Experts have denounced the cover the Polish and Hungarian Catholic Churches are giving increasingly totalitarian regimes in their respective countries.

Driving the news

The Reporting Democracy project of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network uncovered Monday ultraconservative Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s plot “to craft a new national narrative — a founding story, of sorts, to inform national identity”.

It also exposed Polish ruling party PiS’ attempt to push a “‘politics of memory’… marinated in stories highlighting Polish heroism and sacrifice”.

The intrigue

“Orban practically announced that the task of the new parliamentary session was to take over the national narrative, to change the cultural course and the political history that produces it in a way beneficial for his government,” director of Budapest think tank Political Capital Peter Kretko told Reporting Democracy.

“This means putting the institutions that manufacture this knowledge under control”, Kretko explained.

In the last few weeks, Orban passed a bill giving control of the 15 research institutes that make up the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) to the government-backed Eotvos Lorand Research Network.

The Hungarian State Opera is also firmly behind the PM’s Christian-nationalist agenda.

The body announced its 2019/20 season will feature only productions “inspired by biblical stories, or those that convey Christian ideas and values”.

Hungary’s Catholic Church is supporting Orban with invasive church rebuilds in ‘Hungarian’ regions in Romania and with theological cover for the Prime Minister’s anti-migrant and anti-homeless policies.

Context on Novena:

Hungarian Church sells out to extreme-right anti-Pope PM Viktor Orbán

Go deeper

“Although it has its own distinct national subplots, the script promoted by Poland’s PiS is largely the same”, warned Reporting Democracy.

“PiS is very keen to promote a sense of constant threat,” professor in Warsaw Ben Stanley told the publication.

“They promote the idea that the authentic Polish nation has won a temporary reprieve against the homogenising forces of liberal cosmopolitanism”, the academic at the SWPS University in the Polish capital said.

In its fight for “true Polish identity” – which has seen moves such as revisions of school curriculums to promote “correct” values and the censorship of researchers, theatres and art galleries – PiS has found a key ally in the country’s Catholic Church, Professor Anita Prazmowska told Reporting Democracy.

“We have an unholy alliance of the altar and the state working to produce a new Polish narrative”, explained this academic of the London School of Economics.

“The Church is the moral authority for true Poles”, researcher Ben Stanley added.

“PiS is the political expression of that”.

Next on Novena:

Attacks on Church are attacks on nation, warns Polish Bishops’ President