Central Intelligence Agency Director William Casey.


MARCH 19, 1984

PAGE 60-61

While the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority draws most of the public attention, other religious groups are quietly trying to influence the nation's elite.

Their names are unfamiliar to most Americans - the Knights of Malta, Opus Dei, Moral Re-Armament, the Christian Reconstructionists. Yet their principles, which include strict adherence to Christian values, are the guiding force in the lives of some of the most powerful people in the U.S.

Despite coming from different faiths, members share a common belief that a small number of dedicated people can indeed change the world. Still, these groups aren't without their detractors.

Outsiders often question the recruiting methods and veil of secrecy surrounding some of these organizations. Critics contend, too, that these societies are as much bastions of conservative politics as they are religious in nature.

Oldest of these groups is the Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization that dates back to the time of the Crusades when members fought Moslems in the Holy Land.

With headquarters in Rome, the group is recognized by some 40 countries as the world's only landless sovereign nation. In that role the Knights mint coins, print stamps and issue passports to their diplomats. American network.

The U.S. membership of about 1,OOO-70 percent men - accounts for one tenth of the worldwide total. Nearly all are prominent in business, government or professional life and include such well-known figures as Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca and Central Intelligence Agency Director William Casey.

At least two U.S. senators also are members: Republicans Jeremiah Denton of Alabama and Pete Domenici of New Mexico.

Other members active in conservative politics include former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, former Treasury Secretary William Simon and columnist William F. Buckley.

The president of the Knights' American branch is J. Peter Grace, chairman of the W.R. Grace Company, which provides a national focus for the organization by including seven other Knights on its board.

The main purpose of the Knights is to honor distinguished Catholics and raise money for charity, especially hospitals. But the close personal ties among members contribute to what some observers call a potent old-boy network of influential decision makers dedicated to thwarting Communism.

The annual induction ceremony for new members at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City is the only function of the U.S. chapter open to nonmembers.

Because many Knights and recipients of the Orders honors have worked in or around the CIA, critics sometimes suggest a link between the two.

But members deny any connection, noting that the pattern of conservative members with overseas ties emerges naturally from the order's role as an international defender of the church.

Pope John Paul II also has praised the work of the Knights in a special proclamation, just as he has another sometimes controversial group called Opus Dei - Latin for "the work of God."

Founded in 1928 by a Spanish priest, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas, the group's central tenet is that all human work should be done "with the greatest perfection possible" to "help shape the world in a Christian manner." Invitation only. Pledged to the goal of becoming model Catholics and following a strict regimen of prayer, worship, study and lectures, members now number more than 70,000-3,000 in the United States. Membership is by invitation only and includes some of the brightest and most dedicated Catholics.

At a time when many Catholics are open to new views and styles of worship following the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, Opus Dei tends to adhere strictly to traditional church teachings. It's an approach that has won favor with Pope John Paul II, who in 1982 raised the group to the status of a "personal prelature," enhancing its authority over members throughout the world.

With chapters in such cities as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston, Opus Dei members include priests, married people and single people, many of whom live communally in a celibate lifestyle and donate their salaries to the organization, living only on a small allowance.

Typical members: A New Jersey sociology professor, a Boston finance executive, the president of a Chicago-area bank and a New York pathologist.

Opus Dei also seeks to influence young people through college chapters and residence centers near such universities as Columbia and Harvard. The young are urged to follow the lead of older spiritual advisers and warned about cultural activities or literature considered harmful, such as Marxist thought.

Such policies and the sheer dedication with which members are urged to follow the maxims of Opus Dei, have led detractors to compare the group to mind-controlling cults. British Cardinal Basil Hume, a liberal who has been critical of Opus Dei, has urged young people in his country to consult their parents before joining the society.

Yet Russell Shaw, an Opus Dei member with the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C., calls these criticisms "misunderstandings that arise from the intensity of what we practice- a thorough program of character formation."

Development of character and spiritual strength also is at the heart of Moral Re-Armament, a movement initiated in Europe by an American Lutheran, Frank Buchman, in 1938. His view that people can be transformed by following simple precepts of honesty, responsibility and selflessness has been spread through word of mouth, publications and in seminars mixing advocates of Moral Re-Armament with business officials, labor leaders and politicians from warring camps. One meeting last year at the group's conference center in Caux, Switzerland, brought together leaders from Israel, Egypt and Palestinian refugee communities. Winning over prominent political leaders has been a hallmark of Moral Re-Armament since its early years, when it was supported by labor leader John Riffe, who played a historic role in the merger of the AFL-CIO, and Mary McLeod Bethune, a black educator ad advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt. Current followers include Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the architect of India's independence; Saidie Patterson, a leader of the women's antiwar movement in Northern Ireland, and African peace activist Alec Smith, son of former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith.

U.S. HEADQUARTERS. About three dozen full-time members based in Washington, D.C., oversee the American work of the organization on a yearly budget of $500,000. Yet the group often depends on its members to help fund its publications and arrange accommodations for Moral Re-Armament conferences.

Members sometimes call themselves "Christian revolutionaries," but British-born journalist Michael Henderson describes the group as "men and women who are working toward higher standards in public life, improved industrial and race relations and a more sensible attitude between nations. They believe that a change in society requires a change in individuals."

More outspoken and political in tone is the Christian Reconstruction Movement. It also has a spiritual father: 88 year old Philadelphia theologian Cornelius Van Til, who teaches that Christianity is a way of life, not just a style of worship. "Man must seek God's glory in every act he does," he says. From that starting point, Reconstructionists have declared war on abortion and what they regard as permissiveness and immorality in government policies and popular culture. Among the chief spokesmen for the movement are Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer, author of more than 20 books, and his son Franky, also an author and film maker. In 'A Time For Anger,' the younger Schaeffer condemns the "modern, inhuman, technological state and society." He notes that "every person of true moral principle should be prepared to stand and fight against this "brave new world."

Rather than taking this message to television in the manner of New Right preachers, another Van Til disciple, John Rushdoony, founded the Chalcedon Foundation. The California think tank is named after the medieval church council that declared godhood and manhood were united in Christ. With support from millionaire California banker Howard Ahmanson, the foundation sponsors discussions and publications aimed at shifting the intellectual tone of America toward a fundamentalist view. About 400 theologians, artists, writers, economists and politicians attended the foundation's latest conference in Sacramento.

Advocates of Reconstructionism include film actor John Quade, award-winning cinematographer Roy Wagner and California Republican State Senator Bill Richardson. Other followers are former Ashland Oil executive Otto Scott and R.E. McMaster, Jr., a top commodity expert and former economic advisor to Efrain Rio Montt, the Christian fundamentalist who headed the government of Guatemala until being overthrown in a coup last August.

Despite the strong loyalties of their members, none of these organizations expects to become as familiar as Falwell's Moral Majority, whose supporters number in the millions. Instead, the goal is personal contact with a much smaller circle of people.

Says Moral Re-Armament director Richard Ruffin:


Picture caption, pg.60- The Knights of Malta, below, date back to the Crusades. Modern-day Knights include former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Chrysler's Lee Iacocca.

Picture caption, pg.61- Author Francis Schaeffer, one of the most prominent Christian Reconstructionist thinkers, addresses a recent gathering at Nyack College in New York.