József Mindszenty

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The native form of this personal name is Mindszenty József. This article uses the Western name order.
His Eminence
József Mindszenty
Cardinal Archbishop of Esztergom
Prince Primate of Hungary
Mindszenty-Jozsef MK.jpg
See Archdiocese of Esztergom
Appointed 2 October 1945
Term ended 19 December 1973
Predecessor Jusztinián György Serédi
Successor László Lékai
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santo Stefano al Monte Celio
Orders
Ordination 12 June 1915
by János Mikes
Consecration 25 March 1944
by Jusztinián György Serédi
Created Cardinal 18 February 1946
by Pope Pius XII
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name József Pehm
Born 29 March 1892
Csehimindszent, Hungary
Died May 6, 1975(1975-05-06) (aged 83)
Vienna, Austria
Buried Esztergom Basilica
Nationality Hungarian Hungary
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents József Pehm
Borbála Kovács
Previous post
Motto Pannonia Sacra
Styles of
József Mindszenty
Mindszenty Jozsef szobor 0429-1000.jpg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
József Mindszenty memorial plaque in Budapest, Hungary

József Mindszenty (29 March 1892 – 6 May 1975) was the Prince Primate, Archbishop of Esztergom, cardinal, and leader of the Catholic Church in Hungary from 2 October 1945 to 18 December 1973. For five decades, he personified uncompromising opposition to fascism and communism in Hungary in support of religious freedom.[1] During World War II, he was imprisoned by the pro-Nazi authorities.[2] After the war, he opposed communism and the communist persecution in his country. As a result, he was tortured and given a life sentence in a 1949 show trial that generated worldwide condemnation, including a United Nations resolution. After eight years in prison, he was freed in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and granted political asylum by the United States embassy in Budapest, where Mindszenty lived for the next fifteen years.[2] He was finally allowed to leave the country in 1971. He died in exile in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.

Early life and career[edit]

Mindszenty was born on 29 March 1892 in Csehimindszent, Vas County, Austria-Hungary, to József Pehm and Borbála Kovács. His father was a magistrate.[3] He attended St Norbert's Premonstratensian High Grammar School in Szombathely, before entering the Szombathely Diocesan Seminary in 1911.[4]

Mindszenty was ordained a priest by Bishop János Mikes on 12 June 1915, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1917, the first of his books, Motherhood, was published. He was arrested by the republican Mihály Károlyi government on 9 February 1919 and held until the fall of the communist Béla Kun government on 31 July.[5]

He adopted his new name—part of his home village's name—in 1941. On 25 March 1944, he was consecrated bishop of Veszprém. He was arrested on 27 November 1944 for his opposition to the Arrow Cross government's plan to quarter soldiers in parts of his official palace. In April 1945, with the collapse of the Arrow Cross's power, he was released from house arrest at a church in Sopron.[6]

Church leader and opposition to communism[edit]

On 15 September 1945, he was appointed Primate of Hungary and Archbishop of Esztergom (the seat of the head of the Catholic Church in Hungary). On 18 February 1946, he was elevated to Cardinal-Priest of Santo Stefano Rotondo by Pope Pius XII. In 1948, religious orders were banned by the government.

On 26 December 1948, Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested and accused of treason, conspiracy, and offences against the newly formed communist government's laws. Shortly before his arrest, he wrote a note to the effect that he had not been involved in any conspiracy, and any confession he might make would be the result of duress. While he was imprisoned by the communist government, he confessed to working with the Americans against the state of Hungary.

Among other forced confessions, Mindszenty admitted that he had orchestrated the theft of Hungary's crown jewels (including the Crown of Saint Stephen) with the explicit purpose of crowning Otto I of Austria-Hungary. He admitted that he had schemed to remove the communist government, that he had planned a Third World War, and that, once this war was won by the Americans, he himself would assume political power in Hungary.[7]

Cardinal Mindszenty at his trial in 1949

On 3 February 1949, his trial began. On 8 February, Mindszenty was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason against the government. The government released a book Documents on the Mindszenty Case containing evidence against Mindszenty, including his confession. Mindszenty walked into court and openly confessed to the crimes he was accused of. On 12 February 1949, Pope Pius XII announced the excommunication of all persons involved in the trial and conviction of Mindszenty. In his apostolic letter, Acerrimo Moerore, he publicly condemned the jailing of the cardinal and stated he was being mistreated. Mindszenty later said he had been hit with rubber truncheons and subjected to other forms of torture until he agreed to confess.[8][9]

On 30 October 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Mindszenty was released from prison. He returned to Budapest the next day. On 2 November, he praised the insurgents. The following day, he made a radio broadcast in favour of recent anti-communist developments.

Confinement at the US embassy[edit]

U.S. Embassy in Budapest

When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary on 4 November 1956 to restore the communist government, Cardinal Mindszenty sought Imre Nagy's advice, and was granted political asylum at the United States embassy in Budapest. Mindszenty lived there for the next 15 years, unable to leave the grounds.

György Aczél, the communist official in charge of all cultural and religious matters in Hungary, felt increasingly uncomfortable about the situation in the late 1960s when Mindszenty fell seriously ill and rumors spread about the priest's impending "martyrdom". Yet Aczél failed to convince János Kádár that freeing Mindszenty would create valuable confusion in the Vatican and allow the state to better control the remaining clergy.

Mindszenty's presence was also an inconvenience to the US government because the Budapest embassy was already overcrowded, his quarters took valuable floor space, and a permit for expansion could not be obtained from the Hungarian authorities unless he was expelled.

Exile[edit]

Mindszenty's death mask in the Mindszenty Museum, Esztergom

Eventually, Pope Paul VI offered a compromise: declaring Mindszenty a "victim of history" (instead of communism) and annulling the excommunication imposed on his political opponents. The Hungarian government allowed Mindszenty to leave the country on 28 September 1971. Beginning on 23 October 1971, he lived in Vienna, Austria, as he took offence at Rome's advice that he should resign from the primacy of the Catholic Church in Hungary in exchange for uncensored publication of his memoirs backed by the Vatican. Although most bishops retire at or near age 75, Mindszenty continuously denied rumors of his resignation, and he was not canonically required to step down at the time.

In December 1973, at the age of 81, Mindszenty was stripped of his titles by the Pope, who declared the Archdiocese of Esztergom officially vacated, but refused to fill the seat while Mindszenty was still alive. Mindszenty died on 6 May 1975, at the age of 83, in exile in Vienna. In early 1976, the Pope made Bishop László Lékai the primate of Hungary, ending a long struggle with the communist government. Lékai turned out to be quite cordial towards the Kádár regime.

In 1991, Mindszenty's remains were repatriated to Esztergom by the newly democratically elected government and buried in the basilica there.

Legacy[edit]

The Mindszenty Museum in Esztergom

Mindszenty is widely admired in modern-day Hungary, and no one denies his courage in opposing the Nazi and Nyilas gangs, or his resolve in confinement, which is often compared to that of Lajos Kossuth in exile. While communism ruled, Mindszenty was seen as the archetypal figure of "clerical reaction". He continued to use the traditional title of prince-primate (hercegprímás) even after the use of nobility, peerage and royal titles were entirely outlawed by the 1946 parliament, because he stated that Hungary had changed the form of state unconstitutionally. The state said that his aristocratic attitudes and continued claims for compensation against nationalization of a vast range of pre–World War II church-owned farmlands alienated large groups of the Hungarian society, which was composed of a majority of agricultural workers at the time.[10] However, he was very grateful to faithful Catholics who supported the parishes and Catholic schools. Since the main source of income for the Church was their agricultural lands, arbitrary and uncompensated appropriation of land by the communist government left many Church-run institutions destitute.[9]

He believed and preached that "The Church asks for no secular protection; it seeks shelter under the protection of God alone",[11] and fought fiercely against secularization of church-run primary and secondary schools.

His beatification and eventual canonization has been on the agenda of the Hungarian Catholic Church ever since communism fell in 1989, and the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI was seen by many analysts as an excellent opportunity, as the Pope was equally traditional in his views on church and secular matters and has commented favourably on Mindszenty's calling.[needs update]

The Mindszenty Museum in Esztergom is dedicated to the life of the churchman. A commemorative statue of Cardinal Mindszenty stands at St. Ladislaus Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. He is also remembered in Chile, with a memorial in the same park (Parque Bustamante) in which a monument to the martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution stands. A monument was donated by the Hungarian community of Greater Cleveland in 1977 and stands at Cardinal Mindszenty Plaza in Downtown Cleveland. A monument is placed at St Raymond Church in Menlo Park, California, USA, to commemorate a mass Cardinal Mindszenty said there in December 1974.[12]

Film[edit]

Memorial to Mindszenty in Bustamante Park, Santiago, Chile

Mindszenty's life and battle against the Soviet domination of Hungary and communism were the subject of the 1950 film Guilty of Treason, which was, in part, based on his personal papers, and starred Charles Bickford as the cardinal.

The 1955 film The Prisoner is loosely based on Mindszenty's imprisonment, with Alec Guinness playing a fictionalized version of the cardinal.[13]

He was reported as disliking the fictional version of his situation.[14]

The two-part 1966 episode, "Old Man Out" of television's Mission: Impossible was loosely based on Mindszenty. The episode's premise was that a Catholic cardinal, a political prisoner and hero to his people, was slated for execution in an Eastern European prison. The series' protagonists were tasked with smuggling him out of the prison and country before he was executed.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "József Mindszenty". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Last, Alex (5 September 2012). "Fifteen years holed up in an embassy". BBC. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Mindszenty, József Cardinal (1974). Memoirs. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.
  4. ^ "József Mindszenty (1892-1975)". National Széchényi Library. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Mindszenty, József Cardinal. Memoirs. pp3-8. 1974. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
  6. ^ http://www.freeweb.hu/eszmelet/34/baloghs34.html[dead link]
  7. ^ Streatfield, Dominic. (2007) Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-32572-X
  8. ^ http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2010/02/mindszenty-catholics-and-torture/190072/
  9. ^ a b Mindszenty, József Cardinal. Memoirs. 1974. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
  10. ^ Chip Berlet, "Cardinal Mindszenty: Heroic Anti-Communist or Anti-Semite or Both?" The St. Louis Journalism Review, Vol. 16, No. 105, April 1988.
  11. ^ Mindszenty, József Cardinal. Memoirs. p34. 1974. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
  12. ^ http://www.straymondmp.com/Bulletins/2012%20Archives/2012%2009%20September/StRayBul%202012Sep16.pdf
  13. ^ Hollywood's Cold War, Tony Shaw, p 110 ISBN 978-0748625246
  14. ^ BBC News Magazine - Fifteen years holed up in an embassy

Further reading[edit]

  • Osb, Adam Somorjai, and Tibor Zinner. Do Not Forget This Small Honest Nation: Cardinal Mindszenty to Four U.S. Presidents and State Secretaries, 1956–1971 (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2013) xxx, 417 pp.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Gyula Czapik
Bishop of Veszprém
3 March 1944–2 October 1945
Succeeded by
László Bánáss
Preceded by
Jusztinián György Serédi
Archbishop of Esztergom
2 October 1945–19 December 1973
Succeeded by
László Lékai