Church versus state
Church and State in Yugoslavia siriee 1945, by Stella Alexander (Cambridge University Press).
Cardinal Nlindszenty, Confessor and Martyr of Time, by Joasef Korn-Horvath (Aid to the Church in Need, El).
THESE two books are different in style and category, yet equal hi importance, in quality of drama and in the image they give of the fate of the Christian in a Marxist country.
'rhe first is a masterly survey of the most complex of all Balkan questions, that created by the mixture of nationalities and churches in what was at first known as the Kingdom of the Serbs. Croats and Slovenians.
In this study of what happened in that slate from 1945 to the present day the whole sorry story of the repercussions of worldwide wars and revolutions has been presented in a way that is not only understandable. but easy and moving to read.
The book is, moreover, a masterpiece of ecumenism since the churches concerned arc the Catholic and the Orthodox. while the author is a devout Quaker.
It also raises sharply the question of the significance and worth of creating a nation-state. These pages, lead without the slightest doubt to the conclusion that Marshal Tito's whole policy has been to use the Marxistsocialist revolution only with the secondary aim of extending the Soviet way of living to the land where he had seized power. The main purpose was to get a more united Yugoslavia by eliminating the characteristics which had given so violent an edge to the differences between the federation's diverse members.
In this he seems so far, to have succeeded — and in my view, tragically. For has not history only too abundantly shown state and political nationalism, as opposed to one of culture, poetry and religion. to be a fallen angel that bedevils the fate of man?
Of coupe, Marshal Tito's achievements might appear to some justified by the excesses committed in the administrative sphere by the dominating Serbian Orthodox between the two world wars and in an atrociously revengeful and criminal manner by the Catholic Croats during the years of the Nazi and Fascist domination of that part or Europe.
'The horrors perpetrated then, at times under the leadership of Franciscan Friars or other members of the lower clergy, are as abominable a stain on Catholicism.
The Vatican has often been blamed for not having interfered. But, according to this book, which thoroughly studies the question, the attitude of the Pope and of the Secretariat of State appears to have been soured, given the circumstances — perhaps a little too prudent and clever, but more than probably the only one they could possibly adopt.
Then, when the tide of victory changed, there came what was, with a bitter irony, catied "The Liberation". since it was merely the exchange of one tyranny for another. The persecution was merciless: more than 500 priests and nuns were executed: scores of bishops were sentenced to 10 or 20 years in prison or hard labour: and the Archbishop, later Cardinal. Stepinac, head of the Hierarchy, was put on trial and condemned.
Born to be a hero, fully and openly supported by Pius XII, he lived up to the challenge, rose to become a symbol and died in confinement for refusing to beg from the atheist power the favours which could have saved his life.
Similarly in Serbia, and wherever the people belonged to the Orthodox persuasion, a
ruthless persecution was launched against the Church.
But whereas heroes die, those ol' weaker conviction compromise and survive. Hence in time of persecution there always comes a d:iy. ellen the Church, whether Greek or Latin, fails into their hands.
On the one side, the antireligious govern rne nt in power
realises sooner or later that it is in its interest to temporise and that it is in a position to wear oui the Faith by restrictive laws, by irreligious education and by the creation of a social condition in which God is irrelevant. The Church meanwhile turns its back on its martyrs and accepts to survive according to the government's ostensibly "generous" concessions.
Yet. while the Church is matter of this world, the Faith, which is its breath and life. is a matter of the soul; and what kindles is not the sweet reasonableness of those who accept to sup with the Devil, but the ardent integrity of those who decline all such invitation. Of these was Cardinal Mindszenty.
Though the books on this eminent and heroic witness to the Faith are already legion, none is better than this one, written originally in German by the cardinal's own, perceptive and well-informed secretary and skilfully translated by Mr Geoffrey Lawmen. Page by page it takes the reader through one of the greatest epics of the Golden Legend of Saints. For, though
Cardinal Mindszenty did not die a martyr, since he he was not put to
death, he lived as a martyr in a continual succession of ever more difficult trials, relieved by only a few intervals of short-lived triumph and glory.
Etc had to experience the cruelty of Jews and others being persecuted in spite of his protests, then himself being thrown into a Nazi concentration camp and, after a brief period of freedom, being arrested anew, this time by the Soviets. They submitted him to the vilest physical and drug tortures, to the humiliation of appearing as a stupefied automat in the eyes of the whole world at his farcical trial.
During the few days of Hungary's liberation from the Moscow yoke he addressed it with one of the great speeches of the age, on the place of Christianity in a genuinely progressive society. But the Red Army was soon back in Hungary and or the Cardinal this meant fresh confinement inside the American Embassy in Budapest.
Later he was morally forced by Washington and the Vatican to go into exile and was stripped of his dignity of Prince Primate. while he witnessed his new masters in Rome surrender to the atheist tyranny most of the positions and principles of Christianity which he had defended at the cost of a whole life in detention and suffering, This book should be, therefore, in this dark age of ours, upon the bed table deny civilised creature.
J. M. Charles-Roux