Randy Engel
The Gaztelueta sex abuse case: Opus Dei on trial - Part I
By Randy Engel
April 12, 2018


Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son
may, but at the length truth will out.

The Merchant of Venice --William Shakespeare


On October 3, 2015, Crux news site, part of Opus Dei's vast international outreach media machine, featured an article titled "Pope Promises Church Trial Against Alleged Spanish Sex Abuser." It was written by Crux Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín, who earned her degree in journalism and social communications in part from Opus Dei's flagship, the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.

As is Crux's policy and practice, San Martin's connections to Opus Dei have been withheld from the reader even though that connection is very relevant here because the institution in question, Gaztelueta, a private boys school located in Basque country in the town of Leioa (Bizkaia), Spain, is a corporate work of the Prelature, and because the alleged perpetrator of the crime, José María Martínez Sanz, aka JMMS, is an Opus Dei numerary.

Writing under a Rome dateline, San Martin states that on the previous day, October 2, 2015, the Basque newspaper El Mundo (The World) had released a copy of a letter, hand- written by Pope Francis on December 29, 2014, to the father of the alleged sexual abuse victim, now of legal age.

The pope expressed his solidarity with the family of the survivor of the attack and said that he had requested a canonical trial against the teacher and the school be held by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), but without disturbing the victim. Further, he wrote that he was sending the file of documents provided to him by the victim's father to the CDF.

According to the Crux reporter, the family of the survivor had previously filed a criminal complaint in Spanish courts, "but after an investigation it was rejected for insufficient proof."

She also noted that "the teacher, who was suspended from the school for one year before the complaints were filed, reportedly traveled to England [Australia] and didn't return. At that time, however, he expressed his willingness to testify and claimed to be innocent"

Although the Crux reporter did not include any comments from the alleged victim's family, she generously quotes the official Opus Dei press statement that appeared on the Gaztelueta website on the same day the El Mundo story broke.

San Martin writes that the Opus Dei headmaster of Gaztelueta, Imanol Goyarrola, welcomed the investigation by the CDF. She made no mention of the fact that Gayarrola's own "exhaustive internal investigation" had already found JMMS, the alleged perp, innocent, and that the charges against him were "unproven."

Frankly, having spent more than a month just lining up more than a hundred documents and references on the extraordinarily complex Gaztelueta case, which by the time San Martin picked it up, was already more than five years old, I was amazed that San Martin was able to put together her own story for Crux in less than 24 hours after the initial El Mundo article was released. But more surprises from San Martin were on the way.

CRUX Exonerates Both Gaztelueta and OD Teacher

On October 13, 2015, ten days after the initial Crux article appeared, San Martin produced a follow-up story bearing the headline, "Vatican Closes Abuse Probe Promised by Pope Francis at Spanish School."

The opening line summarizes the story: "A Vatican department has closed an inquiry into the alleged sexual abuse of a boy at an Opus Dei school in northern Spain, just weeks after a local newspaper published a handwritten letter signed by Pope Francis promising the accusations would be investigated."

According to San Martin, on October 9, 2015, the CDF in Rome notified Iñaki Cires, the Opus Dei Deputy Director of Gaztelueta in Bilbao, Spain, that its investigation had been concluded in favor of the accused teacher and school. The CDF "cited a lack of evidence as its reason for closing the probe," and said that the "good name and reputation of the accused must be restored," San Martin reported.

San Martin reiterated for the reader that the CDF said it was Pope Francis who made the final decision to close the investigation.

San Martin quotes Leticia de la Hoz, the lead attorney for the alleged victim and his family in Spain, that the family was "shocked" to learn the news that the CDF had conducted a probe and exonerated the alleged perpetrator because as far as her clients were concerned, they didn't even know that a formal investigation had begun, much less than it had ended against the victim.

San Martin apparently did not think it necessary to explain why officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would notify Gaztelueta, which immediately released a statement prepared by Opus Dei spin masters exonerating the school and the teacher, but failed to issue an official written statement from the CDF notifying the victim and his family that the pope had ordered the investigation closed.

According to San Martin, "A source with knowledge of the case, however, who asked not to be identified because he's not authorized to speak on the subject, had told Crux on Tuesday that local Church personnel delegated by the Vatican to run the investigation did speak to the victim and to family members."

And so, Crux dutifully closed the Gaztelueta case for Catholic readers in the United States on the high note that the Work has once again triumphed over adversity and false witness.

Fortunately, however, the Gaztelueta affair does not end with Crux or San Martin or Opus Dei.

To quote the Bard of Avon once again, "at length, truth will out." And, in the Gaztelueta case, Truth has quite a different story to tell.

The Prestigious Gaztelueta – In Its Own Words

"Gaztelueta is a government approved private school situated in Leioa, on the outskirts of Bilboa (Spain) which was founded in 1951by a group of concerned parents who wanted their sons to receive an education that would focus on individual attention, respect for freedom of choice, and the development and promotion of personal responsibility as well as a Christian outlook in life."

"Gaztelueta runs an educational model based on the transcendental approach to human existence and makes a great effort to give personal attention to each and every one of its students so that each can maximize his talents and abilities, develop his own opinions, and attain a level of maturity and knowledge necessary to enable him to follow his decisions through to the end with honesty, integrity and responsibility."

"Our school motto: 'that our yes be yes, that our no be no,' [James 5:12] stems from our fundamental desire to bestow special relevance to the principles of sincerity and loyalty."

In addition to Gaztelueta's primary and secondary grades, it also specializes in infant education for children ages one to five. The students number approximately 1,200.

"Gaztelueta College (School) is a corporate work of Opus Dei. The Prelature of Opus Dei is exclusively responsible for the Christian guidance of the school. In classes of religion the students are taught according to the recommendations laid down by the Spanish Synod of Bishops and the school follows the liturgical calendar."

Gaztelueta and the Office of Preceptor

Like many upscale, traditional boys' schools, Gaztelueta features the office of Preceptor, a position held by Opus Dei celibate numeraries. An Opus Dei preceptor is much more than a teacher or instructor. He is a permanent tutor, a personal mentor, and a spiritual director, whose avowed task is to assist his young charge academically and spiritually throughout his teen years at Gaztelueta. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a preceptor influences the whole boy – mind, body and soul.

Routinely speaking, a preceptor at the Opus Dei school will take his assigned student out of class (except at exam time) every two weeks or so for a 20-40 minute "chat" for which Opus Dei is notoriously famous. There is no escape.

Behind closed doors, the preceptor questions the student about his academics as well as personal information pertaining to his faith, family life, sports interests, companions ... and, yes, his sexual life.

Given Opus Dei's known obsession with "Holy Purity," young boys are routinely grilled on their masturbatory habits, if any, including specific details such as the where, when, and frequency of self-abuse as well as their thoughts during masturbation. Students are also questioned about other forms of sexual activity with fellow students and girlfriends.

If the reader understands that proselytization (recruitment) is the primary objective of Opus Dei and Opus Dei schools are the main source of numeraries (and numerary priests) to serve the Work, this explicit invasion of the privacy of a young boy (outside of the Confessional) by an unmarried adult male unrelated to the student in a sequestered environment, makes perfect sense.

That such an arrangement can also become a pederast's dreamscape, also makes sense, terrible sense, despite assurances to parents by Opus Dei officials that the sexual abuse of children and youth can never happen in their facilities.

A Profile of the Accused Opus Dei Pederast

José María Martínez came to Gaztelueta in 2003. He hails from a very prominent Spanish family.

The Opus Dei numerary and Professor of History, then in his mid-twenties, was sent to Gaztelueta to teach religion and morality and languages. That he was also expected to actively recruit underage young boys for the Work is a given.

JMMS took up residence at the Olalde Youth Association in Leioa located near the school.

The Olalde Social Club is operated by Opus Dei and is frequented by adolescent boys, many from Gaztelueta. The group organizes camping trips and excursions for young boys and other functions that attract pre-teens and older teens to the Work away from the purview of their parents.

JMMS also served as a "monitor" at the Olalde youth center on his free time. From photographs of group activities in which he has appeared, he looked to be popular with the boys who frequented the center.

JMMS was also a dinner guest at the home of the victim's parents who, on at least three occasions, witnessed the perpetrator aggressively attempting to recruit their son to the Work, even though the boy was only 12 or 13 years old.

In numerous public statements concerning the charge of pederasty against JMMS, Opus Dei insists that the middle-age preceptor had no previous assault record involving minors.

However, by the time JMMS met the young 12-year-old Anaia (not his real name) and was assigned to be the boy's preceptor, he had already developed a wide range of sophisticated grooming techniques to ensnare his young prey. This man was no bungling amateur perp. He was an experienced sexual predator, and his accuser, most certainly, was not his first victim.

Pederasty is rarely, if ever, a one-time criminal offense.

The Nightmares Begin for the Victim

Gaztelueta was a happy place to learn and study says young Anaia before he met Professor Martínez.

The young boy's parents recall his early days in primary school where Anaia was an excellent student, was well liked by his classmates, and enjoyed sports especially football. He was the 6th grade school captain. Just a precious, happy-go-lucky normal kid.

But everything about their son changed for the worse when, at age 12, he started his first ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education) term from 2008-2009 and one year later, entered his second Secondary School term from 2009-2010 at age 13.

Their son became withdrawn, restless, and depressed. He could not study, and he could not sleep. He had difficulty communicating. He stopped talking. He stopped moving. He did not want to go to school.

When hard pressed for the reason behind his sudden negative transformation, Anaia initially told his father that he was being bullied by his classmates, which was true, but not the whole truth.

Finally, in 2010, the exasperated parents pulled both their children out of Gaztelueta and placed them in another school in Bizkaia. They still thought the only issue was bullying.

But, the youngster was not able to complete his third term of ESO at the new school as his health had completely deteriorated. His parents hired a tutor, but his academic progress was nil. Sometimes his parents would find him hiding, curled up in a fetal position, almost comatose. Unbeknownst to them, the harassment of their son by his classmates egged on by the perpetrator continued via social media [Tuenti].

Then, one fateful Spring day in 2011, their 16-year-old son exploded emotionally. And the awful truth came rushing out in a torrent of tears and groans. He told them he had been sexually- abused by his preceptor at Gaztelueta (although the exact nature of the abuse was revealed only bit by bit), and that the bullying and torment inflicted upon him by his classmates was connected to their knowledge of that abuse.

So Anaia's classmates, who started calling him "a fag," and "Martinez's wife," knew, or at least suspected, some kind of a sexual relationship between the teacher and the boy. Yet Opus Dei Director Imanol Goyarrola in an interview with InfoVaticana in 2015, repeated that he "Never. From no one," heard of any rumors or received complaints concerning sexual abuse or bullying, from other teachers or students at Gaztelueta.

How is that possible?

Now in his early 20s, Anaia still relives over and over in his mind when and how the abuse began – and how it continued... on and on...

He called me out of class to his office
He shut the door behind him.
He closed the blinds ... I felt trapped
He started to ask me questions about sex
He told me to remove my shirt
He told me to lower my pants
He began to massage my body. There was touching ... all over
He showed me pictures of naked girls
He urged me to masturbate myself
He put me on his knees and I could feel his erection

Gradually, the sessions increased in frequency and intensity. During the second term, the nature of the abuse took on a rougher tone as the perpetrator's actions began to resemble more and more, adult homosexual sex acts including the insertion of objects into the boy's anus to dilate the rectum in anticipation of an act of sodomy, and the act of sodomy itself.

Anaia's Parents Contact Gaztelueta Officials

As soon as Anaia's father heard the truth about his son's abuse, he put a call into the office of the Deputy Director of Gaztelueta. By this time, former headmaster Imanol Goyarrola had taken over the position of Iñaki Cires.

At a meeting on June 7, 2011, Anaia's father expressed his concern not only about their own son but about other boys at the school. He wanted the school to communicate the information of the assault to other parents, and to prepare and enforce protocols that would prevent future abuse. He also believed that the perpetrator should be provided with treatment.

At first the Opus Dei director appeared sympathetic.

He told the victim's father that the perpetrator had left the country and gone to Australia [not England] for the 2011-2012 academic year. Goyarrola said that the Opus Dei numerary had taken a pre-arranged one-year sabbatical (financed by Opus Dei) to study language abroad. And that he was not coming back to the school.

In later interviews with the media, Goyarrola would insist that the fact that JMMS's departure from the school just happen to coincide with revelations of his abuse of Anaia, was just a coincidence.

Goyarrola told Anaia's parents that JMMS had admitted to certain accusations but claimed that he did it to strengthen the character of Anaia. The preceptor said he told the boy to take off his shirt because it was hot; and closed the shades because the sun was shining on the boy's face; and showed him pictures of unclad young girls to show how girls develop sexually, etc.

Later, the deliberately gullible Goyarrola went on conduct his own "exhaustive internal investigation" of the charges against JMMS and he concluded that there was no evidence to prove JMMS's guilt on charges of sexual abuse.

Which brings up a series of proverbially fatal questions – When and where did Opus Dei officials first learn they had a criminal pederast on their hands? How did they find out? And what did they do about him apart from getting him out of the country.

Parents Take Abuse Charges to Spain's Courts

When it became clear to Anaia's parents that Opus Dei officials and directors at Gaztelueta were spreading falsehoods about the case and attempting to whitewash Martinez's crime in order to protect the good name of the institution at all costs, they decided to seek justice from the secular courts.

The first public ministry to be notified of the accusations against the perpetrator was the Inspection Department of Education (DOE) of the Basque Government, headed by Inigo Mendez de Vigo, who learned about the case in October 3, 2011. It delivered its report to the Prosecutor's Office in favor the school.

The second was the Juvenile Prosecutor's Office of the Basque Country which received the written statements of the alleged victim's parents and relatives in November 2011, along with the DOE report on the Gaztelueta case. The case was filed "provisionally, for lack of evidence."

The third and most important ministry was the Office of High Prosecutor of the Basque Country.

On February 3, 2013, Damian Juan Calparsoro, the Senior Basque Public Prosecutor of La Rioja voluntarily opened criminal proceedings for the case following a national expose in a series of articles in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on December 30, 2012, January 3 and January 7, 2013 by reporter Iker Roja Candueza.

Calparsoro's office had six months to complete the pre-investigation proceedings, establish the authenticity and nature of the crime, and to formalize the accusations against the accused. This would entail testimony taken from the accuser and the accused (Martinez)who had returned to Spain and was staying at an Opus Dei residence in Pamplona, home of the University of Navarra), as well as other persons with knowledge of the case. A formal complaint would then be filed with the courts.

However, no formal complaint was ever forthcoming from the Prosecutor's office. Why not?

According to Opus Dei sources cited in the introduction to this article, the Prosecutor failed to file a formal complaint due to "insufficient proof." But this statement is far from the whole truth.

By his own admission, the reason Calparsoro failed to complete his investigation and file a criminal complaint against Martinez, was not due to "insufficient proof," but because of the fragile state of mind and body of the alleged victim. The Prosecutor concluded that the young boy's physical and psychological condition would not survive the judicial process. And without the youth's testimony it would be just his word against his teacher's word. And there was an element of truth in this rationalization.

Prominent Psychiatrist Intervenes in Gaztelueta Case

Beginning in 2012, as Anaia's condition worsened, his parents placed him under the expert care of the prominent Basque psychiatrist, Dr. Iñaki Viar Ponte, who treated the young boy for a series of physical and psychiatric pathologies including visual hallucinations, psychomotor restlessness, body aches, and attempted suicides on three occasions. The young boy could no longer be left to himself but required constant supervision and care.

Here is a selection of heart wrenching comments made by Dr. Viar in his interview with reporter Jose Manuel Vidal of the Religion Digital Edicom, S.L., a communications service based in Madrid, on November 29, 2015:

X suffers from Post-Traumatic [Stress] Syndrome caused by the repeated attack on his bodily integrity, by the continuous humiliations the professor submitted him to, and the ridicule of his classmates that the teacher himself propitiated.

The main characteristic of Post-Traumatic [Stress] Syndrome, is that the events that caused the damage are repeated over and over... because the trauma has altered the mechanism of forgetting, which allows the repeated return of the traumatic memory that makes you ill.

X has been reporting with great effort and much time, the deeply traumatic situation to which he was subject... his difficulty in saying what happened to him is due to the fact that evoking those situations produce fear and anxiety...

His story... has always been coherent and without contradictions, and I have been able to verify the truth of his statement... which allows me to rule out any fabrication.

X was totally subjected to his abuser because of his (the preceptor's) authority as guardian, and because of the trust of his parents in the religious institution that runs the school, in such a way that it seemed implausible that such events could occur there.

It is not possible to make a prognosis on the evolution of the illness of X. The object of his treatment is to help him reencounter himself as a human being that has the right to his integrity, and to provide him with the resources that will help X overcome the damage he has suffered. I trust that his anatomical and physiological development will contribute to his recovery.

It is easy to see why Dr. Viar's well-publicized interview on the Gaztelueta case has played a major role in turning the tide of public opinion in Spain in support of the victim and his family and against Martinez and his Opus Dei protectors and media machine. And it may lend some credence to Calparsoro's decision to postpone his investigation of the case, at least until the victims had healed sufficiently to be able to adequately testify against his abuser.

(To be Continued)

© Randy Engel


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Randy Engel

Randy Engel, one of the nation's top investigative reporters, began her journalistic career shortly after her graduation from the University of New York at Cortland, in 1961. A specialist in Vietnamese history and folklore, in 1963, she became the editor of The Vietnam Journal, the official publication of the Vietnam Refugee and Information Services, a national relief program in South Vietnam for war refugees and orphans based in Dayton, Ohio... (more)


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