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Yet Opus will still not identify its members, and many prefer not to identify themselves. In England, in late 2004, the Labour government's Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, went months before confirming she had received "spiritual support" from Opus. (Her exact status remains unclear.) Nor, as Allen shows in his book, will Opus formally own up to many of its institutions. Its U.S. schools tend to go by bland names like the Heights or Northridge Prep. For years, he reports, the 17-story U.S. headquarters in New York, finished in 2001, lacked an identifying street-level sign. Allen counts 15 universities, seven hospitals, 11 business schools and 36 primary and secondary schools around the world as what Opus calls "corporate works," as opposed to personal deeds. It is justly proud of 97 vocational-technical schools worldwide, which deflate the myth that Opus serves only the rich. But very few of the schools and hospitals are legally owned by Opus, which admits only to providing "doctrinal and spiritual formation." It is a tribute to the persistence of Allen and his financial expert, Joseph Harris, that they determined that at least in the U.S., Opus proper enjoys a minimum of "dual control" over them by placing members on their boards.
HOW RICH IS IT?
The normal assumption about such indirectness would be that the group is hiding something, and filthy lucre is a staple of the Opus myth. Two rumors about its popularity with John Paul were that it funded the Solidarity trade union and helped bail out the Vatican bank after its 1982 scandal. Poverty is demonstrably not one of Opus' vows. It has a reputation for cultivating the rich or those soon to be, at both élite colleges and its own institutions. (In Latin America many in the church feel that Opus priests served once ascendant oligarchs over the masses.) Even in the inner city, Opus is unabashedly less interested in identifying with the poor than turning them into the middle class. Bohlin jokingly distinguishes his members from "some Franciscans with holes in their shoes, driving a crummy car because of their sense of the spirit of poverty."
On the basis of their study of IRS filings, Allen and Harris found $344.4 million in Opus assets in the U.S. and roughly estimate a global total of $2.8 billion. If correct, that sum approximates Duke University's endowment, yet is hardly Vatican bailout money. But those figures are only part of the picture. Opus members and its sympathizers, known as "cooperators," can be very generous, and their funds hard to track. Allen's research suggests that a most likely unexpected $60 million gift (a hefty portion of its total U.S. assets) financed much of the Manhattan building. Longlea, the group's Washington-area mansion, was donated by a couple who had just bought it for $7.4 million. Father Michael Barrett, an Opus Dei priest who pastors a chapel in Houston, recently raised $4.3 million for a new building and says, "I can assure you that cooperators and supernumeraries have given at the $100,000 level." That largesse, credited officially to the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, would not show up even on Allen's scrupulous balance sheet. Nor would similar Opus-generated funds.
HOW MUCH POWER DOES IT HAVE?