A raging anti-Semite will be Hungary’s ambassador in Rome

Late Sunday night the media learned that Péter Szentmihályi Szabó, a mediocre poet and political commentator of the far right, will be Hungary’s next ambassador to Rome. Two opposition parties, Democratic Coalition and Együtt-PM, immediately protested against the appointment, pointing out that over the last two decades the nominee has been publishing in such far-right papers as István Csurka’s Magyar Fórum, Kárpátia, and Nemzetőr. Currently, he has a regular column in the far-right Magyar Hírlap and is also a regular on Echo TV, another far-right organ.

Tibor Navracsics and Péter Szentmihályi Szabó The foreign minister is delighted

Tibor Navracsics and Péter Szentmihályi Szabó
The foreign minister is delighted

There were commentators whose “breath was taken away” when they heard the news of Szentmihályi Szabó’s imminent ambassadorial appointment. A blogger expressed himself more strongly: “Viktor Orbán happened to appoint a rat to be ambassador to Rome.” One thing is sure: Szentmihályi Szabó is an inveterate anti-Semite. Pure and simple. So, it is a rather ironic Orbánite gesture to appoint such a man to an important post in the Memorial Year of the Holocaust.

I could hopscotch from article to article penned by this man, but perhaps it would be more useful to translate one of his memorable pieces that appeared in Magyar Fórum on December 14, 2000.

Meet Viktor Orbán’s choice for ambassador to Italy.

* * *

Péter Szentmihályi Szabó : The Agents of Satan

I don’t know, I don’t understand why they hate us so much. They live here in Hungary, they speak and write in Hungarian, but they loathe us. I really don’t understand why they stay if it is that bad here, in this welcoming country that is so foolishly patient. It is not difficult to recognize them because they are cowardly and impertinent at the same time. Money is their God, their mother tongue in which they have trusted from time immemorial. Dark circles under their eyes, flabby skin, clammy palms, cold feet, freakish smiles give them away. They can be found everywhere on the earth. They are the agents of Satan. They arouse fear and they live off of fear. They create turmoil and discord. They are constantly packing, yet they don’t leave. Are they foreign spirits whose mission is to destroy the local communities? International criminals who, following Marx and Lenin, decided to enslave mankind? Eternally homeless folk condemned to be constant wanderers? They are the debt collectors. The ones who first figured out that money “works” without labor although there are no goods behind the merchandise, only a piece of metal, a piece of paper, or by now only a digital symbol on the computer. Everybody is afraid of them, yet they dread those who fear them. The world’s strongest army guards their security, and yet they still don’t dare to get close to those whose rights they defend so loudly.

Pharisees, hypocrites, agents of Satan. They are in every party, in every church, in every community. They are ready for every betrayal because they are empty. They have no God, no nation, no people, no homeland, no Weltanschauung, only bank accounts. They don’t even have families, only temporarily. Their families are replaceable. They use everything, but nothing is theirs. And they clearly realize that. I am listening to the naive official statements about the forthcoming law on Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. One can hear the mistaken centuries-old notion being repeated: “a Hungarian is one who considers himself to be a Hungarian.” Oh my Lord, any member of any reasonably cultured nation would have a hearty laugh hearing this! Is someone who calls himself an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German, an American actually an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German or an American? In that case, our Roma in Strasbourg would have abandoned us a long time ago…. The agents of Satan are the devotees of globalism; they are not attached to their names, to their firms, to their own homeland. They have no attachment, only bank accounts. They are born traitors because they have never had their own country. They are in every radio and television station where they bray among themselves speaking in a nasal sing-song way and slimily blurring their r’s. They live off their fears. They are professional worriers. They are internationalists and cosmopolitans. Faithful friends of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Lukács, and György Aczél.

Descendants of Rákosi, the jailers of the “guilty” Hungarian nation. Members of the State Security forces, members of detachments, worker guardists. Approximately 200,000 people who call themselves Hungarian who have not cleared out of the country yet because after 1989 they realized that the stupid Hungarian people don’t harbor vengefulness. The two million former unskilled laborers understand only the demagoguery of MSZP and SZDSZ. Viktor Orbán is the same target as József Antall or Péter Boross, or for that matter István Csurka were.  The agents of Satan play games with us and have a grand time at it. They slap us in the face and call us to account that we, in an intolerant and very unchristian-like manner, don’t turn the other cheek. They are the ones who are most indignant when somebody tries to put an end to the greedy acquisition of Hungarian real estate by foreigners; they are the ones for whom abortion and drugs are human rights. They have more than one passport, preferably the kind that has no extradition treaty with Hungary–security foremost. They live in castles, they have servants, but they are great friends of the homeless, the Roma, the needy. From a distance and only in words. If they see some gain in getting involved with Hungarian issues, like, for example the millennial celebrations, then they reluctantly join in. They think everybody can be bought, because they themselves can be, always by the kilo. They are greedy, envious, evil–and ugly. Countenance is the mirror of the soul, but their mirror is a tarnished one. They are callous. Condemned souls for whom there is no resurrection. It is likely that Satan bestows such agents on all nations, ones who not only prey on them but also lecture the nations as if they were stupid primitive domestic animals. Hell is waiting for their return.

A Hungarian pope? Does Péter Erdő have a chance?

As I mentioned earlier, the Hungarian media is full of stories speculating about the possibility of Péter Erdő succeeding Benedict XVI.

Péter Erdő was appointed Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in December 2002 and was also made a cardinal at the same time. At the time of his appointment he was auxiliary bishop of Székesfehérvár and was only 50 years old. He has a doctorate in theology and canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. His biography mentions that he spent three years in Rome (1977-1980).

If people thought that the relatively young Erdő would bring some fresh air into the stale, ultra-conservative Hungarian Church they were mistaken. It is hard to tell whether Erdő tried and failed because of the overwhelming opposition he encountered,  whether he is a weak administrator, or whether he is basically a conservative man. From some of his pronouncements we can see that he is no friend of sudden change: “we react to all important problems in our own rhythm” and this rhythm seems to be very slow. He also claims that “the Church must not get involved with problems of the given moment.”

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest

Since 2003 not much has changed in the Hungarian Catholic Church. Unlike in Western Europe where more and more lay people are involved in church affairs, the case in Hungary is different. Also the church’s transparency, especially when it comes to financial matters, leaves a lot to be desired. The greatest financial scandal occurred in Pécs where the bishop, Mihály Mayer, was eventually forced to resign because of embezzlement, blackmail, and even homosexual practices. The church hierarchy was reluctant to investigate the affair and even Erdő would have liked to have kept the affair within the church, but eventually the Hungarian prosecutor’s office took over the case. It was Pope Benedict who in the end removed Mayer.

One of Erdő’s outspoken critics is Attila Jakab, a young theologian and church historian. He wrote an article a couple of days ago that appeared on the website of the Intézet a Demokratikus Alternativáért (IDEA; Institute for a Democratic Alternative) in which he outlined the reasons that Erdő is not fit to become pope.

Jakab claims that Erdő finds it hard to tolerate freedom of thought. I’m afraid Jakab is right. I remember an interview with him where he didn’t hide his disdain for man’s right to form his own opinions. He is also far too sensitive to criticism; according to an older report on him by an agent of the Hungarian secret service, he can be “hysterical.” He finds it important to cooperate with the current ruling political elite. His relationship with Ferenc Gyurcsány was not as good as it is today because Gyurcsány apparently asked him in 2006 to refrain from interfering with the elections. Normally the Catholic Church wages a veritable election campaign, naturally supporting the right-wing parties.

In addition, Jakab calls attention to Erdő’s lack of leadership qualities. Here he calls attention to the financial scandals and pedophilia that went on in Pécs for years. The other case involved the Bishopric of Győr, a case that also ended up in court. Erdő, according to Jakab, refuses to put an end to the Christian Democratic Party’s running amok and does practically nothing about the fusion of Christian and pagan elements in the current “national-Christian” regime. Indeed, I can recall only one or two occasions when he expressed his disapproval of the Hungarian right’s syncretic religious practices. In case you don’t know what Jakab has in mind, it is worth recalling Viktor Orbán’s famous “Turul” in which we were all born.

Jakab also points out that Erdő knows that the introduction of religious instruction in all schools poses insurmountable problems for the Church. There are simply not enough people trained to fill the thousands of positions its introduction requires. But in Erdő’s defense, it is possible, given the Orbán government’s practices, that the churches were not even consulted before the decision was made. I recall one time that Erdő expressed his dismay over the decision.

Finally, those who oppose the Orbán government and its practices shouldn’t keep fingers crossed for Péter Erdő. Admittedly, Hungarian pride would swell if for the first time there was a Hungarian pope in the Vatican. But surely, the Orbán government would take advantage of Erdő’s presence in Rome. Viktor Orbán would try to brand Erdő’s election as his own victory. Moreover, in addition to the current grave problems of the Vatican, a Hungarian pope would also be stranded with the mess Viktor Orbán has created both inside and outside the country. The new pope surely wouldn’t want to carry that extra burden.

The last and perhaps the greatest obstacle standing in Erdő’s way to the papacy: the Hungarian Catholic Church’s still uncovered activities during the Kádár regime tying practically all prelates to the Hungarian secret service. Documents show that several presidents of the Hungarian Papal Institute in Rome were agents who reported to the Ministry of the Interior. Erdő spent three years there and in 1987 was the president of the institution. Both his predecessors and his successors worked for the Hungarian secret service. Nothing has surfaced yet about Erdő, but it might once all the documents of the Ministry of Interior are available. The Orbán government has no intention of doing anything about uncovering agents despite Fidesz’s fierce anti-communism. If and when Fidesz loses the elections, however, the opposition forces swear that the secret archives will be opened.

Anyone who’s interested in the connection between the secret service and the Papal Institute should read a four-part series by Tamás Majsai that appeared between December 2007 and April 2008 in Beszélő.