The new president of Hungary is a dolt

At least this is what about one-third of the country thinks. Because Pál Schmitt made the mistake of submitting his proposals to the parliamentary committee that is busily trying to come up with a constitution that the Fidesz government considers appropriate for the great nation. The proposals are a collection of clichés and wrong facts. All written in a primitive, often incomprehensible language full of grammatical and spelling errors. Quite something from the man who wants to be known as the defender of the Hungarian language. It is hard to fathom, but there are always people who think that a language must be defended against its enemies, the speakers. In any case, Schmitt claims that the Hungarian language is in a "tragic state."

Schmitt's own intellectual capacity may be severely limited, but what is even more worrisome is that his staff's capabilities seem to be not much higher. You may recall that Sólyom's staff was decimated. Practically the whole staff got the boot. I assume that the firing wasn't really Schmitt's decision, as I suspect practically nothing is, and that his "boss" was in charge of deciding who would go and who would replace them. But whoever chose the staff did a lousy job. I don't expect Schmitt to know how embarrassingly bad his proposals are, but if they picked a president of such limited abilities at least they could have chosen a staff who could try to hide his stupidity.

Schmitt's proposals were put on the internet a few days ago, but it seems that no eagle-eyed journalist found them until Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus, published the juiciest parts of his so-called proposals. A good thing because since then the embarrassing document has disappeared from the web site of the Hungarian parliament. (By the way, I have it in its original .pdf form and would be glad to send it on to people who would like to read the whole thing.) Here is a translation of a few doozies Mihancsik found especially amusing. Emphases by Mihancsik. If you don't understand this mumbo jumbo, don't worry. I don't either.

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I. Does Christianity have a place in a national constitution?

To the question whether it is necessary to mention Christianity in the preamble of constitutions, Schmitt's answer is: "Yes, because in national constitutions the idea of Christianity appears either as a reference or in hidden form as part of basic human rights, for example, as freedom of religion." After a not too accurate description of revolutions that swept away absolutism and established basic rights like "freedom of religion (as Christianity) the constitutions of some European countries (Greece, Ireland, Poland and Bavaria, belonging to Germany) mention Christianity as opposed to France and the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe." He adds mysteriously: "Our present constitution declares the separation of church and state." Sounds ominous!

Chapter on Catholic social thinking and teaching

"In this chapter I will introduce you to the historical development of the Church's teachings…. According to the Greeks  the universe is eternal while according to Christian teachings, the world is the creation of God. The teaching of the Catholic Church is first and foremost not a political question. It is only in the last two hundred years (since the French revolution) that the directives of the Catholic Church became ever more important, and the believers demand more and more the Church's guidance."

Chapter about the Hungarian Reformed Church

Religion is not a private matter. On the contrary: religion is a public matter, the 'community of souls.' The church cannot commit violence because "the power of the church cannot be considered to be political power." "This means that all kinds of power can be only of divine origin. In my own interpretation this means that constitutional power is given by God…. The occupants of worldly power receive their power from God because God has power over the 'absolutorium.'"  (What he actually wanted to say was not absolutorium which means a certificate received upon graduation but "the absolute.")

The historical constitution and its actuality in our days

After some confused sentences about the Theory of the Holy Crown, Schmitt claims that "the historical [unwritten] constitution carries moral messages and such logical theories found in the ordinary people's thinking that stand as a barrier against future legislation. Some scholars claim that because Hungary actually had a historical constitution, the new document might only be called basic laws. My study follows this way of thinking. However, I might add that I can imagine calling the document of basic laws the constitution and the constitution constitutionality. In any case, in both cases it is obvious that there exists above the 'highest written law' a norm which cannot be annulled by parliament."

Schmitt then makes a few rather interesting comments on the birth of the present constitution. According to him "the parliament that legalized the present constitution came into being in an undemocratic regime. It is true that the modifications to the constitution were made by a democratically elected parliament but the electoral law that elected that parliament was created by the illegitimate parliament of 1989." Thus, if we follow Schmitt's reasoning all governments and all parliaments have been illegitimate ever since 1990. According to him all sorts of terrible legal breaches have taken place, and he talks darkly about "making sure that in the future, elections should be repeated if the question of large scale cheating takes place."

As soon as the abbreviated version of Schmitt's "study" surfaced, several articles appeared trying to figure out what Schmitt was actually talking about. Or, pointing out wrong facts, possible plagiarism, and wrong grammar. I will spend another article on these reactions.

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Julie
Guest

“…In any case, in both cases it is obvious that there exists above the ‘highest written law’ a norm which cannot be annulled by parliament.”
That’s rather sinister-sounding. Who gets to decide what this “norm” is? Also, how much actual power does the president have relative to the PM?

pusztaranger
Guest

The document is available online:
http://hirszerzo.hu/doc/kozt_elnok.pdf
“The historical constitution and its actuality in our days:”
As far as I can tell he follows the logic of the “Theory of the Holy Crown”,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrine_of_the_Holy_Crown
Hungary’s “historical constitution”, as embraced by the Hungarian right/ultra right spectrum – that Hungary has been “illegitimately ruled” since 1946 (or 1949), that Hungary’s “historical constitution” cannot be overruled by the institutions of a modern democracy, and it has to be reinstalled now for the state power/government to be truly legitimate. This is what the crown is the symbol for in the new constitution. He uses the term “jogfolytonosság” (Eva, can you help me out here). If you google “jogfolytonosság”, mostly ultra-right wing/extremist pages come up.
So the state president of a modern EU democracy (supposedly) is advocating an undemocratic form of constitution. And to top it, he uses St Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, for the Fidesz-government and their new constitution. (All authority comes from God etc.)
The guy is an embarassement, but if the underlying content of his doc is current Fidesz-doctrine (afraid so), then goodnight Hungary.
(sorry for my English.)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Pusztaranger: “(sorry for my English.)”
Your English is fine. The whole document is a mess and only God knows what he actually wants to say. As for “jogfolytonossag” perhaps legal continuity. That is that former laws remain in force even if they might be changed. But there is no complete break. Certainly one cannot say that there was a complete break between the Kadar regime and the new democratic. It was a negotiated settlement that resulted in some very basic changes but not everything was thrown out of the window.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
I have come across some flap-doodle (total piffle) in my time but this little lot really takes the biscuit! I would like to take the points you have raised one at a time. 1. Does Christianity have a place in a national constitution? I am afraid no! Europe is a secular outfit As far as I know there is only one kingdom (and I stand to be corrected) that has an ‘Established Religion’ and that is very firmly under the control of a secular outfit.(the Queen and Parliament). 2. Chapter on Catholic social thinking and teaching! The teaching of the Catholic Church is first and foremost not a political question. No they burned those who wished to read the Bible in their own language. They taught that the world was the centre of the universe and that the earth was flat. As to social teaching you must obey your local priest (Paedophile or not). And as to Darwin, Mendel their writings are the works of the devil. As is any form of birth control and to teach it to is anathema! 3. Chapter about the Hungarian Reformed Church “The occupants of worldly power receive their power from God because God… Read more »
pgyzs
Guest

Schmitt is ridiculous. Everybody knows that he is a puppet, and I think he’s clearly unaware of that. His appearance on TV last week or the one before indicated that he really thinks that he has any kind of impact on people other than making them laugh. I mean ok, we’ve seen guys being just party trolls but usually they realize that and at least don’t make a fool out of themselves. What a huge contrast to his predecessors.

Guest

@pusztaranger:
Nice to meet you here (I ‘ve visited your homepage – you’re probably German – as I am)
@Odin’s …
If you want to see something funny/scary look here:
http://www.catholicintl.com/galileowaswrong/index.html
Yes – the earth is the center of the universe and evolution is crap – God worked int all out in (I forgot ) how many days …
Should we weep or laugh at this ?
Good night!

Paul
Guest

wolfi – funniest thing I’ve read in ages!
I was under the impression that the RC Church now accepts Galileo was right, so where does that leave this bunch of nutters?
As long as the nutters are as nutty as this, we’re safe. It’s when they are not quite as mad as this that it scares me. And Fidesz is rapidly approaching that point.

Member
“1. Does Christianity have a place in a national constitution? I am afraid no! Europe is a secular outfit As far as I know there is only one kingdom (and I stand to be corrected) that has an ‘Established Religion’ and that is very firmly under the control of a secular outfit.(the Queen and Parliament).” This is not true. Several European countries have official religions or have constitutions mentioning God. Some examples: Maltese constitution: “2. (1) The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion. (2) The authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong. (3) Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education.” Irish Constitution (Preamble): “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Game set and match to David (that gets you back for my rabbit error, Odins!).
Still, I’m fairly sure there aren’t too many states where the head of state is also the head of the church – as is the case here in the UK.
OK, The Vatican is an obvious one. And Thailand. And Japan.
But there can’t be THAT many!

Member

[pedantry]Paul, HMQ is only head of the church in England, not the UK. 🙂
In Scotland she is merely a member of the Church of Scotland, in Wales and Northern Ireland she is not even that.[/pedantry]

OpenDog
Guest

In 2002, after the elections I exchanged e-mails with my ex high school mates. They are more or less 🙂 churchgoer Christians. I’m pretty sure they became closet MSZP voters (they didn’t admit it). One of their problems with the FIDESZ government was the involvement with the Catholic church. Like they were running around with the Holy Right and things like that. So look at the bright side. This attempt to turn Hungary to a theocracy doesn’t really click with a lot of voters. This will bring them down big time, maybe even at the next elections. People don’t like to be told what to believe in. By the way we are churchgoer Catholics too.
@Odin: Can you please hold back with the anti-christian tirades. I know it’s tempting, but for Pete’s sake can we just pretend for once that we are not Hungarian and accept each others faith? Rejoice, my friends! Atheist and Christians finally agree: Schmitt is an idiot.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
David thanks for the lists. I am afraid I am not very aware about such matters. But, Paul, I did say that ‘I stand to be corrected’ on that one. Admission of ignorance is the beginning of enlightenment! In England I believe the Synod of the Church in England puts forwards names to the Prime Minister who after consultations (and once or twice the odd debate in the House of Commons) puts two names to the Monarch who picks one (of the two) and appoints that person a bishop/archbishop. Control of the religious authorities is very much in the hands of the elected representatives of the people. Ok it was the first attempt that I know of for a nation to take control of the religious authorities, prevent their foreign religious leaders from meddling in temporal matters of that state and subject them to the wishes of people they are supposed to serve. Mr Opendog I have a very jaundiced view of any religious sect who burns men alive (Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley) because these men wanted their ‘flock’ to speak to their God in their own language and to understand what they were saying. The doors of Baliol Collage… Read more »
T.Sanyi
Guest
Thank you David for the illustrative oversight. I think the scope of even these few examples is remarkable. I think, concluding that the mere existence of reference to God or religion in a European constitution means that it’s not incompatible with a modern European state is a naturalistic fallacy. Reading the Maltese one, I personally would say it doesn’t have to do anything with modern Europe. “The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion.” How can a state have a religion? Sounds like those days when the monarch was the sovereign and everyone else had to have his religion. Much better the Greece one stating that there is a “prelevant” On the other hand, I regard the Polish solution as a beautiful example of how a reference could be managed even nowadays: “We, the Polish Nation – all citizens of the Republic, Both (!!) those who believe in God …, As well as those not sharing such faith but respecting those universal values …”. I don’t think it’s necessary to have any religious reference in a constitution at all. But if so, I think the Polish version doesn’t hurt anyone. And even more, I think it shows the… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Open Dog: “Rejoice, my friends! Atheist and Christians finally agree: Schmitt is an idiot.”
I heard that at the demonstration on Sunday when one of the speakers mentioned Schmitt’s name, the whole crowd began to laugh!

John T
Guest

“I heard that at the demonstration on Sunday when one of the speakers mentioned Schmitt’s name, the whole crowd began to laugh!”
There is always the danger that mocking him will only make him more determined to get his way, and he is of course, a man with power.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T: “There is always the danger that mocking him will only make him more determined to get his way, and he is of course, a man with power.”
Oh, I don’t think so. He has no power. He is just a puppet.

Paul
Guest

One of the more serious problems with the Hungarian constitution is exactly that, that the President has no power.
From a UK perspective (where the Queen (in theory) chooses the Prime Minister, and where the army and police are loyal to the Queen and not parliament) the Hungarian constitution has always looked worryingly weak where checks and balances are concerned.
The President is a token figure, there is no second chamber, and, as we have seen, a party with 2/3rds of the MPs can do what it likes.
It’s always puzzled me that, with plenty of time to draw up a constitution, and plenty of examples of how to do it (or not) around, that they came up with such a poor one.
And, getting back to the President, his power was considerably weakened by the decision, late in the day, to have him elected by parliament, and not the people. And, interestingly, Fidesz was the main mover behind this change, refusing to sign up if it wasn’t changed.
Was Orbán already plotting for his future coup even then?

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