February 8, 1949: Roman Catholic Cardinal József Mindszenty is sentenced for treason. Mindszenty was born in 1892 in Csehimindszent, Vas County, Austria-Hungary. He was ordained a priest in June 1915. He published his first book, Motherhood, in 1917. He was first arrested on February 9, 1919 and held until the fall of the Communist Bela Kun government on July 31. On March 25, 1944 he was consecrated bishop of Veszprem. He was again arrested on November 27, 1944 for his opposition to the Arrow Cross government’s plan to house soldiers in parts of his official palace. He was released when that government entity fell in April 1945. He was appointed archbishop on September 15, 1945 and made a cardinal on February 21, 1946. This made him head of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary.
The ruling Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party were appalled by the new cardinal who continued to use old aristocratic titles even after they were outlawed in 1946. They refused to meet demands for compensation when the State confiscated Church-owned farmlands when they attempted to abolish private farm ownership. The Church used income from these to support many of their outreach programs and the takeover of their lands left the programs unfunded. Cardinal Mindszenty fought against the seizure of parochial schools and their forced teachings of Marxist-Leninism. In 1948, religious orders were banned by the government and the cardinal and his Church were accused of being a reactionary force against Fascism.
On December 26, 1948, Mindszenty was arrested and accused of treason, conspiracy, and other offenses against the new People’s Republic of Hungary, a socialist government under the influence of the Soviet Union. Shortly before his arrest, he wrote that he was innocent of all charges and any confessions to crimes would be under duress. He was subjected to various methods of torture until he did confess to a number of bizarre crimes. His trial began on February 3, 1949 with Mindszenty showing visible signs of the torture he had endured. On this day, he was sentenced to life in prison for treason and espionage. On February 20, 1949 Pope Pius XII announced excommunication of all person involved in the trial and conviction of Mindszenty.
On October 30, 1956 Mindszenty was released from prison. He returned to Budapest and praised insurgents and recent anti-Communist developments. When the Soviets invaded Hungary on November 4, 1956 to restore the Communist government, Mindszenty sought and was granted political asylum at the United States embassy in Budapest. Pope Paul VI declared Mindszenty a “victim of history” instead of communism and the Hungarian government allowed him to leave the country. On October 23, 1971 Mindszenty took up residence in Vienna, Austria. Most bishops retire around age 75 but Mindszenty did not and in December 1973 he was stripped of his title at age 81. However, the cardinal seat was not filled until he died on May 6, 1975 at the age of 83. He remained uncompromising in his stand against fascism and communism until his death.
Do you want a Church that remains silent when She should speak; that diminishes the law of God where she is called to proclaim it loudly, wanting to accommodate it to the will of man?
Do you want a Church that departs from the unshakable foundations upon which Christ founded Her, taking the easy way of adapting Herself to the opinion of the day; a Church that is a prey to current trends; a Church that does not condemn the suppression of conscience and does not stand up for the just liberty of the people; a Church that locks Herself up within the four walls of Her temple in unseemly sycophancy, forgetting the divine mission received from Christ: ‘Go out the crossroads and preach the people’?
Beloved sons and daughters! Spiritual heirs of numberless confessors and martyrs! Is this the Church you venerate and love? Would you recognize in such a Church the features of your Mother? Would you be able to imagine a Successor of St. Peter submitting to such demands? – all from Pope Pius XII’s speech supporting his excommunication decree
The Church asks for no secular protection; it seeks shelter under the protection of God alone. – József Mindszenty
Also on this day: Orangeburg, South Carolina – In 1968, the Orangeburg massacre took place.
Stars and Stripes – In 1918, the US military newspaper resumed publication.
The Devil’s Footprints – In 1855, the Devil’s Footprints appeared.
Time is on Our Side – In 1879, the idea of time zones was presented.
“Off With Her Head,” Said the Queen – In 1857, Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded.