The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song
If there’s one thing that makes people happier than finding a forgotten bottle in the cupboard or a six pack in the fridge, it’s finding out that world events are dominated by an evil conspiracy. It’s hard to explain why such a discovery proves so consoling, but it does: Some 35 million people shelled out cold, hard cash to buy The DaVinci Code“most of them Christians, eager to read a tale which portrayed their entire religion as a scam cooked up by a Roman emperor and perpetuated by a spectral order of murderous, albino monks. Clearly, they were not picking up this book because it depressed them. Such books give readers the free and easy feeling that they needn”t lift a finger to change the world”it’s all so futile anyway. (“What can you and I hope to do, against the likes of… Them? So let’s go rent Jackass again.”)
At the same time, however, there’s a gnostic thrill that comes with finding out sordid secrets, the feeling that you are now privy to the seamy underside of life, one of only 35 million or so “insiders” who know the score. As you come across bits of supporting evidence, it’s fun to forward them to skeptical friends, with snarky commentary like: “Oh, and I suppose this is a coincidence?”
In the past it was Jews, Jesuits, Masons, or Communists who bore the brunt of suspicion”though sometimes (somehow) it might be all of them at once. The Nazis persecuted all of these groups”perhaps, as evil conspirators themselves, they wanted to pre-empt the competition.
In subsequent decades, other groups have sometimes come in for blame in one place or another. Sometimes a grain of truth in one allegation was built up into a mock-pearl of great price: For instance, the fact that some American Communists at once worked for civil rights and spied for Joseph Stalin gave J. Edgar Hoover the license he needed to spy on a broad array of civil rights leaders. This author grew up hearing from his mother extensive warnings about the “secret Soviet plot to seed Catholic seminaries with Communists.” One evening, when he brought a girl home for Thanksgiving, his mother regaled them both with a long lecture on why African-American panhandlers should never be given money. As MÃ¨re Zmirak explained:
“I heard this from an FBI agent on television”she was a colored woman herself. And she worked for J. Edgar Hoover. She said it doesn”t matter if the beggar is dressed as a priest or a nun… don”t give them a dime. Because they are all, all raising money to buy guns and ammo for the Race War.”
(Only slightly more awkward was his attempt to take his mother along with some friends through New York’s Chinatown. She refused to get out of the car, averring simply. “I haven”t trusted THOSE people since Pearl Harbor.”)
An awkward dinner. The turkey was dry.
Such theories are thankfully less respectable today. Instead, the focus of suspicion has shifted to the likes of Opus Dei. A Spanish apostolate founded in 1928 in Spain by Rev. Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei hearkened back to the theology of St. Benedict, incorporating spirituality in one’s everyday life and work. Having seen the effectiveness of Masonic groups in attracting people and working together”even grown boys love a secret”Escriva decided to cloak the group in a bit of mystery. His constitutions for the group ask initiates to “always maintain prudent silence about the names of other members, and not to reveal to anyone that you belong to Opus Dei.” Such practices have fired the imaginations of critics ever since, as has the group’s success in attracting highly educated and successful members. What is worse, the organization doggedly upholds traditional Catholic teaching, and some of its members still employ old-fashioned penances, like flagellation. All this seems terribly unwholesome to outsiders, who darkly suspect that the practice is not meant to generate sexual pleasure. It’s all so sick….
DaVinci Code typist Dan Brown chose Opus Dei as the villain of his novel, rightly guessing that modern readers would thrill to read of the evil machinations of a secretive, well-funded group from Spain “ Inquisitionland! “ which carried on doctrines and customs that can only be described as “medieval.” Even better if the truth these conspirators sought to suppress was that Jesus Christ was not really the founder of a Church, but merely a misunderstood male feminist, a soccer dad, who was always supportive of his life-partner’s career”in this case, as the embodiment of the Divine Feminine. It all worked wonderfully, to the point where Brown achieved the closest thing to canonization available to the living: Tom Hanks starred in the movie. To your average multiplex moviegoer, that’s like making a film about the Bible where Jesus plays Himself.
Intriguing theories about Opus Dei aren”t limited to readers who revise their religious beliefs based on novels they read while “going Greyhound.” A cottage industry has grown up around the group, spinning ever more elaborate and sinister webs of intrigue around these shadowy Spaniards. If you troll the Internet for half an hour, you can turn up some amazing revelations about the group.
For instance, according to Web reporter Wayne Madsen, who claims to be a former NSA analyst, Opus Dei is a “shadowy and sinister Roman Catholic group [that is] running an espionage and political assassination team in the United States.” (One that apparently can”t shoot straight enough to hit Dan Brown, but never mind.)
In the book Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei, British journalist Robert Hutchison calls Opus Dei “a Mafia shrouded in white.” He asserts that the group assigns its members to infiltrate intelligence agencies, newspapers, banks and political parties, and cultivate connections with organized crime. This power, once amassed, will be used to stifle reform within the Church and provoke a confrontation with Islam that would culminate in a revival of the Crusades. Nice work, if you can get it.
Nor are Moslems the only target. The Opus Dei menace is homing in on gay wedding planners, according to blogger Bob Geiger, of Democrats.com. In the article “Is Brownback Bringing Opus Dei Into The Senate?”, Geiger slams the Catholic convert senator for opposing same-sex marriage with arguments drawn from the Princeton University-based Witherspoon Institute. That group, according to Geiger, is
“linked to Opus Dei, a strict, religious group that some former members have described as a cult…. [C]ritics in academia”which include former members who sometimes go through “deprogramming” upon exiting Opus Dei”charge that organizations like the Witherspoon Institute are just veiled attempts by Opus Dei to spread its influence in top-tier academic circles.”
A thinktank trying to exert influence by giving money to professors and sending out press releases…. Will these monsters stop at nothing?
Another resolute critic of Opus Dei is Miguel de Portugal, a self-proclaimed visionary who makes it his life work to spread apocalyptic warnings over the Internet. Among his claims is that Opus Dei is at once backing pro-life neo-Nazis in Argentina and selling abortifacients in Spain, infiltrating the FBI to cover up its involvement in the Anthrax attacks and smuggling massive quantities of ganja. And one more thing: Remember when Pope John Paul II canonized Opus Dei founder Rev. Josemaria Escriva? To most of us, that was like all such canonizations an exercise of papal infallibility. To Miguel de Portugal it was in fact the “abomination of desolation” warned of in the Apocalypse. Just in case, you know, you were wondering.
(Okay, the FBI part might be true: Two O.D. members include former FBI director Louis Freeh, and current jailbird Robert Hansen”who used the money he got from his Soviet spymasters to pay tuition for his daughters at the Opus Dei school Oakcrest in Virginia. I used to date a graduate who knew the Hansen family. She assured me that Oakcrest no longer gives discounts to parents who pay in rubles.)
Nor is the world of wine immune to the many-tentacled reach of global conspiracies. While it’s true that octopuses cannot survive on land, and rarely appear in vineyards, that does not mean that winemakers are safe. Witness the tangle of accusations that surround the vintner Robert Mondavi. A Stanford graduate with a business head, Mondavi came from a long line of Italian winemakers, and in 1966 established his own winery in Napa Valley. Unlike most of his competitors, he sold his wine by variety (such as Sauvignon Blanc) rather than simply labeling it by region (such as Napa). He also strove to raise the standards of California wines to equal or rival European brands. Mondavi’s innovations proved so successful that he was soon able to buy up some of his rivals, and prevail in blind-taste test competitions against the finest imports from France.
Indeed, the wines produced by Mondavi and his imitators have begun to displace the products of ancient family vineyards in France and Italy”to the outrage of traditionalists. In fine American fashion, the Mondavi winery makes use of high-tech techniques and consultants to turn out wines that suit the tastes of influential critics like Wine Spectator‘s Robert Parker “whose 100-point wine ratings get prominent play in wine shops, and can make or break a vintage. Such wines can best be described as “big,” with potent flavors and lots of “fruit.” Indeed, the most overwhelming of these wines are sometimes ridiculed by cognoscenti as “fruit bombs.” It was wines like this, recommended by critics such as Parker, which won most Americans away from drinking Mateus and great big jugs of Ernest & Julio Gallo.
But that doesn”t mollify some critics. As New York Times food critic Eric Asimov has written (May 20, 2006):
“Parker’s critics have asserted that his power is so great, and his taste so monochromatic, with a preference for powerfully concentrated fruity wines, that some producers around the world feel compelled to customize their wines for his palate. These “Parkerized” wines have proliferated, they say, and as a result wines from all over the world, made from different traditions and from different grapes, taste the same.”
Instead of big, obvious tastes created with the help of chemists, some wine aficionados prefer the subtle, complex flavor acquired by wines made in the traditional way, where the taste is redolent not of expertise but of the sun, soil, and shade that attended the earth where the grapes were grown. They worry that the prevalence of a narrow set of tastes will homogenize the variegated wines of the world, and reduce the ancient art of wine-making to yet another scientific field dominated by Americans”who will promptly get bored and outsource the entire industry to China.
As critic James Bowman writes (The American Spectator, May 31, 2005), a number of these wine activists have embraced conspiracy theories, suggesting that winemakers like Mondavi and critics like Parker work hand in hand, forming an axis of oenophiles to extend their domination across the wineries of the world. In the otherwise excellent 2005 documentary Mondavino, Bowman finds a troubling political undertone:
“That the Mondavis” conspiracy against the world’s wines is linked to the grand unified conspiracy theories of the left is sufficiently attested to by the fact that both Parker and the representative of the Rothschild winery of Bordeaux which is collaborating with the Mondavis on the their up-market, Opus One, brand have the same photo of Ronald Reagan holding up a glass of wine prominently displayed in the room where they are interviewed. “
Here at last we find the smudgy fingerprints of conspiracy: The Rothschilds are involved. This family, which first acquired its wealth serving as the bankers to royalty, is perhaps the single most abused bloodline in Europe. Anti-Semites and Marxists alike could come together in hating this family; the former because they are Jewish, the latter because they helped keep monarchies afloat. Indeed, as Hannah Arendt pointed out in The Origins of Totalitarianism, the various branches of the Rothschilds, who worked in London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, were often employed as unpaid diplomats by their governments”who might not trust their own ambassadors, but could rely upon the Rothschilds. The family knew that war was bad for business, and frequently strove through its various branches to patch up quarrels among the nations; the last Rothschild peace initiative was launched in 1914, as various Rothschilds shuttled all over Europe trying to avert the outbreak of World War I. That war brought down three monarchies which used to do business with the family, and forced them to concentrate on their vineyards”once a sidelight started to turn out some decent kosher wine.
But their honest dealings never won the Rothschilds any gratitude among narrow nationalists, who suspected the loyalty of Jews, aristocrats, and clergy”each of whom had dangerously “international” connections. As Rothschild critic Myron Fagan (a playwright and journalist, who “launched a one man crusade to unmask the Red Conspiracy in Hollywood which had set about to produce films that would aid that One World Governement [sic] plot,”) asserts:
“Adam Weishaupt was a Jesuit-trained professor of canon law, teaching in Engelstock University, when he defected from Christianity to embrace the Luciferian conspiracy. It was in 1770 that the professional money lenders, the then recently organized House of Rothschild, retained him to revise and modernize the age-old Protocols of Zionism, which from the outset, was designed to give the Synagogue of Satan, so named by Jesus Christ, ultimate world domination so they could impose the Luciferian ideology upon what would remain of the human race after the final social cataclysm by use of satanic despotism.”
For instance, by making better wine. In 1978, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, owner of ChÃ¢teau Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, met with Robert Mondavi to discuss a joint venture that would wed French tradition, American technique”and presumably, Luciferian ideology. The winery they started, Opus One, produced what was perhaps the first “ultrapremium” American wine, introduced in 1984 at $50 per bottle”more than double the price of comparable California vintages. As Steve Pitcher wrote in Wine News (Feb./Mar. 2000), the price reflected the work which had gone into the wine:
“Opus One is meticulously ‘hand massaged,’ with frequent topping of barrels and six rackings during its 18 months in barrel, making it extremely labor intensive. The wine is moved only by the gentle force of gravity; mechanical pumps are banned. In the first-growth tradition, the $700 French barrels are never reused. And, at a cost of more than $29 million, the Opus One Winery ranks as one of the world’s most expensive single-product facilities.”
The wine was an immediate and enduring success, which of course awakened suspicion. Was it merely an accident that a vulgar American corporation was working with scions of an ancient banking family to dominate the worldwide wine market? Surely, there must be more to the story than that”some Hidden Hand squeezing the grapes….
And indeed there was. According to the always-informative Web resource Illuminati Today Index, that hand belongs to Opus Dei. The intrepid anonymous author of the Sept. 3, 2006 expose “Dorothy Bush-Koch Linked to Rothschilds and Opus Dei through Devil’s Wine” reports with alarm that Dorothy Bush-Koch, sister of the president, is married to a man named Robert “Bob” Koch, himself also a president”albeit only of the Wine Institute, an industry lobbying group. But who should turn up among the members of that secretive vintners” cabal? None other than both the Mondavis and the Rothschilds. Even worse, the site reports:
“The winery itself and the name of its prime product “Blood Red” have given rise to suspicions of satanic ritualism and architecture. The Baroness Rothschild who now heads this particular enterprise also has a joint venture with the Chilean winery Concha y Toro”or Seashell and Bull”in Chile. That Winery is openly run by Opus Dei. Its favorite brand is Cassilera del Diablo or Devil’s Cellar. The silver wrapping on the cork has the outline of a devil. Rather odd for a group that claims to be doing God’s Work as the name Opus Dei implies in Latin…. A QUESTION WITH AN ANSWER WE MAY NOT WANT TO KNOW: Does the Catholic Church use Opus One for Mass?”
I checked on this, and the author is absolutely right: Concha y Toro’s CEO is indeed Eduardo Guilisasti, 53, of Santiago, Chile, and he does belong to Opus Dei. As to the more critical question of which parishes serve up Opus One (now $149 a bottle) at Mass…. I’m still out there looking. If any of my readers turn up such a church, please send me the name and driving directions.
Daily updates with TM’s latest