Tomorrow I travel to be with her and her family on this wonderful occasion!
UP FROM THE ASHES
A Faith Enshrined, A Nation Renewed
March 2013By Christopher Gawley
Christopher Gawley is an attorney in the New York City area. His academic articles have been published in The South Dakota Law Review, The Capitol University Law Review, and The George Washington Law Review. He regularly writes book reviews and other articles for The Remnant.
“I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything…you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak. Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next…. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death. All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown, and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly kingdom.” — St. Stephen of Hungary’s admonitions to his son Imre
It has been a cataclysmic century for the central European country of Hungary. Orbiting between the powers in Vienna, Berlin, and Moscow, it endured national dismemberment by Western powers following World War I, Nazi seizure and control during World War II, and Soviet domination for forty years after that. The resultant scars have left it markedly diminished in size and natural resources and bereft of a significant proportion of its native population. To be sure, the twentieth century was unkind to Hungary.
The Hungarians, however, are a formidable people. Their historic resolve captured the world’s imagination during their heroic 1956 uprising against their communist masters that culminated in brutal repression by Moscow and the Red Army. But long before that, the Hungarian nation was known for its wide-ranging contributions to human civilization. Hungary has been, for the preponderance of its national existence, a predominantly Catholic nation. Its founder and king, St. Stephen (d. 1038), remains one of those rare monarchs of history who combined energy, vitality, sanctity, and practicality in forming the Hungarian nation after converting the fierce and marauding Magyar tribes to Catholicism a thousand years ago. His life and legacy are virtually synonymous with Hungary itself. Few Catholic king-saints can rival him when his achievements are taken in totality: Imagine Charlemagne’s administrative brilliance combined with St. Louis IX’s sanctity. Stephen was, like any great Catholic saint ought to be, especially devoted to the Virgin Mary. He built a stately church at Stuhlweissenburg in honor of the Mother of God, in which the kings of Hungary were afterwards crowned and buried.
Since its freedom from the yoke of communism following the fall of the Soviet Union, Hungary, like most former Soviet satellites, has moved in a Western direction, politically and economically. It joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. And, like most of Europe, Hungary faces significant challenges. It still bears the scars of four decades of communist misrule combined with three generations of atheistic indoctrination. Like most former Soviet satellites, it has an abysmal fertility rate of 1.25, and as of 2010 its population was still in decline. Its economy faces the prospect of stagnant growth and deteriorating market conditions.
One might think that this small country — diminished and shrinking, its national glory evidently confined to the rearview mirror — has little left to offer the world. As it turns out, little Hungary has a part to play — perhaps a great one — in the Christian revitalization of the world. It’s most recent contribution is a remarkable new Constitution that may very well prove to be a model for Christian countries everywhere.
The Hungarian Constitution went into effect on January 1, 2012. It begins appropriately and auspiciously: “God bless the Hungarians.” That is followed by the “National Avowal,” a stunning preamble of purpose and direction that is so anachronistic in the twenty-first century that one can only conclude that it was constructed and adopted under holy inspiration. That it came forth from a country only twenty-five years removed from communist oppression is all the more remarkable. It deserves to be cited at length:
WE, THE MEMBERS OF THE HUNGARIAN NATION, at the beginning of the new millennium, with a sense of responsibility for every Hungarian, hereby proclaim the following:
We are proud that our king Saint Stephen built the Hungarian State on solid ground and made our country a part of Christian Europe one thousand years ago.
We are proud of our forebears who fought for the survival, freedom and independence of our country.
We are proud of the outstanding intellectual achievements of the Hungarian people.
We are proud that our people has over the centuries defended Europe in a series of struggles and enriched Europe’s common values with its talent and diligence.
We recognize the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. We value the various religious traditions of our country.
We promise to preserve the intellectual and spiritual unity of our nation torn apart in the storms of the last century. The nationalities living with us form part of the Hungarian political community and are constituent parts of the State.
We hold that human existence is based on human dignity.
We hold that individual freedom can only be complete in cooperation with others.
We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence, and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith and love.
We hold that the strength of community and the honor of each person are based on labor, an achievement of the human mind.
We hold that we have a general duty to help the vulnerable and the poor.
We do not recognize the suspension of our historical constitution due to foreign occupations. We deny any statute of limitations for the inhuman crimes committed against the Hungarian nation and its citizens under the national socialist and communist dictatorships.
We do not recognize the communist constitution of 1949, since it was the basis for tyrannical rule; therefore we proclaim it to be invalid.
We hold that after the decades of the twentieth century which led to a state of moral decay, we have an abiding need for spiritual and intellectual renewal.
We trust in a jointly shaped future and the commitment of younger generations. We believe that our children and grandchildren will make Hungary great again with their talent, persistence and moral strength.
Our Fundamental Law shall be the basis of our legal order: it shall be a covenant among Hungarians past, present and future; a living framework which expresses the nation’s will and the form in which we want to live.
We, the citizens of Hungary, are ready to found the order of our country upon the common endeavors of the nation.
The National Avowal is astounding for a host of reasons: First, it lays honor and pride of place on Hungary’s Christian roots — specifically naming faith and fidelity as core national values; second, it is suffused with a manly and ordered national pride; third, it centers that national patriotism in the heart of the European experience. These tenets push against the monolithic ideology of multiculturalism wherein expressions of national and cultural pride by non-Westerners are considered healthy, but similar expressions by Europeans are seen as dangerous xenophobia and right-wing bigotry. Moreover, expressions of Christianity as a source of national pride are strictly verboten. In contrast, the righteous stakes in the ground that Hungary’s Constitution plants — stakes that modern liberals detest — are a foundation for all Christian countries to emulate.
But the Constitution of Hungary contains more than its remarkable National Avowal: It protects traditional marriage and the rights of parents, the unborn, and children in ways that typical Western constitutions, such as our own, have progressively been interpreted to void. These include:
· Foundation, Article L: “(1) Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the nation’s survival. (2) Hungary shall encourage the commitment to have children. (3) The protection of families shall be regulated by a cardinal Act.”
· Freedom and Responsibility, Article II: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; embryonic and fetal life shall be subject to protection from the moment of conception.”
· Freedom and Responsibility, Article XVI: “(1) Every child shall have the right to the protection and care required for his or her proper physical, mental and moral development. (2) Parents shall have the right to choose the type of upbringing they deem fit for their children. (3) Parents shall be obliged to look after their children. This obligation shall include the provision of schooling for their children. (4) Adult children shall be obliged to look after their parents if they are in need.”
The Hungarian Constitution is a testament to the resilience of Viktor Orban, the country’s prime minister. His governing coalition has a positive post-socialist vision for Hungary that recognizes in its past history — and that of Christian Europe at large — a path forward from the godless reign of materialism. Orban, a Protestant, has a better understanding of the regenerative power of a muscular faith in the public square than almost any other world leader today. Moreover, he correctly places the blame for the current European economic crisis squarely in the context of the Continent’s current spiritual amnesia. Orban opined last November that “a Europe governed according to Christian values would regenerate. The European crisis has not come by chance but by the carelessness and neglect of their responsibilities by leaders who have questioned precisely those Christian roots.”
The National Avowal and constitutional protections for marriage, family, and children are positively embarrassing for “enlightened” Europeans and Americans. Consider the concern expressed by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper:
Opening with “God bless the Hungarians,” a perhaps incongruous phrase in 21st-century Europe, the fundamental law abolishes the republican form of Hungary, creating a political regime of uncertain nature. Its preamble (the national avowal) is heavily influenced by the Christian faith and commits Hungary to a whole new set of values, such as family, nation, fidelity, faith, love and labour. Although the law contains the standard ingredients of a liberal constitution in that it defines and separates three branches of power and enshrines human rights, questions arise about its substance and spirit. (March 13, 2012)
More alarmist, the ever-hyperbolic Paul Krugman of The New York Times breathlessly lamented the adoption of Hungary’s Constitution: “Taken together, all this amounts to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule, under a paper-thin veneer of democracy, in the heart of Europe. And it’s a sample of what may happen much more widely if this depression continues. It’s not clear what can be done about Hungary’s authoritarian slide…. Yet Europe’s leaders had better try, or risk losing everything they stand for” (Dec. 11, 2011).
This sampling of liberal hysteria is instructive: It tells us that Hungary has done something very good for human civilization — and something very dangerous to the prevailing ideology that hates Christianity and hates European Christian civilization even more. Hungary has punctured the myth of the inevitability of the Hegelian dialectic of thesis and antithesis. Perhaps our history will not end in one giant, godless, technocratic world, as the reigning intelligentsia has dogmatically proclaimed. No, perhaps there is nothing predestined about it at all. Perhaps we can actually have modern societies that respect and — dare we say — encourage faith, patriotism, family, children, beauty, culture, and work, and actually pay homage to God publicly and nationally. Perhaps we can have societies that acknowledge the very idea of national virtue and moral regeneration. Maybe this is why liberal intellectuals are so apoplectic over Hungary’s Constitution. They are aware of the possibility that its influence might reverberate beyond Hungary’s borders.
Admittedly, with its new Constitution, Hungary has not been transformed into a Catholic confessional state. But the gulf between that idea and what has been obtained in Hungary in the here and now is something we should consider. While the Constitution could yet be improved, the fact that something so out of place in this modern malaise could be adopted in a European country should be a wake-up call to men of all political and religious persuasions. If Hungary can do it, maybe others can too — maybe Poland, maybe Russia, maybe France. Maybe even the U.S. These countries share with Hungary a similar Christian and European patrimony. So why not?
Maybe we have something to fight for after all.
St. Stephen of Hungary, pray for us!