Church and State in Orbán’s Hungary

Let me return briefly to Hódmezővásárhely because, since we left this Fidesz stronghold, the city has acquired a special significance. Péter Márki-Zay’s decision to stand as an independent against the Fidesz candidate for the post of mayor has had a greater impact than a local campaign in a provincial town of Hódmezővásárhely’s size would warrant.

As an offshoot of this seemingly ordinary local election, a national discourse on the role of the churches in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary has emerged. The relation between church and state has been seriously out of kilter in Hungary, an allegedly secular state, for some time. People simply needed a catalyst to begin challenging the incredible amount of taxpayer money that is being spent on churches, not just in Hungary but in the whole Carpathian Basin. And, perhaps more importantly, to ask how appropriate it is to sell the churches’ good will for hard cash. Márki-Zay’s parish priest provided this catalyst.

We knew from the beginning that Márki-Zay is a religious Catholic. Given his close association with the church, he certainly wasn’t expecting what he got from László Németh, whom he calls Father Laci. As Father László promised, on Sunday he delivered a short speech to the congregation in which he made it clear that his flock must vote for the Fidesz candidate because “not since World War II have the Hungarian churches, not just the Catholic Church, had such opportunities as they are getting now—in education, healthcare, social services, publications, and the list goes on. In Hódmezővásárhely we already have the money in our bank account; we are just starting construction of a third Catholic church in town. People knowing all this, knowing the facts, can make the right decision regarding whom they will vote for when they enter the voting booth.” Many people in the congregation were shocked and disgusted, especially because of the implication of the speech: the Orbán government had bought the Hungarian Catholic Church lock, stock, and barrel. Márki-Zay wasn’t expecting “all the hate and evil which erupted in the last ten days.” He and his friends apparently prayed at a Eucharistic Adoration last night for Father Laci, who must be having a hard time after his performance on Sunday.

György Gábor, an expert on the philosophy of religion, has a devastating opinion of Father László’s attitude toward his own religion and his church. “He put a price on the teachings of Jesus. The first person who valorized the teachings of Jesus was Judas; he asked for thirty pieces of silver for the betrayal of him.” In Hódmezővásárhely, as Father László revealed, there is a symbiosis of church and state that is the result of a dirty financial deal.

Let’s take a look at a few recent cases of large sums of money showered on the churches. Defense Minister István Simicskó and Undersecretary Miklós Soltész, who is in charge of state-church relations, just announced a two billion forint grant to two Catholic gymnasiums in District XI. This is over and above the 2.5 billion that had already been dispersed among religious organizations, mostly Catholic, in the district. They explained that giving financial assistance to churches is especially necessary now that “Christian civilization and the lives of Europeans are threatened by other civilizations.” Simicskó added, quoting Carl von Clausewitz, that without faith one cannot have a strong army. We can ponder the meaning of this strange remark.

The same Miklós Soltész proudly talked the other day about the renovation of 5,500 churches in the Carpathian Basin on Hungarian taxpayer money over the last four years. I don’t know how many of these churches are in Hungary and how many in the neighboring countries. And of course, a lot of brand new churches have been built since Fidesz won the election in 2010. Not that Hungary is in dire need of new churches. We know from statistics that the number of regular churchgoers in Hungary is very small. For instance, from the article about Father László’s speech in his church we learned that there was such interest in the event that the number of attendees was about three times normal. As one of the parishioners said, the size of the congregation could be compared only to mass on Christmas Day. So, one cannot help wondering why Hódmezővásárhely needs another Catholic church.

I assume that the situation is no different with the Protestants, yet a number of new church buildings have been erected lately with generous government assistance. The Hungarian Reformed Church is especially favored. After all, Orbán is “református” and so is Zoltán Balog, whose ministry is in charge of church affairs.

Here is one example from the many. The prime minister is apparently a member of the Svábhegyi Református Gyülekezet (Reformed Congregation of Svábhegy), which received a new building seven years ago. Svábhegy/Swabian Hill is one of swankiest parts of Buda. But the congregation had larger plans. It wanted a church center, and its most famous parishioner promised to help. He kept his word. In December the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő (Hungarian National Asset Management) purchased two lots adjacent to the church to the tune of almost 650 million forints. One was owned by the City of Budapest and the other by District XII. On the one was a workers’ hostel and on the other, two small apartment buildings. No problem. The workers were moved into another building somewhere in the city and the tenants were given new apartments elsewhere. The two lots, free of charge, will be at the disposal of the Hungarian Reformed Church for the Svábhegyi Református Központ for 50 years. I assume that the money for the construction of the center will also come from the taxpayers.

The church of the Reformed Congregation of Svábhegy

Finally, about a week ago Index reported that the government is launching a scholarship program for priests and ministers who will be serving communities in the Hungarian diaspora in the Carpathian Basin as well as in Western Europe and the Americas. Apparently there is a shortage of clerics who can serve Hungarian parishes abroad.

A member of Index’s staff questioned the constitutionality of this planned program. She quoted from the new Basic Laws’ Article VII(3), which states that “the State and religious communities shall operate separately. Religious communities shall be autonomous.” The trouble is that she overlooked Article VII(4), which reads: “The State and religious communities may cooperate to achieve community goals. At the request of the religious community, the National Assembly shall decide on such cooperation. The religious communities participating in such cooperation shall operate as established churches with regard to their participation in the fulfillment of tasks that serve to achieve community goals.” So, forget the unconstitutionality of launching a “clerical scholarship program.”

I might add that the 1989 Constitution read very differently. In it one cannot find the kind of loophole Fidesz put into its own constitution. Article 60(3) says that “The church and the State shall operate in separation in the Republic of Hungary.” No ifs, ands, or buts. Fidesz made sure that everything in the new constitution would serve its plans for reshaping Hungarian society from the ground up.

January 16, 2018
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dos929
Guest

Disgusting… and just like the feverish building of stadiums, the building of those churches will have the same results: empty seats… Whilst the hospitals are crumbling, the number of homeless are growing, minus those who freeze to death. Long live the Orban Paradise!

Observer
Guest

Let’s though keep things in prospective: for all the BS from the regime, this is not Poland, there is no clerico-fascism, just such priests.
The role and influence of both the Catholic and the Reformed churches is pretty limited, for now (the results of the massive push toward church run education are unknown yet). The churches are just another propaganda outlet for Orban, no faith here, witness the Ivànyi calvary.
My bet is: this Orban “vision” will fail too.

Observer
Guest

bimbi
There is no clerico-fascism in Hun, we have klepto-fascism.
All Orban “visions”, i.e. BS like:
“Az elrugazkodàs ève..a gyarapodàs ève..”
The opening to the East
The year of upheaval (làzadàs)
The becoming the manufacturing motor of Europe
The strong and proud country (Hun), etc
all failed miserably.

If he said that:
he’ll steal as much as no one in the last 150 years,
he’ll submit Hun to the Russians again,
his regime will push down Hun to the bottom of Europe,
and will bring back the dictatorship,

than we could say his visions were realized.

Spelled it out clear enough now?

bimbi
Guest

@Observer 3:05 a.m.

“…this Orbán “vision” will fail too”.

What on earth is that supposed to mean? “Fail”, how fail? All Orbán wants is the voters out in April making the choice for Jesus. What are we supposed to stick around and hope for “in the sweet by and by”?

Hungary isn’t Poland and it isn’t Azerbaijan either – but so what? We have enough home-produced excrement to go around thanks.

bimbi
Guest

No surprise that Orbán is buying votes now that the election is three months away. No surprise either that the money to do so is stolen, yes Viktor, stolen, from Hungarian taxpayers. Like the ol’ Whore of Babylon, the Church is happy to bend over and get the treatment from Orbán and of course, like “Father” Laci says, the votes will be delivered. Quid pro Quo.

No surprise that Orbán is doing this but the eagerness of the Church to rush after the Great God Money is plenty sickening:- Hungarian society corrupted from top to bottom but over the millennia the Cat’lic Church has never been shy about robbing the poor to enrich itself.

(The new Reformed Congregation of Svábhegy looks like a subtle blend of a Turkish bath and a crematorium. Was VO the architect by any chance?)

Ferenc
Guest

OT – other V4 news
Babis government resigned in Czech, it lost the necessary confidence vote in parliament, mainly because of ongoing fraud scandal attached to Babis (Czech 2nd wealthiest person).
Last Thursday leaked an OLAF report, some media published the full contents.
Curious that all this happened in the middle of the presidential elections (round 1 last Sunday, decisive 2nd round coming Sunday).
News: https://euobserver.com/political/140528 and https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/world/europe/czech-andrej-babis.html
OLAF report: https://domaci.ihned.cz/c1-66014350-zverejnujeme-kompletni-zneni-zaverecne-zpravy-olaf-o-vysetrovani-dotace-na-farmu-capi-hnizdo (in czech) with summary (in english) at https://zahranicni.ihned.cz/c1-66015840-summary-olaf-investigation-and-the-czech-prime-minister-andrej-babis

Guest

Nottoo much OT.
Looking for “Svábhegy” (I am a Schwabe …) i found this book on WW2 and the fight for Budapest:
https://books.google.hu/books?id=ujCOVwBhGuIC&pg=PA54&lpg=PA54&dq=sv%C3%A1bhegy+budapest&source=bl&ots=WmX1H54f6R&sig=HR3TITbpmPyO1_iZXy-LMkJSrpQ&hl=de&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi_963E6N7YAhVE46QKHU7jAJM4MhDoAQhVMAY#v=onepage&q=sv%C3%A1bhegy%20budapest&f=false

On page 49 you’ll find activities described in Budapest around Xmas 1944 – like the Arrow Cross collecting Jewish children to gun them down – they were only saved by the advancing Russian troops …
Now that’s something for our Christian Melanie to consider and for everybody who is proud of being a “Christian Hungarian”!
When I read stuff like this I understand petofi …

Andrew Endrey
Guest

You might be interested in Ebba Segerberg’s English translation of Ingrid Carlberg’s Swedish-language book, “Raoul Wallenberg”, which was published in 2015 (Carlberg’s original in 2011). Apart from the odd typo and howler, such as “hoards” for “hordes”, in the Maclehose edition at least, it’s a balanced, informative account, notwithstanding the distressing content. Well worth a read.

bimbi
Guest

@wolfi7777, 5:55 a.m.

“Battle for Budapest” by Krisztián Ungváry is an excellent, well-researched book on the terrible late 1944/early 1945 period in Budapest and the surrounding area and includes extensive reporting on the breakout and of Arrow Cross murder gangs going about their hideous business. One gets the impression that Ungváry is “telling it like it was” and he covers all sides. Today, of course, we have statues glorifying the “Statesman” Horthy but very, very little commemorating the many victims of the Arrow Cross – the “Shoes” represents the sole and deeply moving exception. Get the book, read and remember it. You will be richly informed.

Arisztid
Guest

Jews were safer under Horthy than they were in all of the surrounding countries where full blown fascism came sooner idiot. The German Nazi’s and the fascist Arrow Cross were responsible for rounding up over 400,000 Jews, not Horthy. BTW Ungvary Krisztian is a left-wing Hungary hating prick.

Marty
Guest

Pls. stop trolling.

You trolling only reveals that you are actually anxious about Orban’s losing and ending up like Ceausescu. Why?

Because you yourself know no so unconsciously that the lies you’ve been telling yourself are just that: lies.

Wake up buddy, the smart ones always know which ass to lick and maybe it’s time to look for another one.

Arisztid
Guest

Awww, look at the angry impotent little liberal who can’t accept the fact that the majority of voters prefer Fidesz. Too bad for you. You aren’t even Hungarian, so don’t worry about it.

Guest

That’s another stupid lie – less than 45% of the votes went to Fidesz and its appendix, forgot the name.
Why do you idiots always produce this nonsense?

Gretchen
Guest

Ungváry’s book makes an excellent guidebook for a contemporary visit to Budapest. Chilling. The other book is “The Boy Soldier”, the account of a 14yo’s joining of a brigade in Budapest during that war. In war, as in other evils (slavery) the effects last way longer than the peace treaty. And the events need to be digested with great understanding.

Gretchen
Guest

“Boy Soldier: the rise and fall of the Vannay battalion”, by Galantay Ervin Y., published by Militaria. Not sure of it’s availability.

Guest

Bimbi, I’ve been reading it on google books this afternoon, very interesting – but it’s so depressing sometimes, horrible to be reminded of all that went wrong and was done wrong!

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Wolfi and Petofi,
The war ended 70 (seventy) years ago. Fancy creating another one? I know . . . I know, you’d just love to see some fireworks . . . admit the obvious.😜😋😜

Melanie Zuben
Guest

My reactive comment above was a reply to “Petofi”. His vindictive comment about the Hungarian people is no longer here. Interesting.

Guest

War on religious grounds maybe? Is this your new favourite topic, latefor?
It used to be dingalings – maybe you should return to that …
Just as long as you stay off religion and god and …

Jean P
Guest

Nobody is looking forward to seeing the fireworks that will come and remove Orban from power.

Istvan
Guest

It is correct that there is a shortage of Hungarian speaking priests here in the USA, my Parish has a had a part time Polish priest who has limited Hungarian fluency. But there are big problems with foreign born priests in the USA and its cultural. The biggest problem relates to counseling families faced with the numerous problems relating to transition to the USA from places like Poland, Hungary, Central America, or Mexico. In particular these families are often faced with adolescent rebellion against traditional family structures that seem contextually alien in the USA. Overall the Evangelicals are significantly more supportive in terms of youth ministry than are Catholics for these youth going through this experience. Many Catholic families where English is the second language have moved to evangelical churches for that reason and it is particularly pronounced among Hispanic immigrants.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘It is correct that there is a shortage of Hungarian speaking priests here in the USA, my Parish has a had a part time Polish priest who has limited Hungarian fluency’

Right on. I can recall when my mother passed on we could not get a Magyar priest to preside over her funeral. It was a stunning revelation to show how time moved on in the Magyar community where I was raised. And eventually the parish itself closed. A victim of time and great change in immigrant communities all over the States. Others come and others pass away.

Istvan
Guest

For those who can read Hungarian I would recommend reading this article https://mno.hu/belfold/meregdraga-nyari-elittabor-a-kormanytagok-gyerekeinek-2440800 . It is directly related to Eva’s theme in her essay. It is about what is called the Vörösberény project in Balatonalmádi. It’s a summer camp program for boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 16 that will be supported by the Ministry of the Interior located in a former monastery.

In a hard to believe description of the summer program I read : “It is a program point for young men to marry Roman centurias and martial arts competitions, and girls play folk dance rings, so-called cheerleaders, and imitate sculptures to dress up ancient robe.” (My struggling translation.) I have seen curiously themes summer camp programs in my time, but this one appears to ascend to New and strange heights.

Observer
Guest

OMG! The regime is getting unhinged.

“It is a program point that young men will march like Roman centuria and will take part in martial arts competitions, and girls will perform ring folk dances, and the so called leánykarikázó (?), and imitating sculptures will get acquainted to ancient robes”.

The main points however are :
– The barefaced intention to distinct the new “elit” of Orbanistan – invited children of gov. politicians, ministers, mayors, etc. in a project practically run by the Interior ministry.
– The omnipresent servility and corruption – where many rules are being broken to please the power and the direct costs to the tax payer are over a billion already, more with the support to be “offered” by local parishes.
– The incredibly kitschy programs, as most of Kerény’s ideas are (e.g. the Basic Law commemorative editions/tables).

Guest

This is just another step in Hungary’s march back to the class society of the 19th Century – so well represented by Horthy too.
It’s funny in a way but really sad to see Hungarians 50 or soon 100 years behind civilised and developed European countries.

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Interesting film: Trump – My President?
President Trump’s first three months, as seen through the daily life of five citizens who voted for him: a Yemeni father, a Christian fundamentalist, a social worker, a retiree, and a sheriff from Arizona, near the Mexican border.
Till Feb.15 free to watch at https://www.arte.tv/en/videos/073052-000-A/trump-my-president/

Istvan
Guest
I am obviously not an African American, but the first part of the video where the African American from Oakland indicates that the election of Trump is good for black people in the USA was deeply disturbing. His argument is that the more blatant racism of Trump will cause African Americans not to run and hide from racism, but rather to confront it. The white supremacists in America who overwhelmingly voted for Trump relish a race war, its an adherent part of their ideology. It can be found in the novel titled The Turner Diaries that is very popular amongst white supremacists (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turner_Diaries for a summary). The Turner Diaries is probably the most widely read book among far-right extremists here in the USA; many have cited it as the inspiration behind their terrorist organizing and activity. I think the African American from Oakland is totally crazy in the sense the biggest losers in any race war will be black people and the fascists are dreaming of the complete break down in urban centers in order to effectively exterminate as many black people as possible. I could not watch any more of the video the start of it was too… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

Istvan, I understand your upset, but later on it’s about other Trump supporters, so just skip through the film (but be warned at the end ‘your crazy guy’ will return shortly, like all).
I think it gives a fair view of certain sections of US society.

Marty
Guest

OT:

It’s quite interesting how Orban is ratcheting up the anti-Soros hysteria.

The answer is: “smartly” with smart legal rules.

But hey, Hungary is still free says Freedom House so everything is legal, nobody can complain.

First, Orban will tax foreign donations to the tune of 25% (and will spend it on football or will steal it for himself, we suppose). Will they keep donating?

Various NGO will have to supply “data” on their activities “supporting illegal migration”.

Even Hungarian citizens (provided they have a foreign citizenship too, ie such as Soros) can be prevented from entering Hungary proper and can be restricted into a 8km zone from the border crossing. They will be arrested (but it will be called something else, border security detainment or whatever).

I wonder why can’t Orban just compel employees working at NGOs receiving money from abroad some kind of a yellow band? Just so we know who is reliable and loyal to the nation and who isn’t?

https://444.hu/2018/01/17/a-kormany-bejelentette-a-stop-soros-torvenycsomagot

Member

““smartly” with smart legal rules”

“Smartly”? “Smart legal rules”?
Nonsense. Not even remotely the case.

A bunch of paraszt thugs in charge of a largely apathetic and even cowardly electorate use a partucularly clumsy tool to attempt to eliminate an imaginary enemy that nobody not even the EU seemingly cares about.

Pointless posturing that may appeal to their small band of scum pals in the pro-regime, neo-nazi media but won’t put anyone (much less the small band of brave NGO-ists) out of business.
Won’t win the fascists one vote.

Marty
Guest
I put smartly in quotation marks – smartly means the rules are thought out to hurt but be “legal”. May a state tax foreign donations? It may (though it probably cannot discriminate between domestic and EU-originating donations in my view). Is 25% so high as to be punitive having chilling effect? It’s very high but is it really punitive? We know it is, but will some Strasbourg court surely establish that or can we have an honest debate about that? Does the state have sovereign right with respect to border defense so as to restrict even its own citizens? In the US even the Bill of Rights is suspended at the border/the border zones so that now the US government has a right to do search, confiscate computers etc. even 50 miles from the border (which includes all East and West coast citizens). And so on. These rules were thought out by educated and experienced lawyers so as to pass constitutional and internal law muster. Even FH experts will concede that the US or the UK or whichever democracy has similar rules. Unfortunately. Of course I could get around these laws rather easily and enforcement is another question – but… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Decades ago when Wojtyla as Pope came and presented himself to the throngs waiting for him in Poland the chant emanating from them was ‘We want God!’ But today in other parts of Christian Europe the chant has morphed to ‘We want gelt!’. We can say with no compunction that the Church with its ‘state handshaker’ clerics has lost its way with its flock. They have been utterly co-opted to serve the state.

An keen observer on the religious life of Christian Europe if walking through the halls of the Vatican, praying by the altar in Mattias, admiring the stained glass of Notre Dame or looking up at the vaults of Chartres if listening carefully could hear the echo of a continuing refrain within the great ancient stones over and over , ‘Father forgive them’. And the kicker is they of the sanctimonius mind absolutely do know what they do.

Marty
Guest
wrfree
Guest
I concur with the Minister on the impetus towards generating better and more positive relations with the United States. Further it is evident that the Minister’s comments on how his avowed and apparently well executed ‘model’ is going has to be based on his and others’ judgment of what are the most important and salient aspects within the Magyar political and economic climate. Some areas receive focus and sharp attention while others do not. It is a matter of choice in decision making. And in some respects the US has seen some strange and grave choices made. It will be interesting to see how far the US and the current Magyar administration can come together as democratic partners. For future negotiation it may be helpful to be aware of the Mark Twain thought that , ‘Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits’ (Pudd’nhead Wilson). We should hope then the august Minister will not try to put the US in a position akin to where it is expected its ‘Declaration of Independence’ should be dumped into a shredder. 😎 Expectations could be high in the diplomatic exchanges. And where a smile can mean go to hell for ‘interfering’. Hopefully the… Read more »
Farkas
Guest

Nothing could illustrate more meaningfully the difference between Hungary (and Eastern Europe in general) and Western/Northern Europe than the stark differences between church-state relations in the two halves of the continent.

There is at least a century of difference between the respective mentalities and ways in the progressive and retarded parts of Europe, and it is literally a miracle that both can still find a place within the cooperative framework of the EU. That however may not last for much longer, because sooner or later the (ultimately) religion-, identity- and culture-based centrifugal forces driving the East away from a West-dominated EU are bound to blow apart this miraculous arrangement.

And of course the traditional religiosity of East European peasant societies – as reflected in Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, etc, by (among others) the tightly intertwined nature of national churches and national states in the region – plays a most significant part in the centrifugal forces pushing East and West apart, principally by fostering traditional religion-driven inward looking prejudices, which continue to robustly persist in the East regardless of actual church attendances.

Farkas
Guest

In the West, religion (or no religion) is the private business of each individual, strictly at arms length from any possible entanglements with any part of the apparatus of state.

In the East, institutional religion is essentially a political control device employed by ruling nationalist regimes to control politically retarded populations that are at least a century behind West/North Europeans in their mentality and ways.

Farkas
Guest

“In the West, religion (or no religion) is the private business of each individual, strictly at arms length from any possible entanglements with any part of the apparatus of state.”

Paradoxically, that is very much so even in countries like the UK or some of the Scandinavian countries, where the titular/nominal head of the government is formally also the titular/nominal head of a historically evolved national religion.

In these countries, the reality of modernity has of course overtaken such historically evolved formalities a long, long time ago.

Arisztid
Guest

Orban is doing a great job. These feverish anti-Hungarian and anti-Christan articles by this old, naive commie sympathizing women are disgusting. She doesn’t even live in Hungary. Hungary is doing better now than it has been for decades, if not ever. The average person is living better, despite the usual chronic complaining. Here’s a toast to another 4 years of 2/3 Fidesz-KDNP!!!

Observer
Guest

Guys,
Don’t feed the troll, particularly such a cretinous one.

Farkas
Guest

Observer, I couldn’t resist. What an a**hole!

:-))

Farkas
Guest

@Arisztid
January 18, 2018 4:31 am

Szia Tasziló! Hogy ityeg a fityeg? De figyelj ide, fiam. Te csak ne foglalkozzál olyan dolgokkal, amikhez nem értesz. Jobb neked, ha mész a kaszinóba sörözni a fiúkkal, és slussz passz. A többit pedig hagyd rá másokra, akik némileg konyítanak ezekhez a dolgokhoz.

Bwahahahaha :-)))))

Marty
Guest

Arisztid, you are deranged troll who has no idea about what’s happening in Hungary.

The funny thing is that not even die-hard fidesz voters would say what you’re saying. They too are to critical and unhappy – only for whatever reasons they hate or fear the “communiste” more.

But to say that Hungary is “doing better now than ever” is only true for the so-called NER-knights (ie. the youngish oligarchs maintaining Orban’s System of National Cooperation).

I just hope you soon experience a stay in some Hungarian hospital. That’d be fun I can assure you.

Guest

Yes, don’t forget to bring toilet paper and towels, soap of course – and right now we saw a list from a friend where it said that glasses, a spoon, knife and fork are also to be brought …
And a similar list exists in the kindergarten of our young ones – life is great in Hungary!