The Good Shepherd Of Hungary
by Rev. Robert J. Hermley
Stories for Life Index
In a world which constantly tells us that we must give in to the majority opinion even when that opinion is morally wrong, it is refreshing to meet heroic individuals who refuse to do so. Such are persons who personally understand the shoddy reasoning of the crowd but are individually against the immoral decision it follows, and no one will make them budge once they have discovered that such an action is immoral and in defiance of God's law. St. Thomas More was such a person, and in our lifetime we have the example of another giant of a man, in Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty.
Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned by the Nazis for not cooperating with them in the brutal treatment of the Hungarian people. They called this treason. He even had the courage to hide Jews in his cellar at great risk to himself and to the other Catholic clergy. Although his lineage had been German, he changed his German family name from Joseph Pehm to Mindszenty to show the Germans he wanted no favors. He was Hungarian.
No sooner had the Nazis been driven out of Hungary than the communists came in to subdue and rape the noble population. They began to systematically destroy and plunder the Catholic Church because it was the greatest obstacle to a Communist take-over. Mindszenty was the Cardinal Primate, so he became the Russians' number one target.
Friends begged him to leave his native Hungary and to direct the Church and clergy from exile, but he said that only a hired sheep-hand fled when the wolves came. Mindszenty was not only a good shepherd, he was a great one.
In a sham trial of treason, the Communists condemned him, subjected him to indescribable torture, including mind-altering drugs and psychological warfare, but he never gave in. They could foil him, but they never broke his will.
When the Freedom Fighters drove out the Russians briefly in 1956, they freed Cardinal Mindszenty and rode him in triumph through Budapest as a national treasure to show him their debt of gratitude.
Freedom was short-lived and the Russians returned, taking back Hungary knee-deep in the noble Freedom Fighters' blood. The Cardinal fled to the American Embassy, where he lived for fifteen years.
The Holy See then asked him to go into exile in Austria. The saintly cardinal agreed. He died in Austria but the mortal remains of this great Cardinal and patriot were recently returned to Hungary - a fitting resting place for this heroic Cardinal, Catholic leader, and good shepherd of the noble Hungarian people.