Carlism and Opus Dei (II)


Frederick D. Wilhelmsen

Originally published: La Esperanza

We reproduce the second part of the text by Manuel de Santa Cruz entitled El Carlismo y la Universidad de Navarra, taken from the 1960 volume of his “Apuntes y documentos para la historia del tradicionalismo español” (Notes and Documents for the History of Spanish Traditionalism).


One of the first benefits of the University of Navarra for Carlism, no less valuable for being indirect, was to enhance and give prestige to Navarra for having been chosen as its location. And since the common people continued to associate Navarra with Carlism, the latter received reflections of prestige and fashion. Many members of Opus Dei throughout Spain and even the world began to speak of Carlism and its picturesque concentration in Montejurra, giving the impression, according to their listeners, that Carlism supported them, or that they represented it, and such things, of doubtful veracity, but which broke the ostracism to which Carlism had been subjected after the glory of the Crusade.

Carlism filled its ranks with modest people, especially in agricultural areas like Navarra, who felt a certain inferiority complex in relation to other political groups made up of professionals, the rich and influential. It was a tonic for these good people, especially at the local level, to say that the three famous professors mentioned above, as well as some university students, were Carlists like them.

In one of the stages of the university’s development, Cardinal Ottaviani, who was very popular in those days because of his anti-progressive attitude, was brought to Pamplona. Someone explained to him that the University of Navarra could be the brain of Carlism, which had no brains and only people in espadrilles; Opus Dei offered this important complement, and the Carlists should thank it. The Cardinal was struck by this confidential interpretation and began to repeat it as a happy and amusing synthesis of the situation, until it reached the ears of the Carlists, who began angry protests: a commission followed him to Madrid, where he also presented his complaints, intemperately, to the authorities of the Communion.

The care and attention that the leaders of the University of Navarra and of Opus Dei in general gave to the Carlists was unlike any other important institution, and this encouraged them. One example was the reception of Princess Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Parma in one of their residences, first, and in their classrooms as much as she wanted, and with a certain flavor of homage in the latter, as we will see later. Another example are the letters exchanged between the famous and powerful Rector, Don José María Albareda, and Don Hugo, at a time when the latter made a point of introducing himself everywhere; it was worth a “generous donation” to appear on the lists of the Friends of the University. These letters were not very much, but not even that little could Don Hugo get from any Francoist rector.

But there was the same error of assessment as in the collaboration with Franco; those kindnesses and considerations were not specific or exclusive to Carlism, but particular cases of a general practice with everyone.

Above all, the University of Navarra was a great opportunity that Carlism was not able to take advantage of. Of course, since Opus Dei could not but be, in a certain way, a transmission belt of what was thought in the Holy See, and since the liberal ideas of Maritain and Freemasonry were very present in it at that time, it seemed difficult that such a university could have become a bastion or a great platform of intimate and full collaboration with Traditionalism. But partially, yes; in a much greater amount than what was exploited, which was almost nothing. This question is well addressed, albeit fragmentarily, by Don Alvaro d’Ors in an article published in the November 1962 issue of the magazine “Montejurra”, which reads as follows: [the author inserts here an article by Mr. Alvaro d’Ors entitled Lo que el carlismo navarro puede dar al mundo].

The differences between the University of Navarra and Carlism were subtle and difficult to objectify, but real and important. A good part of them were sometimes omissions of actions that were neither obligatory nor legally agreed; but in a psychological order they were to be expected.

Between the two local newspapers, “El Pensamiento Navarro”, Carlist and with a certain resonance in the rest of Spain, and the “Diario de Navarra”, of the liberal and local high bourgeoisie, the leaders of the University decidedly chose the latter instead of the Carlist newspaper, more inclined to piety and orthodoxy; they could also have remained at least equidistant, and did not. Neither the professors of the University collaborated with the Carlist newspaper, nor did the administration send advertisements and other forms of help. El Pensamiento Navarro” died of many and serious ills; but among them, the disasistance of the Mitra and the University of Navarra.

The main disagreement between the University and Carlism was the propagation by most of its faculties of doctrines contrary to it, impregnated with liberalism and progressivism. These were not posed as a confrontation or with malice, but as professional questions from the professors’ conscience. The great gap in national Catholic politics in the post-conciliar and “transitional” period was not filled by the University of Navarra. The record of its many years of activity has been disappointing for those who heard the propaganda of its founding era that it would be a beacon of Catholic thought. Not only were these hopes unfulfilled, but in this university advanced and discreet studies were conducted in favor of religious freedom and the abandonment of the confessionalism of the State. In the end, the University of Navarra was not an Alcazar of Spanish Catholic unity, as some had hoped in its beginnings, trusting in informal private conversations against which there was no possibility of recourse.

(To be continued)


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