Carlism and Opus Dei (III and last)


Originally published: La Esperanza


We reproduce the third 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).


The faculty of the University of Navarra suffered from the same classic obsession of many ecclesiastics to play all the cards and to be at ease with everyone, instead of seeking the truth and serving it completely. Part of the traditionalism tolerated by this mentality among its students was a pseudo-traditionalism impregnated with progressivism, such as that professed elsewhere by the young friends of Don Hugo who were entrenched in the A.E.T. Thus, arrived in Pamplona the coldness already established elsewhere between the A.E.T. of progressive ideas, of progressive ideas, even crypto-Marxist, of a certain intellectual snobbery, directly led by Don Hugo, and the Requeté, more rigid, branded as religious, “integrist”, old-fashioned and not very open to the modern world, led by Márquez de Prado.

The American professor Frederick Wilhelmsen, who was a star of both the Requeté and the University, increased his picturesque status by working hard in the doctrinal preparation of the young “macas” who were militants in the Requeté. This, and his clear anti-progressive attitude, has been taken by some as an explanation for his departure from the University, and therefore as a grievance of the University against Carlism. This is not true. Wilhelmsen himself denied this to the editor, insisting that his return to America was entirely for personal reasons; he had come on a Fullbright grant from the U.S. government to teach philosophy in 1961-62, and then stayed two more years on a personal contract in 1963-1964.

The Carlists gave the University of Navarra a great deal of initial support, simply by presenting it as a work of the Church. It took several years for them to become aware of the omissions in the teachings on the Church’s confrontation with the Revolution, and that some of the doctrines taught there were imbued with liberalism.

Carlism was a good platform for asserting the right of free universities to exist in the face of the state monopoly over higher education. This, which the University of Navarra so desperately needed, was instilled in the minds of many influential people, not so much in Pamplona as in Madrid, because it fit perfectly with Vázquez de Mella’s famous slogan: “More Society and Less State”. Carlism was the only political sector that could say this directly to the face of the totalitarian State, albeit in the thawing phase, without being called a Red or a Freemason.

The flood of modest Carlist publications was always open to the leaders of the University of Navarra, so that they could say whatever they wanted; few, however, gave them the publicity of their signatures; but with lesser known intermediaries, such as young people from the A.E.T., they did not fail to use them in the sense of exalting the free University in opposition to the State.

The result of these readings and of the movements behind the scenes was what “Lavardín” recounts in the following paragraph of his book “El Ultimo Pretendiente”: “Towards February 1961, the Carlist students displayed a curious behavior: they were the fiercest defenders of the non-state university – of Opus Dei – in Navarra. It is difficult to explain this attitude, but according to the leaders of the University of Madrid, their intervention was decisive in putting an end to the campaign that had been launched in the Central University against the official recognition of this center of Opus Dei. In any case, Opus Dei had enough power to defend itself and, of course, never thanked the Carlists for their help. Undoubtedly, they did not want the institution to be branded as Carlist, which in fact never happened”.

It should be added that the above was not a unique event, but a paradigmatic example of other analogous episodes. Don Javier de Borbón Parma informed Fr. Escrivá de Balaguer of all this and other things in a correspondence between the two men at a time of tension between their respective organizations, caused in part by the disparity of dynastic allegiances between Messrs. Massó and López Rodó.

The disagreements between Carlism and the University of Navarra were not written, but verbal, and more by omission than by actions. They came late, when Opus Dei, in the face of the incipient progressive challenge, disillusioned many, and the initial adherence to it was followed by reticence and distrust. Professor Elías de Tejada was the one who, apart from the nature of things, crystallized that dark cloud of undefined unease into sharp hailstones that were unleashed against Opus Dei, and implicitly against the University of Navarra, at the National Council of the Traditionalist Communion in October 1961. Distinguishing between Carlist politics and pseudo-traditionalist culture, he accused some members of Opus Dei, including the University of Navarra, of promoting a false variety of traditionalism in order to have a viable bridge by which to transfer all Carlism to the obedience of Don Juan de Borbón. Leaving aside the errors of any scheme and the vehemence of its author, there was some truth in this formulation, and it ended up opening the eyes of many Carlists who had expected too much from the University of Navarra. They had also expected too much from the Church.

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