Pope Francis and his Hungarian critics

Traditionally, the Hungarian Catholic Church has been led by extremely conservative prelates known for their symbiotic relationship with the state. This conservatism solidified during the communist period, when the church was cut off from all the modernizing trends that were taking place in the West.

After the return of parliamentary democracy in 1990, the Catholic Church allied itself with the governing right-of-center MDF, a Christian Democratic party. On the other side were the former communists who now called themselves socialists and the liberals with their unacceptable ideas of a secular state and their insistence on limiting the church’s role to spiritual matters. The left was obviously no place for the conservative church hierarchy. So, after the demise of MDF the Catholic Church became a steadfast supporter of Fidesz. Priests delivered propaganda sermons on Sundays before the 1998 election, urging their flock to vote for the right party. When Fidesz lost the election in 2002, they worked on the party’s behalf throughout the party’s eight lean years. In 2010 the Catholic Church became one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Orbán government’s largess.

Pope Francis

Their support for Fidesz is unwavering, even (or especially) when it comes to the refugee question. While Christian teachings would call for charity toward those in need, the Church’s humanitarian activities were minimal when thousands of refugees were stuck in Hungary for a while without any government help. Moreover, the two largest denominations, the Catholic and the Hungarian Reformed, have not criticized the hate campaign being waged against the refugees. On the contrary, some of the prelates have spread the most incredible theories about the people who are fleeing civil war and Islamic terrorism.

There are quite a few arch-conservatives in the Conference of Bishops, but perhaps the most extreme when it comes to the refugee question is Gyula Márfi, archbishop of Veszprém. In his opinion, these men, women, and children are not refugees. They come to Europe as conquerors. Millions of Muslims realize that Europe abandoned its Christian faith or, as Márfi puts it, “Europe removed the gentle yoke of Christ” and thus became a target for the yoke of Mohamed. He doesn’t care what Pope Francis says about Christian love and charity. Francis comes from Argentina and therefore knows very little about Europe.

This was Márfi’s opinion in October 2015, and with time he has become increasingly confident that he was correct in his appraisal of the situation. He even added that “migration doesn’t have causes but only purposes.” Anyone who denies this is either lying or gravely mistaken. For many of us this kind of language sounds crazy, but we mustn’t forget that Viktor Orbán himself often talked about the possibly organized nature of the refugee flow.

Not all Catholic bishops are as outspoken as Márfi, but he was not the only one who criticized Pope Francis for his welcoming attitude toward the refugees. László Kiss-Rigó, another conservative or right-wing bishop, told a journalist of The Washington Post that “they’re not refugees. This is an invasion.” He added that he was in total agreement with the prime minister. The pope, by contrast, “doesn’t know the situation.” Later, Kiss-Rigó tried to blame The Washington Post for distorting his words.

Gyula Márfi, Archbishop of Vác

Gyula Márfi, Archbishop of Vác

The relationship between the Hungarian Catholic Church and Pope Francis is strained. Most of the Hungarian church leaders think that he is naïve or, worse, perhaps even a liberal-socialist misfit within the body of the universal Catholic Church. And then came a conversation between the pope and journalists on the plane between Krakow and Rome after he spent five days in Poland at the end of July, which seems to have further upset the Hungarian clerics as well as the Hungarian political right. The conversation took place after the murder of an 85-year-old priest in western France. The pope said: “I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy—someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent.”

The first reaction in the Hungarian media came from Zsolt Bayer, the foul-mouthed journalist who works for the far-right Magyar Hírlap but also writes a blog in which this article appeared. Bayer was one of the founders of the youth organization out of which Fidesz emerged. In fact, he is the proud owner of the #5 membership card. I believe Kövér’s is #1 and Orbán’s #2. In this article Bayer tore into the pope, who in his opinion is “either a senile old fool who is totally unsuitable to be the pope or a scoundrel. Momentarily, I can’t think of a third possibility.”

A day after Bayer’s post the pro-government Magyar Idők published an article about the pope’s controversial statement but opted not to express any opinion of its own. The journalist simply quoted two English-language publications, The American Conservative and The Catholic Herald. 888.hu was less circumspect when it made fun of the pope, who thinks that “Christ might live in one of the rejected migrants.” 888.hu quoted Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, according to whom a war of religion is being waged at the moment. Islam, he claims, calls “for our destruction.” Graham argues that “what’s sin in Europe, is virtue” in the Islamic world. So, the war is on. The pope is wrong.

György Stoffán, a far-right journalist with a dubious biography in Wikipedia, went so far as to demand the pope’s resignation. According to Stoffán, Pope Francis is “not a bad man, just not a European and not a Catholic.” The pope is not only being manipulated by Jews but is a Jew himself, a son of Jewish refugees from Italy. Yes, Stoffán belongs to the lunatic fringe, but it is enough to do a quick internet search to discover that he has company: “Pope Francis is a Jewish impostor,” “biblical prophecy from book of Obadiah reveals pope’s shocking Jewish agenda.” These stories are most likely inspired by Pope Francis’s renunciation of Jewish conversion at the end of 2015. Fundamentalists immediately protested, saying that the Vatican is wrong because Jews do need Jesus. Some of these fundamentalists even said that his teachings are heretical and that he is an anti-pope.

Given Pope Francis’s views, I’m not surprised that many conservatives inside and outside of the Church find him unacceptable and would love to see him disappear as soon as possible. And once he is gone, the Church should forget about his heretical social liberalism. As for the Hungarian people, given their attitude to the alien culture of the refugees, I’m sure that they wholeheartedly agree with the critics of Pope Francis.

August 13, 2016
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Istvan
Guest
I find it odd Eva that your essay made no mention at all of Péter Cardinal Erdo Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary. Erdő was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2013 papal conclave that selected Pope Francis. According to the National Catholic Reporter Cardinal Erdo was among the cardinals most often identified in press reports as those most likely to be elected by the Papal conclave of 2013. The Vatileaks scandal which initially involving leaked Vatican documents, exposing alleged corruption, went far deeper than that and weighed heavily on the conclave and the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI itself. I think Eva misses in her essay the deeper dimensions of the crisis of magyar katolicizmus. Erdo was out of the running on the very first vote according to various reports I have read. Pope Benedict was far less concerned about the corruption in the Church the the Vatileaks papers revealed than he was he finding who leaked them, because in truth he was personally deeply involved in this corruption of the Church. Paolo Gabriele the Pope’s butler who leaked the documents testified at his Vatican trial he did it to save the Church from corruption,… Read more »
e-2016
Guest

Budapest speaks now the universal language of the Moscow disnformation deals.

petofi
Guest

I remind the earnest members of this blog that young Viktor, still short of 20 years, visited Moscow. I’m sure that the eagle-eyed KGB brigade did not overlook the potential of the young gypsy with the out-sized
mouth and opinions; and in possession of one solitary, haggard, sports jacket…

Member

Shame on “petofi” (yet again).

petofi
Guest

Herr Professor,

Which of my above statements is false?

PALIKA
Guest

I do not mean to intrude into a private dispute but OV has many attributes but the times I met him I always found him polite, almost deferential and quietly single minded with no interest outside politics. He may have changed since then but I doubt he would have been loud or appeared opinionated when as a young student he visited Moscow. His lack of wealth or social standing might have aroused interest but we have nothing to suggests he made it to a meeting with the KGB.

petofi
Guest

Palika: you’re either a Troll–I haven’t followed the bog closely lately–or have been fooled by the Viktor.

Anyway, supposing that you’re on the level…a little advice: judge the man by what he does and has done. If that doesn’t show one of the greatest scroundrels of Hungarian history, than nothing does.

petofi
Guest

Palika,

You’re really quite a card: “…no interest outside of politics…” Right. How about money?

Ok, let’s get to the nitty-gritty…How much did he score for the Azeri axe-wielder?

PALIKA
Guest

That was the young man I saw when I met him all those years ago.
Your KGB story is unsupported by any evidence and it is probably nothing more than fantasy, but even if no, so what? I expect many of us met KGB operatives even without realising it.

webber
Guest

It was your implication that there is something wrong with being a gypsy.

petofi
Guest

webber,

Read Observer (below) carefully-

petofi
Guest

Being a gypsy? No.
Being a trickster, a liar, and an ill-willed sonofabitch…Yes.

webber
Guest

Call him a liar, a trickster, and whatever else you want. Calling him names isn’t the problem.

Observer
Guest

Webber

Pls let’s be real, genetics, environment and nurture form the individuals. Orban has displayed many of the worse sides of the gypsy stereotype. And don’t lecture about stereotypes, this is how humans think, whether we like it or not.

Being a gypsy in Hungary statistically determines many things, never mind that an individual may be completely out of the profile/mold/stereotype/etc.

petofi
Guest

Quite so. I’ve said same several times, if not as well.

Sad to say, but the politically-corrective types like to climb their soapbox and heave
mightily from the great height of their rectitude…

webber
Guest

Petofi, see my comment to Observer.
What you wrote was foul.

webber
Guest

Observer –
“Pls let’s be real….”
So, it would be okey-dokey, in your view, to call every grasping, money-hungry shyster “a Jew”?

Stop this idiocy, pls.

Observer
Guest

Webber

If the “grasping, money-hungry shyster “ happens to be a Jew, the case will reinforce the false stereotype.
In the gypsy case the stereotype is not false, if exaggerated, but solidly backed by statistics, unfortunately.

Sticking one’s head in PolCor sand is not my preferred way of looking at the world.

webber
Guest

Yet, I happen to know a few Gypsies, some in university, who don’t conform to the stereotype, and stereotyping them is not at all fair, to them personally.

webber
Guest
webber
Guest

comment image

webber
Guest

Observer, Your comment about PolCor is exactly what anti-Semites say when challenged.

Observer
Guest

Webber,

Note that I use consistently the term “statistically”, Particular individuals, lists of them, will inevitably deviate on either side, and they may feel good or bad respectively. That doesn’t change the average. The method is a basic tool in all social sciences criminalistics, politics, wellfare etc.

I mentioned PC as inadequate argument on your side and asked for evidence. Instead you try an indirect name calling/labeling, which still falls short.

I rest my case here.

webber
Guest

You have no case. You have a lot of hatred. (see what I wrote to you below).

webber
Guest

Statistically, Jews are more likely to be involved in financial scandals than any other group. Look it up. Does that justify, then, anti-Semitic stereotypes in your view? It does in the view of other racists. Why don’t you extend your “logic” to all groups, hmmm? (and I’ll be the first to call you an anti-Semite if you do, be warned).
Lies, damned lies, and statistics – that’s what you are full of.

Member

The Hungarian Catholic Church was always officially aligned with every government, regardless of how inhumane, cruel, discriminative, lawless, anti-Semitic, nazi or communist ideology prevailed. The leaders of the Hungarian Church were and are without scruples, they lack compassion, the love of people and they are the most corrupt filthy criminals. THERE ARE INDIVIDUAL PRIESTS AND PLENTY, WHO ARE VERY GOOD PEOPLE, BUT NOT THE CHURCH ANT ITS LEADERS!

Jean P.
Guest

“THERE ARE INDIVIDUAL PRIESTS AND PLENTY, WHO ARE VERY GOOD PEOPLE, BUT NOT THE CHURCH ANT ITS LEADERS!”

This is the nature of hierarchies.

ambator
Member

Almost, but not completely. The pre-Orban era’s socialist government was anathema to the church and they openly advocated and campaigned against it even in the temples. The Orban persuaded them to give him their support, by promising more money and more influence. As it seems, the deep was consummated, because the money is pouring into church coffers and the education system is more and more under church management.

Pál Marosi
Guest

I am a member of the Church as a simple believer. I am deeply outraged and sickened by your slanderous remarks about the Church. Please provide your proofs or refrain from the slander and defamation.

Member

One cannot argue with believers and there is no proof that will stop them to be one.

Guest

The Catholic Church is the biggest paedophile organisation in the world – just look at the numbers.

Did you know that several dioceses and the Jesuits too in the USA did declare bankruptcy to avoid paying their victims?

Hank
Guest

One important (for me who is from Vác) mistake:Gyula Márfi is NOT bishop of Vác but of Veszprém. The bishop of Vác is Miklós Beer, the only sane voice in the Hungarian catholic church hierarchy. In his sermons, he repeatedly criticized the lack of compassion in Hungary towards refugees, Roma and the poor. He recently organized a performance in the Vác cathedral of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven, the European anthem. Sadly, he is also going to retire in a few months and the Pope will have little to say about the appointment of the new bishop, as that is an exclusive prerogative of the Hungarian bishops.

Pál Marosi
Guest

You don’t seem to be well informed in Church matters. Any new bishop appointment needs the Pope’s approval.

Live long and prosper
Guest
Live long and prosper

It’s hard to fathom why anyone should listen to or (god forbid!) allow themselves to be influenced by men who believe in an imaginary deity and who align themselves with a corrupt and morally bankrupt political party, and its equally hard to fathom why Hungarians tolerate their despotic leadership, who prioritise their own enrichment and obscene extravagance on non-essentials like sports facilities over desperately needed investment in healthcare.
But Budapest remains a wonderful and safe city to live in, as long as you disregard the flagrant and tasteless excesses of the political elite and can afford private medical insurance.

Guest
Re: ‘It’s hard to fathom why anyone should listen to or (god forbid!) allow themselves to be influenced by men who believe in an imaginary deity and who align themselves with a corrupt and morally bankrupt political party,……’ You know it is unfortunate that the representatives of Christ in the country do not understand or practice what they allegedly follow in the tenets of their religious faith. That disconnect in a way works to to not only debase the faith and its caretakers but to also shut off opposition dialogue to a supposed democratic state that has gone ‘rogue’. Rogue not only politically but religiously. The Pope indeed may have lost these Magyars. Lucifer has shut the lights out. Milton was right that that that baaaad angel was a force to be reckoned with. What we have in Magyarorszag rogue Catholicism today is a very blind knee-jerk vehemence to Islam as well as sorry understanding of the quest for the dignity of individuals. Absolutely no perispacity at all when looking at it. Before they pronounce from their hypocritical stand at their altars they should not only look at the speck of sawdust in their brothers’ eye but the rotten plank… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“…men who believe in an imaginary deity…”–
First off, all deities are imaginary.
Second, let me remind you of Shakespeare’s words (by way of Hamlet):
“There are more things in heaven and earth than are drempt of in your philosophy.”

Guest

And to add an observation of Marfi and the high clerics who keep quiet as they watch the moral desolation of their country.

‘A goodly apple rotten at the heart
O what a goodly outside falsehood hath’

Merchant of Venice

There could be hope if there are clerics who in the midst of their quiet vespers revisit their motivations for the calling to God and their role in that quest. If they experience inner turmoil between creed and action then it behooves them to explore further and act. Under the circumstances it would be a waste of time to keep being ‘in Church’ and acting simply as holy vigil lamplighters off the vestibule.

PALIKA
Guest
There are huge numbers of delusional people who allow their lives to be influenced by the clergy of the churches that have unfortunately survived all rational attempts to wind them up. The same goes for monarchies. The mediaeval spectacle of a cyclist champion being elevated to the ranks of mediaeval and or feudal orders would be comical if it did not also carry a disconcerting message. I do not doubt that the present Pope is a good man. Neither do I doubt that the Hungarian Catholic Church stands for little that is admirable. It never did. But it is not alone. The moral disintegration at the heart of the Catholic Church has been evident and it resulted in the resignation of the German Pope. Fortunately the Pope, however admirable he may be as an individual, has limited power to influence events. Also he is blind to the obvious. His failure to deal with Islamic murder is explained by him in terms that would make a child of 10 laugh uncontrollably. Of course Christians kill each other as well as not Christians. The expression of Islamic murder is not intended to cover violence committed by Muslims whatever the circumstances. It refers… Read more »
e-2016
Guest

Palika, you outdid yourself. Good job.
There is little to add to Palika’s post.
I wish the Balogh blog could adopt similar ideas.
Every intellectual must make a huge effort to liberate the ordinary Hungarian from its apathy.

Istvan
Guest
I think Francis is Pope because he attempted to address the crisis of the Church in Latin America, a crisis that has led to a massive expansion of evangelical churches in Latin America. Why even the theologically absurd Latter Day Saints (Mormans) have expanded their as they have in Europe while they are declining in the USA where they are an institution. One of the meetings amongst the Cardinals just prior to the conclave was on the rise of evangelicalism at the expense of the Catholic Church. While Eva believes Catholism is a conservative fortress in Hungary and Poland, because in part I suspect due to the inherited nature of the faith. I believe fear of the Church’s moral decay will drive more and more families out into other faiths or secular social support networks. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has asked for detailed information on the full extent of child abuse worldwide by priests, monks and nuns. It has also asked how the Vatican prevents abusers from contacting additional children and how the Vatican ensures that known crimes against children are reported to the police. In Poland in 2013 a succession of child sex… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“moral disintigration…”

Sadly, this is a reality round the world–how else to explain Putin, Erdogan, Orban, and now Trump popping up near and far. No doubt,
some moral doubts have crept into the Church as well but overall,
the Church is a great, if not the greatest, of institutions in the history of the world. It’s ludicrous to dismiss it.

ambator
Member

A small correction as to the jurisdiction of bishop Gyula Marfi, who is the bishop of Veszprém and not only the most conservative but the stupidest of all the bishops, although there is a quite healthy competition amongst them. Márfi a few years ago complained in a written statement that there is too much liberty and liberalism.
On the other hand the actual bishop of Vác, Miklós Beer, is a quite sober reasonable man, emanating empathy and good intentions.

Member

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Observer
Guest

Religion here, denominations there , it’s all a matter of people, both leaders and followers. Given the less than laudable Hungarian national psyche, the church/es wouldn’t be different within their frames. The main denominations exhibit similar corruption, collusion with the powers that be, lack of compassion, etc as the population at large. The Organ regime is the turbo charger of these detestable characteristics.

Observer
Guest
Marfi is really an odious reactionary of the looney fringe. He drew attention with his response of February 27th , 2012 to a letter by David Baer, a philosophy professor of the Texas Lutheran University, criticizing the then new „church law” regulating the denomintaions in Hungary. Marfi sternly lectures the opponent not in matters of faith and ethics, but in economics, historical political developments and in day to day politics – a large part of his letter is a defense of Orban personally, mentioning him by name nine times, and demonizing his critics and the European leadership, for good measure. The looney bishop thinks that the Europe of Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi and Jean Monnet has died with them, has long seized to exist. Here’s a sample of his feverish drivel: “Today’s Europe is divided not just along economic interests, but it’s also ideologically divided. There’s still a hiding Christian Europe, but there is a lot louder Europe that possesses a great part of the power and the media, a sharply anti-Christian, ultra-liberal Europe. – In today’s Europe … on the surface there is a layer that denies Jesus Christ and the God of the Ten Commandments.… Read more »
PALIKA
Guest

I have been following but with ever increasing reluctance the exchanges about whether OV is a gipsy and what are the gipsy character traits. The exchanges are as purile as they are offensive. It disappoints me that Eva allows these exchanges without sanction. I have in the past been subjected to racist abuse to which I objected. I raise this again. No exchanges can be taken seriously if they are allowed to descend into the gutter. Those who debate this on this blog have clearly taken leave of their senses. The idea that OV is such as he is is because he is a gipsy does not stand up to even a moment’s scrutiny. How many of the members of the Hungarian Government and Civil Service etc are gipsies? If none or very few why do they share the qualities you all loudly condemn in OV as those of a Gipsy.
Eva please try to exert some authority.

webber
Guest

I agree the comments have been offensive.
I disagree about “exerting authority.” I think just pointing out the racism, and shaming the commenter is sufficient. That has been done. That some still don’t get it is just a signal of their racism.
In the American tradition, let the comments stand as a memorial to the commenters’ nastiness. Freedom of speech trumps all in the US. We call a racist a racist, to his face, every time he says something racist, and leave it at that.

Observer
Guest

Palika

If you have followed, e.g. my recent exchange with Webber on genetic/ethnicity factors, you could have put forward some arguments supporting your criticism.

The nature or nurture debate has seen some turns and you may argue where the balance is, but you can’t deny the nature factor; now that would be a “leave of your senses”.
Note that ethnicity is not only genes, but it forms an environment and its culture, e.g. think being born in a Jewish family in pre WWII Spain, or a black family in the US.
In the case of gypsies, their looks, way of life and behavior are pretty similar all across Europe from Holland in Russia and from in Sweden to Italy. In these disconnected communities, all under pressure by the dominant local cultures for centuries, the only common factor is genes.

Pls get real or educate yourselves on the issue. PC won’t do here, show me the evidence.. May start with a small, but instructive book “A szabadakarat illuziója” by Zsolt Boldogköi.

Observer
Guest

Palika
Re. the members of the Hungarian Government and Civil Service sharing the qualities …
This is a completely different issue. Of course there is no ethnicity factor there, it’s the (political) system.
We don’t so much care about the small details of the character of a PM in a democracy, where the institutions function and provide good governance.

In dictatorships the top down influence is overwhelming, the dictator’s personality becomes a reference point and even minute details may determine political direction and action, e.g. Stalin liked to work late at night, so the ministries switched accordingly, Stalin disliked Jews and on those comrades as soon as he could. Closer to home – the soccer fixation of OV becomes a national policy, his childhood longing for the choo choo train resulted in its elevation to a “national priority project”. Think how many analyses have been made of Hitler’s childhood to explain later actions, because this is how the system works.

webber
Guest

Observer, just following your logic:
Every democratically-elected Hungarian government has been corrupt. Hungarians elect these governments, so they must like them. Hungarians are arrested for theft, for scams, and for trafficking women all over Europe (just look online – and if you look for pictures you’ll find that many of the faces you’ll see are white Hungarians, not Gypsies).
Therefore, Hungarians are genetically corrupt gangsters – subhumans even.

That’s your logic – not mine. You can keep it. It’s disgusting.

But it fits your “facts.”

webber
Guest

I forgot to add that Hungarians are much more inclined to be racist than other Europeans. Statistics prove this.
So, according to you Observer, we should be able to say that Hungarians are racist, corrupt, scum, and call any racist, corrupt, scum “a Hungarian.”

Observer
Guest

Webber
Yes This is what statistics are for, in your example we can say that Hunrarians are more prone to crime, to racism, to whatever we are studying, compared to ….
Scum, bastards, etc are not terms used in this area.

PALIKA
Guest

Observer.

We are chasing hares. Why do we care why the Orban regime is not acceptable? By that I mean why=what is the reason they behave in the way they do? Genetics? Upbringing? It does not matter.
The attempt to conduct an enquiry into the archetypical characteristics of Gypsies, Jews,Chinese etc is to find material however Ill disguised that fits and apparently justifies the prejudice built up about the racial groups in question.

“Gypsies are inherently dishonest and greedy”. OV is a gypsy so he is also both. Or worse still: “OV is dishonest and greedy and he is a gypsy”. Therefore gypsies are dishonest and greedy. That is how one collects ammunition to justify hating the Gypsies in this case but also any racial or ethnic group.

I am afraid we have already spent to much time on this silly topic.

Observer
Guest

I’m trying to respond to reasonable Qs.

The question here is not “why the Orban regime is not acceptable”, but rather why someone behaves as he does, more importantly how is he going to behave/act in the future. Know your enemies, a several thousand years old Q.

Yes, assumptions are made on the basis of statistical profile/stereotype: e.g. after the London bus bombings the police superintendent answered criticism of bias by something like “Whom do you expect us to search, little old ladies?”, in WWII the US gov interned all American citizens of Japanese descent, pharmacy break in is most likely committed by drug addicts, etc. As I mentioned – this is basics.

Yes, such statistics can be used as ammunition for hate (gypsy crime), praise (no. of Nobel laureates) or whatever.

On cognition and thinking: Blink by M.Gladwell, Thinking fast and slow by D. Kahneman.

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