Opus Labor


The secretive Roman Catholic organisation Opus Dei, known among its followers simply as ‘The Work,’ has grown in influence in New South Wales, particularly since Cardinal George Pell arrived from Melbourne to head the Sydney Archdiocese five years ago.

Exercising a typically Bonapartist strategy, Pell uses the Opus Dei hard Right as his clerical storm troopers against the radicals and reformers to his Left. In subtle but explicit ways, he has subverted the traditional separation of Church and State and brought his papal fundamentalism into the political life of NSW, covering all three major Parties Labor, Liberal and the Nationals.

Under the strange protocols of Opus Dei, politicians are not entitled to become full members of the sect but they are eagerly recruited as associates. So are members of the mainstream media, academics, lawyers and business executives who are entitled to initiation, oath-swearing and full membership.

In recent times, the media’s focus has been directed at Opus Dei’s undoubted influence on branches of the NSW Liberal Party and its State Council. These are the forces linked to Upper House Liberal MP and powerbroker David Clarke, who proudly carries a colour portrait of the recently canonised founder of Opus Dei ( Josemaría Escrivá) on the wall of his Parliamentary office (along with the Pope, Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister John Howard).

Clarke’s chief lieutenant, Alex Hawke, has just won pre-selection for the safe Federal Liberal seat of Mitchell in Northwest Sydney the sitting MP Alan Cadman having been summarily ousted by Hawke and a battalion of Christian Lebanese, many of whom have direct and indirect connections with Lebanon’s Falangists.

Thanks to Sharyn Raggett

But while Catholic influence is relatively new to the Liberal Party 20 or 30 years ago the Party was a pillar of the Protestant ascendancy and you could count the number of Catholics in official positions on the fingers of one hand NSW Labor has been organically connected to Catholicism in the same way that it is linked historically to the trade unions.

For Vatican hardliners, the ALP has been a troubled, recalcitrant, unresponsive and errant diocese, particularly its politicians. By deep purple Vatican standards, the ALP has been outrageously permissive and treated papal edicts with an elasticity that has infuriated the mind-throttlers of Catholic orthodoxy.

In NSW Parliament in June, a small club of about 10 Opus Dei supporters Labor, Liberals and Nationals had their day in the Chamber when the stem cell research Bill was given a so-called ‘conscience’ vote.

Interestingly, NSW Premier Morris Iemma publicly opposed the same Bill legalizing therapeutic cloning at the end of last year, taking damaging flak from his predecessor Bob Carr who wrote to the newspapers bitterly complaining about the betrayal of his pioneering work to bring stem cell science to NSW. Carr was backed by former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who used a book launch at the NSW Parliament to criticise Iemma for his inane decision to follow the lead of John Howard and President George Bush in opposing stem cell research.

Once the March State election was out of the way and the support of Pell and the Opus Dei foot soldiers secured Iemma put the laws liberalising stem cell research back on the Parliamentary agenda and won the day.

Iemma’s off-and-on tactic is fundamental to his political approach: everything boils down to electoral tactics and vote-winning, with principles running a poor second. Iemma needed the Catholic obscurantist community for support prior to 24 March, but once he was back in office they could go to hell.

The Laborites voting against stem research included four new ministers in Iemma’s ‘generation change/new faces’ line-up: Minister for Ageing and Disability Services Kristina Keneally, Minister for Community Services Kevin Greene, Minister for Gaming and Racing and Sport and Recreation Graham West and Minister for Juvenile Justice Barbara Perry.The other medievalists against the Bill were Marie Andrews, John Aquilina, Michael Daley, Paul Gibson, Noreen Hay, Virginia Judge, Grant McBride, Karen Paluzzano and Gerard Martin.

NSW now has a Minister for Ageing and Disability Services (Keneally) who is conscientiously opposed to her own Government’s legislation allowing for the development of science to liberate the elderly and the disabled using stem cell technology. And in Maroubra, Bob Carr’s old seat, his successor (Daley) is a bog-trotting backwoodsman who would also like to see the NSW stem cell project halted or reined in.

In the Upper House routinely referred to as the ‘Looney Lounge’ the voting pattern was even more intriguing. Two senior Labor Cabinet Ministers Education and Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca, and Lands and Regional Development Minister Tony Kelly and backbencher Greg Donnelly were the only three Labor MPs to join a rag-bag of reactionaries opposing the Bill.

They quit the Government benches and joined the likes of David Clarke, Charlie Lynn, Fred Nile and Gordon Moyes. Remarkably, while the two Shooters Party MPs, Robert Brown and Roy Smith, had the gumption to vote for the legislation the NSW Education Minister (Della Bosca) was against it.

No one is suggesting for a moment that all or any of the above-mentioned Labor MPs are either in Opus Dei or supporters of it. Some of them may be opposed to it. However, there is a coincidence of views when it comes to opposition to furthering medical knowledge through stem cell technology.

A majority of Catholics from all major Parties voted in support of the Human Cloning and other Prohibited Practices Amendment Bill despite the heavy-handed intervention of George Pell threatening errant MPs with unspecified ‘consequences.’ While Church leaders have an undoubted role in the public debate on topics such as medical science, climate change, industrial relations laws and so on, they have no right whatsoever to inflict clerical discipline on MPs elected to Parliament.

Happily, the vote showed that Pell’s eve-of-vote bluster had no impact on a majority of Catholics. The legislation was passed with a thumping majority with two Catholics Premier Iemma and NSW Coalition Leader Barry O’Farrell leading their respective troops into the ‘ayes’ lobby, along with the ‘godmother’ of the Independents, Clover Moore, another staunch Catholic.

For the moment, the Opus Dei crowd are licking their wounds. They’ve lost stem cell votes in Canberra, Melbourne and now Sydney. But they will remain active and a political and social irritant because their project isn’t just for the term of this Parliament or even this lifetime. They are doing God’s work in secret in civil society until the coming of the Lord.

Since publishing this article New Matilda has been contacted by the office of Labor MP Kristina Keneally, who say that the above article infers that Ms Keneally is a member of Opus Dei when she most certainly is not.

Whilst we are unable to see any such inference in this article, we are happy to confirm that there is no claim by New Matilda, either expressly or inferentially, that Kristina Keneally is in any way connected with Opus Dei.

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