Robert Hanssen, Opus Dei, and the Opposite of Generosity

Yesterday, as we began our meditations on Generosity, Robert Hanssen died in prison.  He was serving 15 consecutive life sentences for betraying his country. 

In 2001, Lesley Stahl reported on “The Secret Life of Robert Hanssen.” The former FBI agent was convicted of spying for Russia, and began serving a life sentence in 2002. He died in prison this week at the age of 79. 60 Minutes

Hanssen has been called the most damaging spy in American history who betrayed pro-American spies to Russia and got many of them killed.  Assigned to a counterintelligence unit in New York, he sold highly-classified national security information to Moscow for $1.4 million in cash plus bank funds and diamonds (!).

At first I thought to write about Hanssen would interrupt our meditations on Generosity.  But in fact, he sheds light on generosity because he demonstrated the opposite, and a spiritual term is often best approached by going to its opposite first. 

Following are some opposites of Generosity: acquisitive, avaricious. begrudging, close fisted, costive, greedy, selfish, unkind, cruel, harsh, mean, stingy, selfish and ungenerous.

Since Hanssen did it for the money, it would seem he excelled at all these in addition to being hypocritical and disloyal to his country and his profession.

Leonard Leo and the right couldn’t control the justices they put on the Supreme Court. So they created a captured court—one that explains Clarence Thomas’ benefactors. Chris Hays reports. MSNBC

I wrote about Robert Hanssen when I wrote my book on The Pope’s War, a history of the papacy under Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II both of whom championed Opus Dei.  Hanssen was an active member of Opus Dei.  As is the current archbishop of Los Angeles who recently stepped down as head of the Catholic Bishops of the U.S.  And also Leonardo Leo who has been called the “third most important person in America.” 

Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society, is personally responsible for the six most extreme supreme court judges and was recently in the news for being photographed partying with judge Clarence Thomas and his well-known benefactor, billionaire republican Harlan Crow, in the latter’s backyard.

The head of FBI during Hanssen’s tenure was Opus Dei.  Opus Dei bishops and cardinals appointed under the previous two popes were greatly responsible for killing liberation theology and base communities in Central and South America.

An insightful investigation into the controversial Opus Dei sect, founded by a priest of the Franco regime and now extending its influence across the world. Journeyman Pictures

Opus Dei was founded by a fascist priest, Jose Escriva, and its members saddled up with dictator Franco for decades.  Opus Dei goes where the power is–especially finance, media, governmental institutions and courts. 

They got their founder, a proven misogynist who once said he admired Hitler, canonized a saint faster than anyone else in history and succeeded in canonizing Junipero Serra.  They seem very fond of money (and diamonds) and the power that goes with it.

Tomorrow we return to a positive meditation on Generosity.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved, pp. 106-124.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: FBI photo of imprisoned spy Robert Hanssen. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you recognize that going to the opposite of a spiritual term first often sheds deep light on its meaning?  What are some examples of that for you?


Recommended Reading

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II


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11 thoughts on “Robert Hanssen, Opus Dei, and the Opposite of Generosity”

  1. Avatar

    Generosity is defined by ‘intent’ and not necessarily other words. ‘Acquisitive’ for example.

    One acquires a boat to fish and feed others. A tradesperson acquires ‘tools of the trade’.

    A company acquires an underperforming business, makes it healthy, meets customer needs and keeps people employed who would otherwise be laid off with a failing enterprise.

    We acquire a house for our family to live in and establish roots in our community.

    To acquire a profound, contemplative experience of the God of love and truth.

    — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Mary Elizabeth Heins

      Bill, here’s the definition for acquisitive: “excessively interested in acquiring money or material things.” It says EXCESSIVELY interested. Big difference.

  2. Avatar
    Alexander John Lambrou

    Because I was personally told by my former Spiritual Director that “pride of purity is the final pitfall”, my contemplation has by necessity run to pride’s opposite: humility. Modesty is the antidote to reptilian pride that has nothing to do with the innocent pride that shines with the inner light of the soul. Envy betrays the presence of competitive and ‘false’ pride. Unopposed, this false ego, which at all stages, from the potential viciousness of the inner serpent’s vengeance (which lies in all of us in that primeval part of our inherited brain) to the acclaimed spiritual Olympians, who may have fallen into that pitfall of arrogance, envy, plotting, lies and outright murder. With all that is coming out now about the CIA’s role in the murder of JFK, the time of reckoning and purification is now upon us. If we get this right, the chances that we will get the other World-destruction challenges right, will be increased!

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    What if, for a moment, rather than looking at the opposite of generosity, regarding Opus Dei and Robert Hansen, we look at this through the lens of misdirected love; picking up on Mathew’s earlier DM this week.

    Mathew and many other spiritual teachers, such as Jeshua the Christ have stated in their teachings; that love is the essence of who we are and that what we love, we make manifest. This infers that love is the essence of creation. This love that creates, can be directed by our Soul/Self or misdirected by our Ego.

    Robert Hansen and others of Opus Dei love; positions of authority and power over, financial wealth and material possessions and their religious ideology of supremacy and control and they generously support these, giving themselves and their lives to that which their Ego needs, wants and desires; henceforth misdirecting love.

    The key point in looking at it from this perspective, rather than opposites is seeing the importance of being consciously aware of what aspect of self/Self is directing or misdirecting this essence of love from within… which creatively manifests; either directed by the Soul/Self or misdirected by the Ego. It’s the same essence of love, however love directed by the Soul/Self births that which brings forth and creates the new life of that which is eternal, while love misdirected by the Ego births that which brings forth and creates that which is temperal and destructive.

  4. Avatar

    I did not know of Robert Hansen, his beliefs or his motives, but you seem overly generous in your portrayal of his alliance to Opus Dei. Why bring it up at all, except to put Opus Dei into a bad light? Monsigneur Escriva is best known for his theology of the sanctity of work, which was revolutionary and very welcome in assisting the faithful find purpose in their lives. God uses may different people, including you, for many purposes. Yes Opus Dei often aligns itself with those that are wealthy or influential, but you fail to recognize the good that may ensue. My brother in law and his wife, members of Opus Dei, at great personal expense and effort, created a school that has taught many the fundamentals of their faith, while achieving above average academic results. Humanity is assuredly a very messy business in which we all participate, but you are at your best and most generous when you enlighten us with words and themes that bring us closer to God.

  5. Avatar

    After reading today’s meditation, my knee-jerk reaction is disgust and anger at these rich manipulators behind the scenes. What is the antidote to Opus Dei, Leo Leonard and the rest? How can generosity combat these powerful lowlifes?

  6. Avatar

    Yes! Excellent and profound DM Matthew, like usual, of not only the opposite of generosity, but the subtleties of evil and psychic numbing (previously elaborated in yesterday’s DM) historically in toxic and unbalanced patriarchal beliefs/values continued in our modern society and institutions like you elaborate in today’s DM. The destructiveness, wars, social inequities, all types of racism, and suffering of humanity and sacred Mother Earth, past and present, can largely be explained by the evil and psychic numbing wrought by these pernicious, toxic, unbalanced, and unholy patriarchal beliefs/values. Fortunately, genuine spiritual values and Spirit have been maintained by many good and holy people, especially our Indigenous peoples, saints, mystics, prophets, and truth/justice seekers, in our past and present human history. Even though our personal and social spiritual journeys can still be very challenging in our human evolution, conscious awareness and responsibilities for the reality and purpose of our unique “True Heart Selves~Eternal Sacred Souls~Cosmic Consciousness” Present within, through, among Us, are still vital and essential compassionately: with one another, with sacred/beautiful Mother Nature, and within All our co-Creator~Source’s Loving Diverse Evolving Oneness in the Cosmos….

  7. Avatar
    Cheryl M Burton

    Most of the population are more heavily influenced by words than they are by using proper reasoning to determine what the intent may be. It is easier to understand words than to force oneself to use their brain properly and not maliciously or presumptuously in considering intent. If a person sincerely asked God for help to do it, then it would become clearer and easier for them.
    America and other nations are now thoroughly brainwashed to assist in driving certain people insane and/or making the labeled mentally ill sicker (iatrogenic), than they already are and forcing institutionalization on them. One day in even the crummiest State institution costs more than one entire monthly SSI check given to many of the population of labeled Psychiatric Survivors on the outside. Should not the general public be wondering what the intent in all this is?

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
      Much to think about in today’s meditation: how we each experience the different aspects of generosity or its insidious opposites .
      You ask a thought provoking question.

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