Rorate Caeli

Christianity, Religious Attendance, True Diversity, and the Considerable Limits of the “Hungarian Model” (Part 1)

 For some years, we have read the “Hungarian Model” promoted throughout the world, and particular on some websites (often written by agents financed by foundations kept by the Hungarian government itself).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Hungarian Model — but remembering that it applies to the very specific circumstances of Hungary, its history, and its people. Differently from how it is usually portrayed in some “conservative” media, it is a highly secularized society, as well as a very small and limited polity, and its lessons can hardly be transplanted elsewhere.

Some points helped with images.

1. "Hungary is the future of Christianity."

Well, that seems highly unlikely, as Hungary doesn't seem to be even the present of Christianity. The graph below (click for larger view) explains why.

Though it is not as up-to-date as it could be (and post-COVID attendance figures have dropped throughout the world), it is a good portrayal of the highly secularized state of the Hungarian population, even compared to the most liberal American states. Some might object that Communism didn't help (and of course it didn't), but Poland is an example that it didn't need to be so steep - and that the Hungarians, like the Czechs, have mostly chosen a secularized path. 

And while it is true that many Hungarian policies are Christian-friendly, others aren't so much -- for instance, no change has been made to its relatively liberal abortion legislation since the early 1990s. That is quite different from the Polish situation. Another example: in its pursuit of pro-natalist policies (a good thing), the government has even promoted free IVF treatments (not a very Christian, and certainly not a Catholic, choice). 

What both government-financed abortion and government-financed IVF have in common is a government that, while "conservative", does not intend to challenge the secularized view of a huge portion of the population. So, more than a "Christian" government, it is an ethnocentric government -- which can be a legitimate electoral choice, just to be clear, but both can't be portrayed as the same thing.



2. “The United States doesn’t seem as concerned with contemporary problems as Hungary.” 

This specific objection motivated this post, and we start with the image below (click for larger view), which we often use to illustrate the American predicament.

The map of Köppen climate types of the United States reveal a startling feature: with 26 different climates, the US has more types, by far, than any other nation on earth. So, in addition to the vastness of being the third largest nation in land area, and the third most populous polity, it is truly (without a hint of liberal irony) a highly diverse country.

That means it cannot reasonably be expected (despite the Hungarian propagandists mocking some American extremes in online pamphlets) that the policy choices of a very small, highly secularized, ethnically homogenous landlocked Eastern European nation of under 10 million people can always translate well to the vast and diverse federation that is the United States. 

Additionally, as seen above, church attendance in most of the United States is much more widespread than in Hungary -- that also means there is strong pushback from anti-Christians, in a speech environment where all arguments are freely argued, and that there is a permanent red-hot political debate on all matters that are usually settled in "conservative" Hungary. 

3. The lesson of Pius XI is perennial.

The current concerns of a polity are contingent upon the problems posed by the present moment. There seems to be, however, among certain enthusiastic pamphleteers of the current Hungarian system (which, as said before, certainly do not seem to be better than the choices of the Polish government or even of the current Italian government) a bizarre view almost of superiority of the Hungarians. It is all very strange, and not Catholic at all. There are good choices made by the Hungarian government, and other choices that are not very good -- many respectable, some not -- and there is no need to exalt it above others as a superior example for Catholic (and other Christian) voters elsewhere.

As Pius XI explained for all posterity in Mit brennender Sorge (1939),  "Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community — however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things — whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds."

Some choices of the Hungarian government are very good -- for Hungary. There is no need to portray them as universal examples "above their standard value." When even the Hungarian government balks before the limitations posed by its secularized population, it's more than enough time to realize that reality without making what is a national predicament a universal choice. The fact that, months after Roe fell, the people's representatives from Texas to Florida were able to make more stringent abortion regulations than Hungary (despite much smaller conservative majorities in the local legislatures) shows that, yes, sometimes even Hungary can learn Christian lessons from elsewhere...

(To be continued...)