Viktor Orban on Christian Europe

In 1925 Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical Quas Primas, which established the Feast of Christ the King and taught the moral obligation of all nations to reverence the kingship of Christ over all the world. The reverence is due not only by Catholic countries, but by all men, whether baptized or not, and applies equally to governments as to individuals. The pope wrote: "all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society...If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ...With God and Jesus Christ excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation" [1] In this teaching, Pius reaffirms the traditional Catholic teaching of the social kingship of Christ. This principle underlay the whole social and political edifice of the Middle Ages known as "Christendom", and it is this teaching which has been subsequently lost or denied in the modern world.

In November, 2012, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gave an address at the fourteenth Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid entitled "Hope and Christian Response to the Crisis" in which he hailed a return to the principles of a Christendom as the only hope for Europe [2]. He forcefully argued that the economic depression strangling the European economy is not the fault of any one specific policy or party, but a crisis of the spiritual order. The audience listened in rapt attention throughout the speech and responded with a prolonged standing ovation when it was concluded.

Mr. Orban questioned how the collapse of the European Union had been possible. "The European crisis", he said, "has not come by chance but by carelessness, the neglect of their responsibilities by leaders who have called into question the Christian roots, that is, the driving force that made European unity, the family, work and credit possible...These values transformed the old continent into an 'economic power', thanks to the development of those days being made in accordance with those principles."

As an example of the economic breakdown which has led to the crisis, he mentioned the change in the concept of loans, which previously were granted only to people deemed responsible, but which have in time come to be offered to those who are not. Credit certainly existed, explained the Prime Minister, but even the rules governing the extension of credit were subject to the "measuring stick" of Christendom. Thus, in a "Christian Europe", the excesses that have created the economic crisis would not have been possible. "A Christian Europe would have noticed that one has to work for every euro that is asked for. A Christian Europe would not have allowed entire countries to sink into the slavery of credit."

He recalled how in the Old Testament usury was prohibited and how the Catholic Church has always rejected the abusive charging of interest. Interestingly enough, though a Protestant himself, Mr. Orban credited the Protestant Revolt of Martin Luther with ushering in a new age of greed and usury, which has led us to the point we are at today where creditors have relinquished their moral values and entire countries have become slaves of contracted debts. "The yoke has ceased being the sword and has turned into debt", he noted. Referring to the harsh “austerity measures” imposed by the EU on Greece and Italy, that have resulted in widespread unemployment and economic hardship, he said that political leaders have abandoned the “human aspects” of economics in efforts to contain the massive national debts accumulated by socialist governments over the last century.

Thus the crisis has been worsening as political leaders have begun to forget about human aspects when seeing themselves obliged to pay the debts left by their predecessors. Prime Minister Orban expressed his conviction that behind every successful economy there is "some kind of spiritual driving force." Based on this, asserted that "a Europe governed according to Christian values would be regenerated."

An example of this is his own country, Hungary. Orban explained that Hungary was left very poor from the inheritance of Communism, where the average monthly wage at the fall of Communism was 250€, around $325. Despite this setback, the nation has begun to reconstruct itself morally, recalling that its first king, St. Stephen, offered his crown to the Virgin Mary and died without descendants. Its new Constitution is based on the dignity of the person, on freedom, the family, the nation, fidelity, and love, with the express obligation of helping the poor. The life of a fetus is protected from the moment of conception, the actions of the nation's central bank are restricted and regulated, and marriage is officially defined as being between one man and one woman. The Constitution, which enshrines Christian values, has profoundly irritated the European Left, which formally condemned the Hungarian Constitution in the Parliament of Strasbourg.

While the Hungarian Constitution is not perfect, and while Hungary certainly continues to have its own moral and spiritual problems, simply acknowledging the Christian heritage of Europe and enshrining some of the principles of this heritage in the Constitution, as has also been done in Malta, is a huge step in the right direction.


[1] Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 18 (1925)
[2] Following quotes taken from Jaime Mayor Oreja, Infocatolica, Nov. 18, 2012