The Hungarian Catholic Church and charges of pedophilia

First we heard about the deviant sexual behavior of Catholic priests in the United States. Not a word from Europe. Then slowly the walls of silence came tumbling down even on the Continent and one gruesome incident after the other was reported. But in Eastern Europe silence reigned. Surely, no thinking person could believe that all Hungarian priests were saints, radically different from their colleagues elsewhere. There must be problems in Hungary too, but people are either reluctant to report the priests’ misdeeds or the Catholic Church manages to keep the information under lock and key.

I who am a diligent reader of the Hungarian press remember an interview  years ago with a young man who for a while was a student at a Catholic seminary. He claimed that “incredible” things were going on within the walls of the school. However, to my knowledge there was no follow-up of this story. Then in 2007 a web site from a U.S. server collected the names of twenty-five gay Hungarian priests. (Gay men, of course, are not necessarily–in fact rarely–pedophiles, and pedophiles are not necessarily–in fact not usually–gay. But within the Catholic Church these distinctions are often blurred.) How the Hungarian Catholic Church managed to shut down the web site I don’t know, but when it was still functioning it claimed that a gay priest was “one of the greatest manipulators of real estate in the whole Catholic Church.”

And this leads us to the current scandal in the Hungarian Catholic Church: the resignation of Mihály Mayer, bishop of Pécs, and the departure of the doyen of the diplomatic corps in Budapest, the ambassador of the Vatican to Hungary.

A couple of years ago I received a small booklet from my cousin who belongs to a group of retired school principals in Pécs. They get together for potluck dinners and occasionally for outings. This time it was a visit to the palace of the bishop. From the outside the place doesn’t look lavish, but the pictures I received of the interior tell a different story. Moreover (and not visible on the picture), recently the bishop added to the building at the back.

The wine cellar, according to my cousin, was truly spectacular, and the opulence in general awed the visitors. What these innocent retired school principals didn’t know was that the bishop in the last few years had amassed an ill-gotten fortune.

Without going into all the details of a long story that started already in 2006, János Wildman, a Catholic layman and editor of a Catholic publication, turned to a Hungarian priest serving in a high position in the Vatican and told him about the questionable financial dealings of the bishopric in addition to the discovery of pedophilia by one of the important Catholic priests attached to the bishop’s entourage in charge of financial matters. Wildman asked for an investigation. Four years went by. Finally in September 2010 we heard that two high-level officials in the bishopric of Pécs were removed from their positions. Surely, the bishop of Pécs thought that this was the end of the story. For a little while he even tried to convince people that the dismissal of the two priests had absolutely nothing to with either sex or money.

Stonewalling couldn’t last forever. A month later Bishop Mihály Mayer was himself accused of forty different offenses, including inappropriate financial dealings, forgery, and sex crimes. Another month went by when the association of Hungarian Catholic Bishops announced that only the Vatican can start proceedings against Mayer. The police of Baranya county immediately made it clear that they don’t want to do anything with the case because “in the past the local police had amicable relations with the bishopric.” A few months later Mihály Mayer resigned his post. And a few days ago the Vatican named György Udvardy to replace him. Udvardy immediately announced that he will get involved in the investigation only if canon law compels him to do so.

And now we come to another interesting development. It turned out that years ago the Vatican informed its ambassador to Budapest, Julius Janus of Polish origin, that something was not quite right in Pécs and instructed him to start an investigation. Julius Janus, instead of starting an internal probe, passed on the documents he received from Rome to the accused. When this came to light Benedict XVI demoted Julius Janus by moving him from Budapest where he spent eight happy years and sending him to Slovenia. In this capacity he will also be in charge of Kosovo. Apparently in Vatican terms it is a sign of disgrace.

The Hungarian government’s reaction to the whole affair is rather curious. Most likely at the suggestion of Zsolt Zsemjén, who pretty well represents the Catholic Church’s interests in the government, the Hungarian government awarded Julius Janus the Cross of the Order of Merit.

A strange country where a person who clearly didn’t follow the orders of the Vatican and who tolerated and shielded pedophiles and other criminals receives a decoration from the Hungarian government. As for this picture, Semjén’s farewell embrace of Julius Janus seems a bit over the top. The former Vatican ambassador looks decidedly uncomfortable.

Meanwhile more and more cases of alleged pedophilic activities of Catholic priests are being reported. Earlier there was a case in Bóly in Baranya county. The accused priest was under the jurisdiction of Bishop Mayer. Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to that case. A few days ago newspapers reported another case of pedophilia in Orosháza. One of the parish priests there apparently had an illicit relationship with a young girl. The age of the girl is being debated. Some say that she was twelve years old, the priest claims that she was sixteen.

In any case, the trouble within the Catholic Church has finally reached Hungary as well. I suspect, however, that there will be a concerted effort to dampen its effect.

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Paul
Guest
What surprises me is that, in a church as dysfunctional as the RC (scared of sex and women, for starters), it’s taken so long for the reality of what goes on to come out. I don’t recall much along these lines in the UK (where RCs are quite a minority anyway), but in Ireland the revelations and reactions have been incredible. The church over there has lost nearly all credibility, even amongst many of its followers, and is in deep crisis – not least because it is now almost impossible to get young men to train as priests. It’s not just the behaviour of the priests that’s so scandalous (many of them serial and long-term sex offenderes), but the way the bishops (and higher) have covered up for them. The common procedure when a priest is discovered to be up to no good (or rather when it can finally be ignored no longer) seems to have been to simply move him on to another parish, where he can make a fresh starts with another batch of innocent young victims. As Éva says, I can’t believe that this has only happened in one or two countries. The underlying causes of these… Read more »
Member
I do not want to engage in a religious debate, but it always puzzled me that any healthy man can for a moment believe, that an other healthy man can go on for years and years without having sexual contact. I am not saying that it is not possible for a few but I am sure that it is impossible for thousands. Sex is part of of human (and animal) life and that drive will come out first or last. Artificially trying to eliminate the “desire” will backfire. Now, do we create a healthy atmosphere by denying man their most basic instincts, and telling them that having desires or having sex is wrong? Of course not, as this suppressed instincts will come to surface and under the circumstances will lead those individuals to fulfill their desires by “attacking” the most vulnerable, the kids who literally put their faith in these monsters. Still, I think it has more to do with the expectations set by the Vatican even in this age, then with the men who commit the crime. As for the photo.. Isn’t he hanging something on his neck? It looks to me that the creep is holding something in… Read more »
Member

I don’t see the connection between celibacy and pedophilia. Also don’t be too obsessed with the lack of sex life either. It is possible to devote your whole life to the community.
The problem with priests – this is the same in every religion – they can get really close to young people. In normal circumstances this is a good thing. They can provide very precise spiritual guidance.
Anyway I believe there is nothing more wrong with the clergy than any other group of people working with children. The shame is the coverup. No excuse for it. Now dioceses in the US are getting bankrupt (financially and morally) when paying up for molestation in the US. The Economist had recently an article about it. The usual funny title was: “Chapter 11, verse 8”.
Regarding Vic, I wonder what instructions he got when was in the Vatican a few months back. I think soon after the visit they decided to destroy the documents about the Kadar are informants. Go figure.

Jano
Guest

Someone: But on the other hand no one is forced to become a catholic priest and to swear celibacy. I also don’t understand how any healthy adult individual can go without intimacy for decades but that is just me and you but I don’t think that there is enough deprivation in the world that could turn my special attention towards young boys (I mean if you ‘fail’ with celibacy, there are so many other options to break it). I’m sure there has to be something wrong with those people in the first place.
I agree with Mutt, this is not a religious failure, these are personal failures and an institutional failure from the church with the cover up. They are and will keep on paying for it hard.

latefor
Guest

I don’t see any trouble with the Catholic Church, however there are serious problems with a few bad seeds……which I am sure will be dealt with by the Vatican. (With I.T. as it is today, nothing can be covered up anymore). One should not ignore the fact that the great majority of priests dedicate their life for the goodness of humanity.
I do believe,that the Roman Catholic Church will provide spiritual guidance for millions of people all over the world for a few more thousands of years to come.

Lutra lutra
Guest

I’m no expert but I would say that pedophilia is more about the exercise of power than sex per se, though one is a powerful way of sublimating, or substituting for, the other.
If Hungary had a press culture that encouraged (and enshrined in law) investigative reporting then these scandals would have been brought to light years ago. Neither Fidesz nor MSZP has done anything tochange this -it seems like the powerful prefer to protect their own.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “I don’t see the connection between celibacy and pedophilia. Also don’t be too obsessed with the lack of sex life either.”
As for the first sentence, of course, there isn’t but it is often mixed up when talking about Catholic priests.
As for the second, I think that it is a huge problem for the Catholic Church. As someone very rightly said often young fellows enter priesthood who are ambivalent about their sexuality. One way or the other.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Long ago and far away I read a news article in a quarterly periodical on Operational Research. The author mentioned that most who suffered from most deviant behaviour – paedophilia- showed that most had been long time victims themselves. In other words it was a learned behaviour (many paedophiles are themselves victims of paedophiles). The problems with the Roman Catholic Church mainly stem from celibacy, misogyny, mammon and the immunity given by Cannon Law. In those countries where Catholicism forms a majority, even a large minority, the authorities bow down to Cannon Law. We saw this in the Eire where the police (the Garda Siochána) merely passed the complaints of paedophilia on to the local bishopric and went back to sleep. The feeling by the authorities in countries where Catholicism is a major religion is that the ‘Holy-Joes’ are separate from the rest of the ‘herd’ and are outside the law of the land. This is what the authorities were taught as children by the priests (and it sticks). Cannon Law does apply in the U.K. but it refers to internal church offences. There is no U.K. law (now) about ‘female impersonators and consenting adults’. The Established Church will look… Read more »
Member

Well, many enthusiastic young men tend to underestimate the commitment when they think they have to become a priests (I guess that is what you meant under being “ambivalent” about sexuality). They are admitted to the seminaries when they shouldn’t, partly because there is a shortage of priests and partly because of incompetence, and later don’t get “brainwashed” enough ( in a good way 🙂 ). It’s a bit like the military. Big problem indeed. The Catholic Church is huge organization. The “system” does’t always work very well.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “The “system” does’t always work very well.”
No, it doesn’t. If the Catholic Church insists on celibacy there will be very few people who will enter priesthood. And the scandals will continue.

Member

We should rather pontificate about the Orban government’s misdeeds .. but I like to have the last word 🙂
Celibacy has been around for a while. Shortage of priests is rather mirrors the “spiritual state” of a certain community. It’s similar to politicians. You can hate them but YOU produced them so to speak.
The molestation scandals again, imho, are organizational problems. The Holy See blew it big time when it ordered to sweep it under the rug.

Johnny Boy
Guest

I think Daniel Kohn-Bandit should join the Catholic Church.

Member

Looky, looky … our resident wingnut is an atheist. How do ya’ like dem apples?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “I think Daniel Kohn-Bandit should join the Catholic Church.”
Well, if MTV falsifies the report then perhaps. Nice group of people are taking over the public television. Mostly Jobbik members from Echo TV.

Johnny Boy
Guest

MTV’s alleged falsification doesn’t have any effect on Kohn-Bandit self-admittedly being a pedophile.

Member

Johnny Boy: “I think Daniel Kohn-Bandit should join the Catholic Church.” Here you go again. What is this post exactly had to do with Daniel Kohn-Bandit? THe post is about your beloved government (Orban and his buddies) decorating this guy who among other things shielded pedophiles. What does it ell about the Hungarian people Johnny (as you always worried about perception)? What does it tell about Orban? Waht does it tell about you, that you just cannot forgive the “sins” of homosexuals, but you are right behind your government who protect and decorate these kind of people?

John G
Guest

Wow…the topic has left even Johnny boy(almost) speechless. I believe there is a general feeling in Hungary that this topic should simply fade into the fog of all the bells and smells of the Easter rituals.
Noticeably all comments on this topic are from ex-pat Hungarians I believe. (Paul being an exception)
As for “forgiveness” I don’t think you will find it in the Hungarian dictionary.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Celibacy, it turns out, is not a matter of dogma or even universal rule in the Catholic Church. During the Second Vatican Council, when this topic came up, the Council acknowledged that many Eastern Catholic Churches (the best known one in Hungary is the Greek Catholic or Gorog Katolikus church) have married priests with the full approval of the Pope. Only the Roman Catholic Church requires celibacy for all clergy.

John T
Guest

I remember reading that the primary motive behind celibacy in the RC Church was for good business reasons. For many centuries, priests were mainly drawn from affluent families. If they devoted their lives to the church and remained celibate, there’d be a good chance that any inheritance they received from their family would find it’s way into the Vatican coffers when they eventually died. And it certainly helped to make the Vatican wealthy.

Member

Unless they arranged otherwise …

Johnny Boy
Guest

someone: this is water clear, though no wonder you don’t understand my point.
The point is that pedophilia:
* is good if it’s Daniel Kohn-Bandit or someone else from our kennel doing it
* is bad if someone from the Church doing it (as anything done by the Church is bad, except for maybe dying, for that matter).
That’s it.

Member

Johnny Boy: I have news for you. Daniel Kohn-Bandit is not Hungarian. We are talking about how in Hungary (not in Nepal or in Cuba or in the USA) your favoured government find it very important to provide a medal for a priest who covered up for pedophile priests in Hungary. Konh-Bandit is not a priest, not Hungarian and not a pet of Orban. There are many pedophiles out there but this article was not about them. We will not list all the pedophiles through history on this blog, and there are plenty. Do you get it now?

Paul
Guest
“I don’t see the connection between celibacy and paedophilia. Also don’t be too obsessed with the lack of sex life either.” There is also no connection between enforced celibacy and homosexuality, so where does all the male-on-male sex (and rape) so often reported in jails stem from? Force a man to live without sex (or love) and then surround him with easy opportunity and there aren’t many who won’t give way to temptation. Look deep into your hearts – on evidence, we are not a very moral or trustworthy sex. “I agree with Mutt, this is not a religious failure” If you meant ‘faith’, then I might agree with you (although only ‘might’), but surely the very meaning of ‘religion’ is organised and supervised/controlled faith? In which case, it IS a religious failure. Jesus said a lot of things, many of them sensible and good, but I don’t recall him saying you must obey my ‘representative on Earth’, or you mustn’t have sex. On the other hand, he DID say such things as “the meek shall inherit the earth”, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Old ‘JB’ gets nuttier by the minute!
Thank God he’s around, otherwise I’d get too depressed by all this.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
John G Paul is not the only non Hungarian who lives in Hungary. Oh you write * “ JB is getting nuttier by the by the minute”. It is the ‘Bunko Powders’ they give him. He loves the twinkly lights, the little people with wings and the funny pink rabbits with elephant’s trunks he sees. Ok ‘to our muttons’. Paul you say ‘Jesus wept’. What I am now going to write is that (give Johhny Boy a large dose of Prozac!) Jesus was a Jew! A rabbi and as such he had to be married! So were all his disciples In the society of his day and country, any man who was not married would be Pariah! A total outcast! At some point the Holy Fathers became radicalised and very misogynistic. Because a natural reason phenomena common to all placental mammals women are regarded as intrinsically ‘unclean’ even amongst the ‘Jains’. John T you wrote * “For many centuries, priests were mainly drawn from affluent families. If they devoted their lives to the church and remained celibate, there’d be a good chance that any inheritance they received from their family would find its way into the Vatican coffers when they… Read more »
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