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A respected Hungarian historian has found evidence that during the Communist dictatorship five Catholic bishops and archbishops worked for the secret service. The Church wants no investigation of this. [1] The collapse of Communism offered the Vatican the prospect of replacing its secret cooperation and wary agreements with Communist governments by formal concordats. 

In May 1989, Hungary began taking down its barbed wire fence along the Austrian border – the first tear in the Iron Curtain. The Vatican moved fast and the next spring, even before the first free elections in March 1990, it signed the first concordat with the new Republic of Hungary. There are three Hungarian concordats, one of them amended with the Vatican and one with the Vatican-controlled Order of Malta.

♦  Concordat establishing diplomatic relations and stating that issues related to the Church are to be settled by the Canon (Church) Law and the new Hungarian law on religious freedom (9 February 1990)

♦  Concordat establishing a military chaplaincy (10 January 1994)

♦  Concordat on finances (20 June 1997), Amendment (21 October 2013)

However, concordats are not the only way of increasing Vatican influence over civil society. the governing party, Fidesz, which defines itself as “Christian, right-wing, and nationalist” holds a two-thirds majority in parliament since 2010. Under its rule one expert claims that “Hungary is no longer a Western-style democracy”. [2] Another is “alarmed” by the new constitution which could be used to keep the present ruling party in power, despite almost anything the electorate could do. [3] In addition to threatening democracy, many of the measures brought in by Fidesz also decrease the separation of church and state.     

— Hungary’s media law, introduced in 2011, has led to mass layoffs of independent journalists and has subjected the rest to political control. [4]

— The “Easter Constitution” passed on Easter Monday 2011, enshrines key Catholic doctrines. It states that “The life of a fetus will be protected from conception,” which is expected to outlaw abortion. It also defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and shields this from challenge by excluding sexual orientation from the protected grounds of discrimination. [5] It was brought in while Hungary held the rotating European Union presidency and so escaped EU censure. With this Hungary joined the Dominican Republic in possessing a Constitution designed to enforce Catholic doctrines on all its citizens. [6] Later that year this was backed up by domestic legislation that was rushed through parliament. [7]

— However, Hungarian officials made it clear that they do not believe that they are yet able to enforce the new provisions through legislation prohibiting abortion. Therefore, hard on the heels of the new constitution has come an advertising campaign against abortion  [8] This was 80 percent funded by an EU grant that was not intended for that purpose. [9]

— Hungarian state schools are also increasingly coming under the influence of organised religion. From 2013 classes in religion or ethics will be mandatory in all elementary schools, with the religion classes led by outside instructors sent by the churches and taught according to instructional material chosen by them. [10] And some state schools are even being handed over to the churches because local government officials say they are unable to afford their upkeep. [11] Yet, at the same time, Hungary is sending large amounts of money to the Vatican as required by the Finance Concordat. [12]

— And, finally another of the Measures brought in by Fidesz, the restrictive registration laws for religions, was rejected by the European Court of Human Rights. In 2014 it ruled that Hungary's parliament cannot accredit religions, as that violates religious freedom. [13]   

A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch concluded that he systemic changes to Hungary’s legal framework introduced by the Fidesz government since 2010 weaken legal checks on its authority, interfere with media freedom, and undermine human rights protections. [14] Peter Hack, professor of constitutional law at the Budapest university ELTE, argued that with its current constitutional setup, Hungary would never have been admitted to the Union. “But now that it’s in, it thinks it can do what it wants.” [15]


Hungarian concordat with the Order of Malta (2010): text

A strategic picnic, as the Soviet empire was, led to this concordat with the Sovereign Order of Malta (SMOM), a religious order placed directly under the pope. It regulates the largest social service provider in Hungary, the Hungarian Malteser Charity Service. (Magyar Máltai Szeretetszolgálat or MMSZ). This agreement is one of more than 70 “treaties” with various countries which put their social services under Vatican control. 

Hungary-Vatican concordat on diplomatic relations (1990): text

With this tiny concordat, Hungary became the second Warsaw Pact country (after Poland did so on 17 July 1989) to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican. It states that Church-related issues are to be settled in accordance with both Canon (Church) Law and Hungary's new law on religious freedom. It replaces a pact with the Communist regime which is still being held secret. [1]

Hungary-Vatican concordat on finance (1997): text

This concordat was the best financial package that the Vatican could get from the Socialist government. In fact later, when Hungary ran into financial difficulties, the payments to the Vatican became a hardship. However, four years later the conservative government amended this concordat to give the Vatican an even better deal.

Failed attempt to renegotiate the finance concordat (2006)

Stonewalled by the Vatican, Hungary learned in 2006 that concordat negotiations cannot be re-opened — unless the Church thinks it can get a better deal. Otherwise it's in the Vatican's interest to simply stall until a more favourable political climate ends the opposition to it. In 2010 this is what finally happened.

Amended Hungary-Vatican financial concordat (2013): summary

After 16 years and a change of government the Vatican was able to renegotiate the Hungarian financial concordat to get even more favourable terms. Naturally, the public was unaware of what was going on.


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