said, per the linked reports above, to be incapacitated by Alzheimer's disease), McCloskey had enormous — and many would argue, baleful — influence on the American political sphere.

As Opus Dei kept totally silent….

Questions this story should cause us to ask, I think:

1. Who else has known about this story for all those years? 

2. The other high-profile folks sitting on boards of right-wing think tanks with McCloskey: none of them (including ones who refused to believe proven allegations about Marcial Maciel to the bitter end) knew anything about this story?

3. Did any Catholic journalists, including ones with close ties to Opus Dei, have information about this story and not report on it?

4. Opus Dei has announced (see Michelle Boorstein's report linked above) that a single donor provided the money to settle this lawsuit, but Opus Dei will not reveal this name. If Opus Dei is committed to transparency, why is it withholding this name from the public? The public has a right to know this information, given McCloskey's outsized political influence over a considerable period of time. Who is this donor?

5. Opus Dei also maintains that this is the only sexual misconduct payout it has made in the U.S. Is that correct?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Well, at least we can be reassured that keeping gay priests out of seminaries and ministry will solve….

Oh, wait.

(Please see this following addendum to the preceding posting.)

The photo of John McCloskey is a screenshot from a video uploaded by Anthony Buono to YouTube.

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