The Hungarian Church is providing Catholic cover for the “illiberal democracy” of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – an increasingly authoritarian regime especially targeting migrants, refugees, and the homeless – in direct contradiction to the example and leadership of Pope Francis.

Driving the news

The European Union is becoming increasingly concerned about the direction in which Orbán is taking Hungary:

  • Government-controlled media relentlessly pumps out dehumanising rhetoric about migrants and refugees
  • Refugees are being held in shipping containers in detention centres along the border. In some cases they are even being denied food in what the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organisation, has described as “an unprecedented human rights violation in 21st-century Europe”
  • Homelessness has now been criminalised in the country, with people sleeping rough now facing jail or compulsory enrolment in Government works programs

The intrigue

Despite these human rights violations, the Hungarian Catholic bishops seem to have no problem getting behind Orbán and his program, as The Guardian found out.

“We are very happy that there are a few politicians like Orbán and Trump who really represent those values which we Christians believe to be important”, László Kiss-Rigó, the bishop of Szeged, told the paper.

“I don’t think he [Orbán] will be canonised in the Catholic church but this is not the point. After the attempted dictatorship of nihilism, manipulated by the PC-talkers, his personality is a refreshing one”, continued the prelate.

Why it matters

Bishops like Kiss-Rigó are providing cover for Orbán as he seeks to expand his “Christian democracy” in Europe and around the world, and even to position himself as a leader of the opposition to Pope Francis.

The “Hungary Helps” program, for example, has pumped $30 million into Africa and the Middle East, in the guise of aid to persecuted Christians. But as a spokesman for the program told The Guardian, the real reason is different.

“Help should be provided where the trouble lies instead of bringing the trouble to Europe”, said the representative.

“We think that the problems of Europe can be traced back to the denial of Christian roots”, explained Katalin Novák, Hungarian minister of state for family, youth and international affairs, to The Guardian. “We see the misinterpretation of tolerance many times. Being tolerant should not mean that one gives up his or her identity”.

Context on Novena

One level deeper

Even though Kiss-Rigó didn’t go as far as calling Pope Francis “either a senile old fool or a scoundrel”, as did Orbán’s ally, the politician Zsolt Bayer, in 2016, the Hungarian bishop’s rhetoric is a total slap in the face of Pope Bergoglio, who has made the defence of refugees and migrants and an open Europe cornerstones of his pontificate.

“Everyone who knocks at your door and asks admission is welcome to be examined. But people who jump into your house through the roof should be protected against”, Kiss-Rigó told The Guardian.

“Europe can ignore or deny or struggle against its own identity and its Christian roots. But by doing so the society commits suicide”, the bishop added. “And the more migrants that come, the more Christian values will be watered down”.

See also:

‘Open Democracy’: Ultraconservative Catholics, other Christians funding European far-right

Papal rep in Spain hits out at “democraships” in US, Italy, Hungary