Europe must return to Christianity before economic regeneration is possible, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary said at a conference at Madrid’s Saint Paul University on November 17, 2012. The conference was organized by the XIV Congress of Catholics and Public Life on “Hope and the Christian response to the crisis.” We congratulate Prime Minister Orban, who is not ashamed of standing up for justice and Christian principles. Here are excerpts from his speech:
by Viktor Orban
We Hungarians understand the pain that the Spanish are feeling today, and we understand the hard struggle of the Spanish Government, that it must continue against this inherited, difficult economic situation. We understand the disappointment, anger and impatience of the Spanish people. We Hungarians have known and still know these well. And for this reason, we sympathise with you and show solidarity towards Spain.
Similarly to Hungarians, the Spanish are a people who value freedom, who look back at their own history with pride, and who will not allow the work with which their grandfathers rebuilt their homeland after the civil war to be put at risk once again by bureaucrats and financial speculators. A whole series of demonstrations and strikes throughout the European continent indicate that people everywhere are searching for the answer to the question: how could the dream, which a common Europe meant to all of us, have broken? How can Europe have lost its competitiveness? How can it have become indebted up to its eyeballs? Why are we suffering such problems now, destroying the standard of living and way of life of millions of families?
People who are committed to Christian traditions, laics, clerics, Catholics and Protestants alike, are connected by a common feeling: the responsibility of the dutiful guardian. We may read in the book of Ezekiel, that if the guard on duty sees the armed enemy approaching but does not blow his trumpet to warn his people, then God will call him to account for the human lives that are lost.
In my view, God ordained church and secular leaders to be such dutiful guardians, and this includes politicians. And so it is in full knowledge of our responsibility that we must proclaim that the financial and economic crisis that is occurring in Europe is not some accidental event that a few gifted technocrats will be able to correct. The crisis occurring in Europe is the result of a process of decay that has been present for some time on the continent.
I feel that we must speak out and state that in Europe today, such forms and configurations of human cohabitation such as the nation and the family have fallen open to question. Similarly, the true and original meaning of work and credit have become uncertain in economic life. This is all thanks to the fact that these important things – work, credit, family, nation – have become dissolved from the moral foundations that Christianity provided to us, and so have lost their weight and meaning in recent decades...
Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the idea of Europe, once said that Europe would either be Christian, or it would not exist. Yet today, we have reached the point where the majority of European politicians are working and doing everything in their power to exile Christianity into people's private lives, churches and history books.
If an Islamic country began feeling ashamed of itself because of the teachings of the Koran, it would rightly awaken the anger of other Islamic countries... In contrast, in Europe I see every day that it is instead those who wish to think and behave according to the values of Christianity in political and social life who meet with incomprehension....
In the end, I must say that the aging Europe that is disclaiming its Christian roots, and within it Hungary, is like the man in the well-known parable who built his house on sand. The floods came, hit the house, and the building found itself on the verge of collapse...
Behind that European weakness lie precisely those things: the crisis of families, communities and the nation, that in the early stages of capitalism were precisely what made us successful. They made Europe strong and dominant at a global level precisely because at the time they fitted into a Christian system of morals: in commerce, the economy, the family and the nation alike.
I would like to highlight just one issue to show you what I mean. And this is the issue of credit. In the Old Testament, the word usury, money-lender, means to bite another person, like a snake would. It is understandable that the Catholic Church also decreed a ban on collecting interest on loans; they obviously wanted to protect people from the anguish and barbarity of money-lenders. During the reformation, the stance on the collection of interest changed...
If we look at the list of Europe's indebted countries, then we see that the loans which our countries are suffering from no longer have any relation to any kind of moral principles. The conditions for successfully receiving credit today are such that they endanger the sovereignty of the nation in question, and lenders force governments to take money away from the very people they should be giving it to.
It is my firm belief that a Europe that represents Christian values would perhaps not have allowed people to squander the future of their families by taking on irresponsible loans. In Hungary, this is what happened to one million families... A common Europe that represents Christian values perhaps would never have allowed certain countries to fall into debt slavery. This is an important question for the Spanish nation. It is not my business, I bear responsibility for Hungary, but I would like to warn you that Spain is very close to arriving at the moment when it falls into debt slavery. And a country may be conquered in two ways: by the sword or through debt, and this is something we should never forget. And finally, a Europe that represents Christian values would perhaps, in place of today's politics, encourage one that distributes the burdens of today's economic crisis fairly.
If in Europe today a government is compelled to take on a loan from a European or perhaps international organisation, then they will be required to introduce such measures which make the government lose its credibility before its own electorate...
As Scripture says: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10.) The moral crisis may also be recognised in the case of those leaders who, professing a philosophy of "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die", or at last "tomorrow we will not be in government", were capable of casting whole countries into debt. This also brings up questions of serious personal responsibility.
There are many in Europe, and although we may be a minority, but we are many, whose common goal is to be able to once again build Europe on the rock-solid foundations of Christianity... Hungary has been following this path since 2010. As we have heard: we have created a new Fundamental Law, the first chapter of which we called the National Credo. This is the essence of the constitution, its spiritual framework, its backbone. The first line of the new Hungarian Constitution begins with the words: "Lord, bless the Hungarian people!" This is also the first line of our national prayer. The first word of the Hungarian Constitution is God.
Hungary is a country whose first king, who was called Saint Stephen, some one thousand years ago, after his first child had died and he had no progeny, offered the Crown of Hungary to the Virgin Mary. We view Hungary as a country which our first king offered to the Virgin Mary. This is an important fact. He did not offer it into the safekeeping of a foreign power, and he did not offer it to a financial institution, but to Mary. This is mirrored in the Constitution.
One of the reasons why we elaborated a constitution of this kind was that we felt we must face up against those European political and intellectual trends and forces which aim to push back and undermine Christian culture, Christian civilisation and Christian values. We knew that this would result in conflict. The European forces that wish to undermine the strength of Christianity are strong and well-organised forces. They are a significant factor within Europe. Let us not delude ourselves, it is better to face the truth. But I am positive that if we do not enter into conflict with them, then they will sweep us off the path of both European public life and national public life. For this reason, Hungary decided it would rather face this conflict. We recognise the nation-preserving power of Christianity. This is what caused the greatest conflict: we acknowledge the nation-preserving role of Christianity.
Europe is moving towards a state where the religious will become unreligious, where national will make way to formations that are above national, and in which families will be replaced by individuals. They call this progress. This is the dominant intellectual trend in European politics today.
Our “sin”, which we of course assume proudly, is that in the 21st century we have dared to include in our constitution the fact that faith, the church, the nation and the family belong not to our past but to our future. This is the reason for the hate-induced huge attack against the Hungarian Constitution and the creators of the Hungarian Constitution which we have experienced throughout Europe.