By ELIZABETH W. GREEN, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER April 10, 2003
The organization had attracted the attention of the press when one of its members, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Robert Hanssen, was charged with trading American security secrets to Russian spies in exchange for at least $600,000 in cash and diamonds.
The June 16 story reported that Hanssen’s wife told investigators that her husband confessed his crime to his priest. That priest was Bucciarelli who, according to Hanssen’s wife, eventually advised Hanssen not to turn himself into authorities but instead to give the dirty money to charity.
In the press wave that followed, Opus Dei was introduced, to those Americans who were listening, in increasingly critical language. U.S. News and World Report wrote about an “ultraconservative Opus Dei faction of the Roman Catholic Church,” and, a year later when Escriva was canonized, Newsweek called Opus Dei a “shadowy church within the church.”
Hutchninson argues that Opus Dei’s political contacts “blossomed” in the United States during the Reagan years when the Work “placed its agents inside the White House and recruited among the middle ranks of the Pentagon.”
Today, former FBI Director Louis Freeh is known to be close to Opus Dei. According to Bucciarelli, Freeh’s children attend Opus Dei schools and Freeh knows Opus Dei members. Bucciarelli also says that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia knows members of the Work, and Scalia’s wife is reported to be an Opus Dei member.
But Bucciarelli and others firmly deny that the religious group is in any way political. “No goal of Opus Dei is political,” Bucciarelli says. “Opus Dei has nothing to do with personal political ideology.”
So when the Hanssen ordeal thrust his personal role as a spiritual leader into the public eye, it made sense that Bucciarelli would keep a low proifle. As talking heads debated whether clerical law should protect a Catholic priest from being interviewed by the FBI, Bucciarelli took refuge at Elmbrook, an Opus Dei center in Cambridge, where only one journalist dared seek him out (a pesky New York Times reporter whom Bucciarelli calls “courteous” despite his “uncalled-for” intrusion).
Today, the Opus Dei priest gives the same response to questions about the Hanssen matter that he gave to the press in 2001: as a priest respecting the confidentiality of his conversations, he has no comment.
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