At first glance, Legatus seems like a typical elite business leaders' group. It has strict rules for membership. Membership is restricted to presidents and chief executive officers who are practicing Catholics and run firms with at least 30 employees and $5 million in annual sales. They don't hide–they're right there in plain view. The name "Legatus" means "ambassador," and the business elite who belong to this organization consider themselves ambassadors of the Catholic faith in the business world. Their mission statement is simple, direct, and provokes thought, and to some, may be disturbing as this article goes on: (emphasis mine throughout)
The only organization in the world designed exclusively for top-ranking Catholic business leaders and their spouses. In a dynamic way, Legatus brings together the three key areas of a Catholic business leader’s life – Faith, Family and Business – connecting two powerful realities, the challenge of top-tier business leadership and a religious tradition second to none. Legatus, the Latin word for ambassador, exists to help you become an “ambassador for Christ” (2Cor 5:20) and help you meet the challenges of balancing the responsibilities of faith, family, business and community. Since 1987 Legatus has been bringing together Catholic business leaders and their spouses in a unique format that fosters spiritual growth, formation and commitment. The organization offers a unique support network of like-minded Catholics who influence the world marketplace and have the ability to practice and infuse their faith in the daily lives and workplaces of their family, friends, colleagues and employees.
Immediately one wonders if the faiths of their colleagues and employees are seen as an challenge to conversion, or are respected by this group. In looking at the site, it seems a virtual who's who of the Republican party–the site proudly features photos of Republican Allen West, Republican John Boehner, and various conservative pro-life personalities. If there was any doubt as to how Mr. Boehner felt about pro-life issues, his connection to this group should leave no further doubts as to how much his conservative Catholic faith influences his politics. An event page on the Legatus webpage puts Boehner front and center with a description of Legatus' 10th annual Pro-Life Conference held in Washington DC last year:
Boehner, who also attended Mass at the Basilica, told Legates about his efforts to tackle massive government spending and his pro-life convictions. “My pro-life position is not really a position,” he said. “It’s what I’ve believed my whole life. It’s what I was taught. It’s not my political position, it’s who I am. “You’ve seen us take some real stands, in the last year especially, in Congress. Chris Smith has a bill that makes it clear throughout the entire government that public funding of elective abortion is not going to be the policy of the United States.”
Well, it HAS been public policy of the United States ever since Republican Richard Nixon signed federal funding for family planning into law in 1970. These are chilling words for Planned Parenthood, who has been a major recipient of this federal funding, and an especial target for pro-life activists. And Boehner's words have chilling implications for women in poverty in terms of who will be controlling their bodies–indeed, the bodies of all women in this country. Further, the page celebrates "heroes" like 22 year old Lily Rose, who apparently went on multiple videotaped "sting operations" of Planned Parenthood clinics. (The mental image to me is rather "Mission Impossible"-like. Did she wear a black cat suit? Did she have hidden cameras taped to her body? What did she see? Does she realize abortion is legal?) If you ever wondered exactly who was responsible for the flood of bills attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, you now have your answer in black and white:
The 22-year-old activist has made a name for herself by conducting videotaped sting operations on Planned Parenthood facilities across the country. Her efforts have led to dozens of bills to defund the abortion giant in the U.S. House and in state Houses across the country.
Republican Representative from New Jersey Chris Smith is also mentioned, and lauded for introducing a bill to ensure no taxpayer money is ever spent on abortion, thus reversing Republican endorsed policy for the last 35 years. Legatus proudly proclaims that "it passed the House 251-175 on May 4. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act codifies into law the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds in appropriations bills from being spent on abortions." It is ironic, considering that Planned Parenthood has received federal funding since 1970, when Republican Richard Nixon signed into law the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act, amending the Public Health Services Act, Title X, of that law providing funding for family planning services, including contraception and family planning information. The law enjoyed bipartisan support from liberals who saw contraception access as increasing families' control over their lives, and conservatives who saw it as a way to keep people off welfare. Nixon described Title X funding as based on the premise that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition."
How times have changed in the Republican party. In fact, nearly every name mentioned in this Legatus pro-life event is a Republican politician, or a conservative pro-lifer. The following questions beg asking–in this group, which seems to be a shadowy-yet-public echo of "The Family," how much should a politician's faith dictate the values and morals of the rest of American society, which is of all different faiths, including those of no faith? Arizona Central describes Legatus' founder, Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza:
Thomas Monaghan spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he credits the military with providing the discipline, confidence and ability to endure “just about anything” that would later prove helpful in building the Domino’s Pizza chain, which he parlayed from a single restaurant into a network of thousands of stores spread across the globe. But he also said his Catholic faith provided a moral compass that proved critical for the company’s eventual success.
Using conservative Catholicism as a moral compass, like most fundamentalists, Monaghan believes that President Obama's healthcare package is the biggest attack on religion in American history:
A key issue being discussed by Legatus members is the requirement for contraceptive insurance coverage under President Barack Obama’s health-care package. “It’s the biggest attack on religion by government in our history,” Monaghan said.
And this group aims to do something about it. Not only this, but the theme of "government attacking religion" isn't confined to Monaghan. It's a theme that is especially stark at the Phoenix Legatus conference too, to an extent that makes one wonder just how pervasive this sense of being attacked is within this group. The Legatus conference in Phoenix on Friday, February 8, 2013, through the eyes of attendee Fr. John Zuhlsdorf sounds like a fundamentalist planning commission, and it is an interesting take from an insider's perspective, as if he were a soldier for God:
We have great challenges – to defend life, to defend religious liberty, defense of marriage. Defense of marriage is not simply a question of the laws of states, reflecting reality or not, this is a cultural struggle. The culture of marriage is breaking down. One of the factors in how people voted for President is whether they were married or not. “Unmarried women will marry the state.” The fact that there are so many, and that men and women have such a difficulty finding each other, shows that there is a serious problem in the culture of marriage. We have to defend not just reality, but must set limits on the state. The state can recognize marriage, but it cannot define marriage. Once the state can define marriage, it can define every other kind of relationship to produce a “soft totalitarianism”. Another great challenge we have is the building of a responsibility society on the basis of subsidiarity. In Centesimus annus John Paul II described social organizations as “schools of freedom”. How do we produce, develop, grow civilized members of society? To build a “responsibility society” not defined by dependence on the state, we must foster civilized socialized members. We are living at the threshold of a new era for the Church.
Legatus seems to be reactionary in that like most fundamentalist groups, fear of a decline in their faith and/or perceived decline in the religiosity of society pushes them to "fight" a war against a perceived enemy, in this case, the "unholiness" or "evil" of the US government, who they see as inherently "Godless," women who are threatening the fundamentalist social hierarchy (Christ the head, husband accountable to only Christ, woman accountable to husband), and the Obama administration. Most of the commenters on this Legatus attendee's site agreed that single women are somehow "married to the state" instead of being properly married to a husband who will be the "head of her" and take care of her. They seem personally offended at the idea that a woman could actually take care of herself without the aid of a man. This is something that is intolerable to this attendee, and others in Legatus, and provides the basis for the "war" which must be fought against the US government, who is, they feel, directly attacking Catholicism/religion:
If you teach that there are Biblical, revealed, truths, you are either irrational or a bigot. If you say that there is “truth”, you are shouted down with the claim that there are no truths and your truth doesn’t have to be my truth. If you determine to act on the basis of truth that can be known, the state will impose by force a relativisitic [sic] notion of some passing “truth”. One result is that no one is safe. Society is being coarsened and cold.
Fr. Z goes on to describe what can only be his (and perhaps others') fears of the decline of the Catholic Church in America:
Archbishop Lori is speaking. He has started with the evolution of the Church in these USA as a force even during a period of anti-Catholicism. Card. Gibbons and his confreres saw the hand of God in the foundation of these USA. He didn’t say that the system was the best, but that the founders built “better than they knew”. Catholics were then assimilated into culture and the Church grew. But this is a different time from that of Gibbons and McQuaid. Fewer people practice their faith. Catholics are falling away. 27% attend church and marriages are declining. There are challenges to religious freedom. Were people being catechized, religious freedom would not be so easy to attack. Churches are being forced to conform or to be reigned in. The HHS [Health and Human Services] rules limit full religious freedom.
Also in attendance at the Legatus Phoenix conference according to the author of this website, who displayed a prominently placed photo, was Republican Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and brother to former Republican President George W. Bush. Clearly the membership of this group which has chapters all over the United States, Canada and around the world, has some conservative movers and shakers who are politically powerful in Washington, DC. An open listing of their membership was not found at time of publication of this article. Legatus is said by some on the Internet to be an affiliate of the shadowy Opus Dei movement. Last year at a men's retreat, a priest of Opus Dei (the mysterious group made famous in Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code,") conducted the retreat at a glitzy resort-like conference center in Colorado Springs, CO (which male members were invited to attend for 400.00 a night). Because Legatus is so limited as to who it accepts for membership, and operates relatively quietly, it has attracted the attention of various conspiracy theorists who seem to continually connect it to Opus Dei. David Icke has an interesting take on why Newt Gingrich converted to Catholicism:
To prepare Gingrich for his role as Rothschild front man in 2012, Newt recently “converted” to Catholicism. In February, 2010, some 500 Catholic millionaires, initiates of the Opus Dei affiliate Legatus, met in Dana Point, California to honor Gingrich and former President and Jew-Catholic loyalist George W. Bush. Gingrich was lauded by the group for his conversion and even gave his “Christian testimony” regarding his leaving the Southern Baptist denomination to become a convert to “Holy Mother Church.” His new wife—his third—was on hand.'
Who are these conservative Catholic business "elite" who have a powerful hand in dictating public policy for all Americans? Who is Legatus? Are they an upper class secret society? Or are they just another fundamentalist group on the order of "The Family," who may be secretly attempting to change the course of US history in favor of fundamentalist/conservative Catholicism? The below video explains Legatus, its history and its aims. Interestingly, Legatus is endorsed on the video by no other than former Republican president George W. Bush. It begs the question to ask whether this is solely a conservative group, or whether they allow rich Democratic Catholic businessmen access. My guess, in looking at the evidence on their website, and donations given by Monaghan to the Republican Party is probably not. Their main attraction seems to be right of center conservatives who believe they are soldiers for Christ.