Tag Archives: politics

Hungary changes constitution, status of some religious orders changes in the law

At the new year the Hungarians passed a new constitution with some real changes that will affect the Church and other ecclesial communities, including non-Christian groups. The New York Times ran the article that outlines the changes giving the impression that even the Hungarians are unable to name all the changes. What caught my eye thanks to Brother Richard of OSB.org, when he first posted a note on his FB page that some venerable religious orders like the Benedictines and the Carmelites and a group like the Opus Dei are now downgraded in terms of the law. But why? What does the Hungarian government gain by doing such and what are the long-term implications for the Benedictines and Carmelites? Why weren’t the states of the Dominicans and Jesuits changed? Some of what happened is noted here:

“With the
new year, as the new constitution goes into effect, all petitions to the
[Constitutional] Court lapse and it becomes much harder for anyone to challenge
this law — or any other.

“But it is worth lingering on the newly
re-enacted law on the status of churches because it is one of the places where
we can clearly see the effects of the new constitutional order on the
protection of constitutional rights. What does the law on churches do? It
creates 14 state-recognized religions
, and decertifies the rest. On January 1,
over 300 denominations lose their official status in Hungary — including their
tax exemptions and their abilities to run state-funded schools. While most of
the denominations are tiny, many are not. Among the religions that will no longer
be able to operate with state approval
are all versions of Islam, Buddhism,
Hinduism and Baha’i, as well as many smaller Catholic orders including the
Benedictines, Marists, Carmelites, and Opus Dei
, and a number of major
Protestant denominations including Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh
Day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, and all but one of the evangelical
churches. One each of the orthodox, conservative, and liberal Jewish synagogues
are recognized; but all other Jewish congregations are not” (The
Unconstitutional Constitution

A Benedictine from Hungary writes
that “religious orders are still part of the Catholic Church in my country
and being as such they will maintain their legal status — all other
problematic constitutional points nothwithstanding.” (see OSB.org)

Benedict asks us to preserve and appreciate our Christian values, identity

San Marino coat of arms.jpg

Yesterday Pope Benedict visited San Marino. You remember, San Marino is the oldest republic founded by Saint Marin, a deacon, and Saint Leo who escaped the clutches of the Emperor Diocletian by coming from Dalmatia to Rimini. San Marino is in central Italy with about 24 square miles with a population of about 31K. San Marino was first founded as a monastic community in the early period of the 4th century and today it is governed by a constitution adopted in 1600 and is still in effect. Two interesting facts: Saint Agatha is the patron saint and Abraham Lincoln was an honorary citizen.

Follow the Pope in a historical way (even spiritually) who’ll notice his insistence on Europeans –indeed all nations with Christian roots– preserving and appreciating Christian tradition as the moral ground of society. There’s a tendency today to push aside one’s Christian patrimony in favor of a secularist mentality that rejects Christ and His Gospel. It seems that we are now embarrassed by our belief in Christ; we longer say with confidence that Christ died for me and that He’s now risen from the dead and that the Holy Spirit lives in us; that we are scared by what others are going to say and I dare say we’d rather be superficial and believe in nothing than accept the offer of Love from God. Why is it that Christ, who is the source of our being and our destiny is easily dismissed?

In San Marino, Pope Benedict exhorts us all to hold fast to what has been given to us: freedom, love, and meaning.

My heartfelt
gratitude for your hospitality, in particular I express my gratitude to the
captains regent, also for the courteous words they addressed to me. I greet the
members of the government and of the Congress, as well as the diplomatic corps
and all the other authorities gathered here. In addressing you, I embrace
ideally the whole people of San Marino. From its birth, this republic has had
friendly relations with the Apostolic See, and in recent times they have been
intensified and consolidated; my presence here, in the heart of this ancient
republic, expresses and confirms this friendship

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Carl Anderson: we are called to transform society — looks to JFK, sets path

Thumbnail image for Anderson with US flag.jpgCarl A. Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, gave a lecture in Boston’s famed Faneuil Hall on President John F. Kennedy’s faith known in the inaugural address. The President was a KofC member. Anderson uses history, philosophy and theology to demonstrate that our human rights come from God, thus they are sacred rights. The location of the talk was brilliant given the tensions between Church and secularism. Anderson’s talk follows:

Your Eminence, Cardinal O’Malley; Your Excellencies, Archbishop Wenski, Bishop Lori and Bishop Kennedy; Reverend Fathers; Seminarians; Members of the Board of Directors and State Officers of the Knights of Columbus; Members of the Boston Leadership Forum; Brother Knights; Ladies and Gentlemen – fellow Citizens…

Here at Faneuil Hall, in this historic setting, the injustices of the colonial system were first addressed. It was here that the Sugar Act was protested more than a decade before the Declaration of Independence. Here that the Tea Tax was protested. And here the Boston Massacre was recounted. Here too was born the idea that there should be “no taxation without representation.”

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The Zen of China: things are unwell

Cardinal Joseph Zen.jpgOften he is called the conscience of China, Joseph Cardinal Zen, SDB, 79, visited members of the US government this week. The cardinal has stood against any thinking that doesn’t support life issues –human rights. Zen is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. He’s been critical of those who talk without knowing the situation and unable to make crucial distinctions in policy. That is, Zen belives the 2007 letter of the Pope has been wrongly interpreted by members of the Roman Curia. Where the Pope talks about reconciliation of mind and heart, influential members of the Curia talk about a reunification of the two Chinese communities: the open church and the underground church. Reconcilation and renunification are the same thing and ought to be confused for each other. Pope Benedict never talks about reunification. He does talk about reconcilation. The premises are different.

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Asma al-Assad on St John the Baptist

Syria should be on your radar screen if you have an interest in the life of the Church. It’s openness to
Christianity today is startling bad. Freedom of religion and human rights lack;
political oppression and basic needs are always in question. The current regime
very likely nervous given the recent wave of political take-back. John Juliet
Buck’s Vogue magazine article on the Syrian First Lady, Asma al-Assad, “
A Rose in
the Desert
” speaks to many issues in Syria, not least is religion. Thoughts of
St John the Baptist’s tomb hearken back to when in 2001 Pope John Paul II visited Syria
and prayed at the tomb of the Baptist.

At first thought Ms al-Assad’s deference to the importance of the Baptist is impressive but there’s something that strikes me as false given recent history of her husband’s family’s rule of Syria viz. religious freedom. Plus, her interest in Christianity in Syria is not because the gospel is true, good and beautiful; her interest in the Church is cultural. The gospel in this context has been reduced to a system of culture and ethics –exactly what it’s not. Syria is  Indeed, many religions have passed through those lands and one seems fairly certain that the current regime wants religions like Christianity to leave Syria and not turn back. Historically, Christianity has been in Syria since St Paul visited the country. It is the place, as we know, where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” Christians in Syria comprise 10% of the population with the largest group being the Greek Orthodox Church.

For me here’s the relevant paragraph in the article:

Back in the car, Buck was answered about
his investigation “what religion the orphans are?” “It’s not relevant,” says
Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my
heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the
third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of
Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of
Saint John the Baptist.
That’s how religions live together in Syria–a way that
I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have
historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these
lands–the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans–make up
who I am.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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