For those in the West who divinize anti-migrant Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as the savior of “Christian Europe”, the Bishop of Vác, Miklós Beer, has some stern words of warning. Orbán’s plans to make homelessness a crime in Hungary are “dangerous”, the prelate has declared, and not at all what either Pope Francis or Jesus Christ would do. Not only that, however, but Prime Minister Orbán’s claim to be carrying out a “Christian” political program in general is nothing short of a travesty that “devalues” the example of the Gospel.
Last month Hungary’s lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that makes living temporarily or permanently in public spaces a crime punishable by a fine, in the first instance, and by jail, for repeat offenders. A policy that Beer has condemned not only as ineffective but also inhumane. “The problem of homelessness cannot be solved by regulations”, said the bishop in an interview with Vasárnapi Hírek, because getting people off the streets requires “asking, in the first place, what we can do for them as a community: as institutions, organizations, and as the Church”. More than that, though, for Beer the new law will only make things worse, since if the homeless were suddenly to disappear from public view “people might think there’s no problem anymore and that it’s no longer necessary to do something about it”. “On the contrary, it is high time we realized that this is a task for all of us, that people’s lives are at stake here“, continued the prelate.
“I’m thinking of calling myself not a Christian but a follower of the Nazarene”But why is Orbán going after the homeless? Other clauses in the constitutional amendment passed in June make it obligatory for public authorities to preserve “the make-up of the Hungarian population” and to “defend Christian culture”. Duties both that necessitate a crack-down on the homeless population, composed principally of migrants and Roma. But if penalizing these groups is part of “Christian culture”, Bishop Beer wants nothing to do with it, and not least of all because this misappropriation and devaluation of the Gospel is the “biggest tragedy” facing Hungary today.
“The word ‘Christian’ means one thing when a politician uses it, and something else when a believer understands it as an assignment”, said the prelate, criticising the extent to which the idea of “Christianity” is presently being abused in the country. Such is his aversion to the “Christian” values espoused by Orbán and other politicians, in fact, that Beer has come to contemplate drastic measures. “I’m thinking of calling myself not a Christian but a follower of the Nazarene”, whose example teaches us to not to parrot religious slogans but above all to “treat each other with patience, understanding and helpfulness”, confessed the bishop.
This is not the first time Bishop Beer has stood up for the disadvantaged in Hungarian society. In 2017, for example, he put up in his church quarters in Vác three asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Cuba, saying that the “entire Hungarian society… should accept those who knock on the door, and should not humiliate them“.