Toward a More Just and Brotherly World Pastoral Letter of the Hungarian Bishops' Conference to the Faithful and all Men of Good Will on the State of the Hungarian Society INTRODUCTION The
purpose of the pastoral letter and its recipients 1. The mission of the Church
is to proclaim the Gospel in every historical setting,
to show the way toward eternity and to give us pointers
with this knowledge in mind in the forming of our terrestrial
life. On the millecentenary of Hungary's existence
and the millenium of Hungarian Christianity, this
vocation imposes on us Catholic Hungarians the duty
to review the current state of our homeland, the life
of those who live here and those hope-filled prospects
and possibilities which the political changes of 1989-1990
revealed to us, but also to consider the worries
which oppress society on the threshold of a new millenium. 2. Europe, and within it Hungary,
has undergone profound changes in the past years.
Several countries of this continent, including ours,
have regained their freedom and independence. They
were able to regain control over their fate and initiate
the building of a more humane and happier future. Seeing
these changes, we render thanks to God and thank with
gratitude of all those who - accepting
all fatigue and risk - prepared and executed this process. 3. A new era has started in the
history of Hungary. In 1989-1990 many of us were filled
with the hope that, after the cessation of the decades-long
dependence on foreigners, the dictatorial one-party
system and the creation of a democratic and constitutional
state, our country would enjoy prosperity. Soon, however,
we realized that the Promised Land is still distant.
Many were filled with the illusion that political freedom
automatically meant progress. It took years before
the ruin caused by the past decades was assessed not
only in the political, social and economic life but
also on the morals and values of the population. Naturally,
neither can we forget those values which were and are
still being upheld by many among us. Despite this,
it will take more time to clarify on which path the
country has to progress, which steps it has to take
to create the conditions necessary for a
free and happy life for every citizen and strata of our society. 4. Of course, in this radically-altered,
socio-political situation, many differing concepts
surfaced as to how the emerging Hungarian democracy
should be shaped. It is therefore very regrettable
that even after several years it has not been possible
to reach an agreement regarding numerous basic questions.
No real social consensus, which takes into consideration
the long-range interests of the country, has arisen.
Even more painful is that - taking advantage of the
uncertainties which accompany these changes - more
than once the interests of individuals and different
social groups clashed. Many merely asserted their own
advantage; others attempted to garner the largest possible
amount of political power or share of society's wealth,
or even both. With these symptoms it is impossible
not to discern as a results the policies of the past
decades. Individuals and groups were isolated from
each other on purpose, the majority of social organizations
- among them the ecclesiastical ones - were disbanded;
those left in existence were prevented from functioning;
the contacts of public life were subjected to central
guidance. All these steps
led to the atomization of society and country-wide distrust. 5. The factors listed above forced
us in the past years to confront increasingly serious
symptoms of a crisis despite positive changes and heartening
developments in many areas. From the beginning, the
Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference - prompted by
its sense of responsibility for the country which is
inspired by the mission of Christ - attentively observed
the events taking place. It considers that the duty
to raise its voice at this historic junction can no
longer be postponed in order to evaluate the economic,
social and cultural condition of the country in the
light of the Gospel. Hence, it now turns to the Catholic
faithful and to every Hungarian of good will with this
pastoral letter. It does this in order to follow the
will of Christ in the spirit of the Second Vatican
Council and by associating itself with the worries
and joys of every individual: "There is no real human
emotion which finds no echo in the disciples of Christ".
(GS 1) It wishes to partake in the uncovering of our
common worries, in the search of the means leading
to their solution, offering those values and views
which the teachings of the Church contain: "I most
especially desire that the social teaching be made
known and applied in those countries in which uncertainties
loom large after the fall of the socialism" (CCA 56),
writes Pope John Paul II. His words
gain even more potency his approaching second visit to Hungary. 6. Our words are primarily meant
for the faithful. However, we also wish to address
all citizens of our country, believers and nonbelievers
alike, who care for the welfare of their homeland and
who struggle for the building of a more free and more
humane world. We trust that our words of appeal will
be heard by as many as possible and that they will
accept the proffered dialogue, the possibility for cooperation. We address the intelligentsia
with particular emphasis. We simultaneously turn to
all Christian intellectuals, reminding them of their
special responsibility, and to those not committed
to Christianity, so
that we may work toward our common goals in even greater unity. Evangelization and the building of society 7. There will be those who
will ask why our episcopal conference expresses its
opinion in social and economic matters since the mission
of the Church is evangelization. The proclamation
of the Gospel, however, does not exclude but rather
includes the duty of the Christian community to strive
in unison for the improvement of each individual's
life, the building of a more just and brotherly society.
"The announcement of the social teachings and its promulgation
is truly part of the Church's mission to evangelize,
of the Christian message, since it reveals its concrete
requirements in societal life and makes daily work
and the struggle for justice a part of the witness
laid down about the Redeeming Christ. At the same time,
it is the font of unity and peace in those conflicts,
which unavoidably occur in economic and social areas." (CA 5) 8. The Gospel is the
Good News not only for the individual but also for society: a) Making the world more
beautiful and better is part of the Christian vocation.
The redeeming work of Christ, oriented toward the salvation
of man, also includes the renewal of this world. The
mission of the Church therefore is not only to bring
Christ's message and grace to mankind but also to penetrate
the affairs of this world with the spirit of the Gospel (AA 5). b) In the interest of this,
the Church - particularly during the past century -
strove to show the way in concrete social questions
on the basis of evangelical values, or rather to raise
its prophetic voice repeatedly. "The Church, in defined
human situations, whether of the individual or the
community, on national or international levels, has
to raise its voice and therefore develops real instruction
and norms of instruction, which make it possible for
her to analyze social realities, to express an opinion
and to offer guiding
principles for the solution of emerging problems." (CA 5) c) Participation in social
activity is a universal human and Christian duty. "The
intention to participate in common initiatives has
to be awakened in everyone." (GS 31). "All followers
of Christ should realize that they
have a special vocation in political communities." (GS 75)
Toward a More Just
of the Hungarian Bishops' Conference
to the Faithful
and all Men of Good Will
on the State of the Hungarian Society
The purpose of the pastoral letter and its recipients
1. The mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel in every historical setting, to show the way toward eternity and to give us pointers with this knowledge in mind in the forming of our terrestrial life. On the millecentenary of Hungary's existence and the millenium of Hungarian Christianity, this vocation imposes on us Catholic Hungarians the duty to review the current state of our homeland, the life of those who live here and those hope-filled prospects and possibilities which the political changes of 1989-1990 revealed to us, but also to consider the worries which oppress society on the threshold of a new millenium.
2. Europe, and within it Hungary, has undergone profound changes in the past years. Several countries of this continent, including ours, have regained their freedom and independence. They were able to regain control over their fate and initiate the building of a more humane and happier future. Seeing these changes, we render thanks to God and thank with gratitude of all those who - accepting all fatigue and risk - prepared and executed this process.
3. A new era has started in the history of Hungary. In 1989-1990 many of us were filled with the hope that, after the cessation of the decades-long dependence on foreigners, the dictatorial one-party system and the creation of a democratic and constitutional state, our country would enjoy prosperity. Soon, however, we realized that the Promised Land is still distant. Many were filled with the illusion that political freedom automatically meant progress. It took years before the ruin caused by the past decades was assessed not only in the political, social and economic life but also on the morals and values of the population. Naturally, neither can we forget those values which were and are still being upheld by many among us. Despite this, it will take more time to clarify on which path the country has to progress, which steps it has to take to create the conditions necessary for a free and happy life for every citizen and strata of our society.
4. Of course, in this radically-altered, socio-political situation, many differing concepts surfaced as to how the emerging Hungarian democracy should be shaped. It is therefore very regrettable that even after several years it has not been possible to reach an agreement regarding numerous basic questions. No real social consensus, which takes into consideration the long-range interests of the country, has arisen. Even more painful is that - taking advantage of the uncertainties which accompany these changes - more than once the interests of individuals and different social groups clashed. Many merely asserted their own advantage; others attempted to garner the largest possible amount of political power or share of society's wealth, or even both. With these symptoms it is impossible not to discern as a results the policies of the past decades. Individuals and groups were isolated from each other on purpose, the majority of social organizations - among them the ecclesiastical ones - were disbanded; those left in existence were prevented from functioning; the contacts of public life were subjected to central guidance. All these steps led to the atomization of society and country-wide distrust.
5. The factors listed above forced us in the past years to confront increasingly serious symptoms of a crisis despite positive changes and heartening developments in many areas. From the beginning, the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference - prompted by its sense of responsibility for the country which is inspired by the mission of Christ - attentively observed the events taking place. It considers that the duty to raise its voice at this historic junction can no longer be postponed in order to evaluate the economic, social and cultural condition of the country in the light of the Gospel. Hence, it now turns to the Catholic faithful and to every Hungarian of good will with this pastoral letter. It does this in order to follow the will of Christ in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and by associating itself with the worries and joys of every individual: "There is no real human emotion which finds no echo in the disciples of Christ". (GS 1) It wishes to partake in the uncovering of our common worries, in the search of the means leading to their solution, offering those values and views which the teachings of the Church contain: "I most especially desire that the social teaching be made known and applied in those countries in which uncertainties loom large after the fall of the socialism" (CCA 56), writes Pope John Paul II. His words gain even more potency his approaching second visit to Hungary.
6. Our words are primarily meant for the faithful. However, we also wish to address all citizens of our country, believers and nonbelievers alike, who care for the welfare of their homeland and who struggle for the building of a more free and more humane world. We trust that our words of appeal will be heard by as many as possible and that they will accept the proffered dialogue, the possibility for cooperation.
We address the intelligentsia with particular emphasis. We simultaneously turn to all Christian intellectuals, reminding them of their special responsibility, and to those not committed to Christianity, so that we may work toward our common goals in even greater unity.
Evangelization and the building of society
7. There will be those who will ask why our episcopal conference expresses its opinion in social and economic matters since the mission of the Church is evangelization. The proclamation of the Gospel, however, does not exclude but rather includes the duty of the Christian community to strive in unison for the improvement of each individual's life, the building of a more just and brotherly society. "The announcement of the social teachings and its promulgation is truly part of the Church's mission to evangelize, of the Christian message, since it reveals its concrete requirements in societal life and makes daily work and the struggle for justice a part of the witness laid down about the Redeeming Christ. At the same time, it is the font of unity and peace in those conflicts, which unavoidably occur in economic and social areas." (CA 5)
8. The Gospel is the Good News not only for the individual but also for society:
a) Making the world more beautiful and better is part of the Christian vocation. The redeeming work of Christ, oriented toward the salvation of man, also includes the renewal of this world. The mission of the Church therefore is not only to bring Christ's message and grace to mankind but also to penetrate and perfect the affairs of this world with the spirit of the Gospel (AA 5).
b) In the interest of this, the Church - particularly during the past century - strove to show the way in concrete social questions on the basis of evangelical values, or rather to raise its prophetic voice repeatedly. "The Church, in defined human situations, whether of the individual or the community, on national or international levels, has to raise its voice and therefore develops real instruction and norms of instruction, which make it possible for her to analyze social realities, to express an opinion and to offer guiding principles for the solution of emerging problems." (CA 5)
c) Participation in social activity is a universal human and Christian duty. "The intention to participate in common initiatives has to be awakened in everyone." (GS 31). "All followers of Christ should realize that they have a special vocation in political communities." (GS 75)
The purpose of the pastoral letter and its topics
9. By now it has become clear that not only political and economic changes were and are taking place in this country. We are the participants in much more complex - partly constructive, partly destructive - events. Without examining, defining, exploring the causes and outlining the possibilities we can scarcely lay the foundations for the future. In order to transform the country effectively we have to take stock as to what we have inherited from the past decades. This has partly been done - especially in the economic sphere - but in many respects it has not yet been researched. It is not our purpose to find scapegoats, to pillory certain groups for damage caused, but to join forces in working for the transformation of not only the economic, social and political life but also its system of values (including moral ones) so that we may help everyone in creating a better, more humane life for all those who live in this country, without forgetting those Hungarians who live outside our frontiers.
10. Believers and nonbelievers alike have to cooperate for the benefit of the individual and for all of us. This common effort may not be appropriated by party-affiliated interests. When the Hungarian Catholic Episcopal Conference raises its voice it does not wish to increase the power of the Church, it does not wish to force its views on society but rather, aware of its responsibility, it wishes to participate in the building of the country and searches for approaches useful to all society, without interfering in party politics under the pretext of a public role. "Due to its duty and propriety, the Church does not mingle with the political community and is not tied to any political system..." (GS 76)
11. In this pastoral letter we naturally give an outline of the current situation in Hungary in the light of Catholic social teaching. Among the numerous and apparent problems we direct our attention to the economic, political and social life, but especially to the social life, but especially to the social conditions; finally, we raise certain questions concerning culture and education. These topics more or less are connected; for this reason it is unavoidable that some - depending on the focus - occur in several chapters. For each topic the reader will find a short description of present Hungarian conditions. After this - without aiming for completeness - a few deductions deriving from the Christian view of humanity and the Church's social teaching will follow. It is obviously not the Church's mission to work out a complete plan of action for the solution of the social, economic and cultural problems of our age. The perspectives mentioned nevertheless may help professionals and all engaged members of society in finding solutions.
We were careful in formulating our ideas in such a way as to be intelligible to both believers and the secular segment of our society. We speak of this life, in every-day language. Our topics were based on professional reasoning, but for the sake of being understood we tried to avoid technical terms.
12. It is our hope that our words will awaken the interest of the faithful and that of all men of good will. We also trust that, having read this text, they will pursue these thoughts, and, if they consider it necessary, more precise formulations will arise so that we may consider further the way to real solutions. Then, while looking for solutions, we may use those Christian teachings of the Church which are applicable to our Hungarian conditions, and also identify those which can be considered the proper task of the Church. We trust that the common work, prompted by this pastoral letter, to analyze today's Hungarian society will encourage Christians to shoulder responsibility for themselves and for their fellow men, thus initiating a more widely-spread social cooperation, so that after reflection - within the Church as well - action will follow, and Hungary - profiting by this unique historical opportunity - will progress on the road to a happier future.
1. Social Conditions and Health
Social tensions and poverty
13. Radical social, political and economic changes are taking place in Hungary today. These profound changes are accompanied by great difficulties and by crises which undermine the life of our society. The burden of this is borne by a significant part of society, which is victimized by great losses and not rarely by agonizing sacrifice. The victims of this change-over are numerous individuals suffering from illness, loneliness, existential uncertainty, living-standard problems, not rarely from deprivation of civil rights, homelessness, unemployment and ostracism. The disintegration of the social security system, which was upheld until the end of the 1980's, is worrisome even if there are economic and other reasons for its justification since its financing was largely made possible by [foreign - trl.] loans and it was illusory in many respects.
14. Among the gravest ills of our country is the growing poverty, characterized by the alarming growth of those deprived. More and more individuals lack proper housing, clothing, nutrition and other requisites for dignified human existence. The process of impoverishment is increasing rapidly: Even the World Bank determined that in 1989 the proportion of the poor was 5% of the total population; by 1993 this figure has risen fivefold. Taking the KSH's (Central Statistical Office?) calculations of minimum subsistence as the basis, in the 1980's one million, in 1992 two million and in 1995 almost 3,5 million persons were living under the minimum subsistence level.
15. The social tensions created during the one-party regime have not decreased but have rather increased. It has not been possible to arrest the processes which resulted in grave social inequalities; rather, during the switch to a market economy they have been intensified and have assumed new forms, thus significantly increasing the rift between a suddenly and disproportionately thin upper layer and the general population whose struggle with its living conditions is ever increasing. This worldwide trend is now appearing in our country: the rich are richer, the poor are even poorer. The difference between the living standards of rich and poor was greater on the average in 1995 than in Western European countries although Hungary is among the smallest in Eastern Europe.
16. A particularly critical situation is arising in our society, now undergoing this change, because the reorganization of those entities providing social services and health insurance coincides with the economic relapse and the drastic decrease of funds available for distribution. The effectiveness of the social safety-net provided during the one-party regime has been lost. New and adequate provisions for the altered social-economic conditions function only partially and in many respects have not even been formulated.
A conspicuous problem among those listed above is the fact that the provision of those services which are necessary for those who are permanently unemployed, require living subsidies or are no longer entitled to welfare payments is only fractionally resolved.
17. The reform of the state budget, as also experienced in richer Western European countries, is unavoidable. In our case, the decrease of public spending and the structural adjustments co-mingle. The former are not accompanied by well-considered structural reforms, or they are protracted for too long a period. However, the effect of the restrictions are felt immediately, living conditions are aggravated, while the purpose of these sacrifices is not clear.
18. During the change, some social groups have been put in a particularly perilous situation on several counts.
The main cause of the impoverishment lies in growing unemployment. Estimates of its size diverge, but the number of those who are unemployed among the labor-age population is about 10% which approximates Western European averages. Conversion to market economy goes in hand with the elimination of the early practice of "within-the-gates" unemployment, the more rational organization of the working place and production. An unavoidable accompanying symptom of modernization is that many jobs are lost or are altered, thereby requiring better training of which many are incapable of achieving. It is unacceptable, however, that this be considered a mere economic question.
Children are in the most defenseless position. In 1994, 45% of those under 19 years of age lived in households in which the per-capita income was less than the subsistence level. In the case of foster children, the risk of sinking to poverty level is even greater. In the past years, with the worsening economic and social conditions, the impoverishing impact of taking foster children has increased and is mainly due to government regulations which affect families with foster children. It is not acceptable that the taking in of several children should require exceptional heroism and mandatory poverty. The worth of family subsidies has sunk significantly in recent years and many child-related allowances have been terminated.
One of the most substantial foundations of the nation's future are those families, which not only bear children but also rear them: a healthy family environment not only guarantees a happy childhood - the greatest gift to children - but is the most effective background for the education of useful and valuable citizens for society.
Induced abortions are requested in large measure due to social reasons. The grave - for many desperate - social conditions are also responsible for the number of induced abortions which was around 77,000 in 1995. Most often it was mothers between 20-29 years of age with three or more children who interrupted their pregnancies, a direct result of the regulations put into effect in the spring of 1995, which terminated numerous earlier socio-political allowances, in such a way that the population was not able to prepare itself for the new conditions. Parents accepting a child are justified in demanding increased social subsidies - material and moral support - so that every child, either born or about to be born, is assured of equal opportunities.
In recent years, the situation of those elderly living on retirement income has deteriorated significantly. The purchasing value of pensions has shrunk even more than that of salaries. The real worth of retirement income per person has decreased by 23%. Inflation, and particularly the rapid rise of the cost of medicines, hits the sick and the elderly hardest. We cannot shut our eyes to the painful sight that those generations, which survived the war and the sufferings of the years which followed it, those who spent years in honest work, now, in the last segment of their life, should confront ever growing financial worries. Beside their advanced age, loneliness bears down upon them, lack of expectations, the knowledge of being superfluous: they feel - prompted by not infrequent public opinion and media innuendoes - that they are only a burden to others. The life of many is not only embittered but also shortened since they are unable to take care of their own survival. The number of retirees approaches 3 million, and this number will continually increase in future years. The general aging of the population adds to this problem and puts an ever-growing financial burden on society.
Minority policies compare well with international practice, but we cannot ignore that for the People of Rome the chances for humane living standards are substantially lower than those for other societal groups. As an illustration, we mention a single data from 1995: unemployment among working-age non-Romans is 10.6%, while among Romans of the same age group the figure is 45.5%. In the coming era more attention will have to be given to the problems of minorities. Today, we do not attach importance to the presence of refugees and exiles in our country, whereas we will have to face the probable increase in their numbers sooner or later.
The number of homeless is increasing rapidly, therefore, the tasks associated with them are also growing: presently 30-40,000 individuals live without a suitable home, but we do not possess accurate data.
Population numbers and general health
19. The decrease in population, first noticed in 1981, has continued until today: in the past 15 years, at an accelerated rate, half a million citizens have been lost. Since 1990, the figure has reached 160,000. The birth rate in 1995 was scarcely above 1.1% while mortality barely decreased. The increase in life expectancy stopped abruptly in 1982 and has sunk since then progressively. Life expectancy at birth has also dropped, especially among men (currently it is 64.8 years, whereas in Austria it is 72.9 years); compared to the rest of Europe, here too we occupy the last place. Mortality among men has risen to rates experienced approximately 60 years ago. Due to its mortality rates Hungary is one of the lowest placed in Europe; only Russia, and other former Soviet successor-states and Romania are behind it.
This distressing situation is further worsened by the chronic disruption of the health insurance, the raising of the retirement age almost to the equivalent of the sinking average life expectancy and the worsening of the health services. The further sinking of the already low number of live births, the high death rate among older age groups as well as that among the middle-aged play a main role in the overall decrease of the population. The deterioration of the demographic conditions truly threatens our national existence to catastrophic proportions.
20. The health of our population is deteriorating dangerously, partly because of exterior factors, partly because of an unhealthy life style, which is often self-exploiting or even self-destructive. In the 90's the number of those suffering from depression among the psychologically ill grew most dramatically. The number of heart, vascular and cancerous illnesses is extremely high in Hungary. Worldwide tuberculosis has reappeared again, but especially so in Hungary. Its causes are commonly known: unhealthy, lack of proper nutrition, poor hygienic conditions, total lack of or insufficient exercise. Many ruin their health with drink and smoking. The number of alcoholics has doubled in the 90's: 10-12% of the adult population, about 800,000 individuals, can be classified as alcoholics. The consumption of drugs is steadily spreading, most of all among the youth. Suicide is an enduring and very alarming phenomenon, indicating grave damages in mental health. At the beginning of the 80's Hungary stood by far in the worst place worldwide (4.5%/). From the middle 80's the number of suicides decreased (in 1995 it was only 3.43%/), but even so it is still the highest in the world.
No policies, supported by suitable financial resources, concerning the population growth have emerged; there is no circumspect, conceptual, family-centered projection, coordinated on the economic or social level; in fact, the basic vision for the future is missing.
The worsening of public safety
21. The most visible and regrettable indicator of public morals is the worsening of public safety on a large scale; this fact is aggravated by the seriousness and violent nature of the crimes committed, particularly in the past six years, and their accelerating rate of growth. The number of crimes made public in 1985 was 166,000, in 1989 225,000, in 1995 already 502,000; i.e. in the past ten years they have tripled, and in the past five years it has doubled. The consumption of drugs assumes ever greater proportions and with it, the associated criminality. More provocatively and ostentatiously, mass prostitution has appeared, threatening the reputation of the nation. The forces responsible for the maintenance of public order are, despite all their efforts, inadequate for this task, especially because the corrupt social morals and the re-establishment of disintegrated values is not simply an administrative task.
The law-abiding citizens who make up the larger part of the population thus have to endure ever greater danger since neither they nor their relatives are secure in body or possessions. The atmosphere of fear damages our very environment. Under the influence of fear generated by this criminality we hide behind locks and grills and try to accustom ourselves to the fact that only by overcoming our ingrained fear can we step into the street. This, however, brings no solution and leads only to the further disintegration of the community.
In their present state. the prisons are incapable of suitably preparing the prisoners for normal living conditions after their release, either from the convicts' or from society's point of view. If we fence our fellow men out of society we deprive them even of a chance to lead a more worthy life.
22. A serious obstacle to slowing criminality, decreasing social inequality and launching enterprise is corruption, which threads its way through the various areas of economic, political, even social life. The abuses in many cases are not even visible since they occur under multiple, hidden layers. Nevertheless, on the middle and upper levels, one can frequently witness abuses during the awarding of contracts, loans or the distribution of public funds, by influencing the decision-makers either financially or by other means without punishment. Until sufficient and effective steps are taken to put an end to this practice just, social conditions can scarcely develop.
B. Views and Recommendations
The commitment to the poor
23. The Church, following the example and the commandment of its Founder, has to care with exceptional charity for the poor, the deprived and the oppressed. This is one of the most important precepts of Catholic social teaching and which has appeared as an ever more decisive and urgent command for the past century. "In the defense of individual liberty, the fate of the lower classes and the poor have to be considered first. The rich are surrounded by their bastions and thus need the protection of the state less, while the masses of the poor, with no means for the defense of their interests at their disposal, can rely on the state alone" - declared Pope Leo III (RN 29). The Church therefore raises its voice primarily for those who are unable to express and defend their interests or needs.
John Paul II emphasizes the necessity of "the commitment to the poor and particular charity toward them". "Because of the particular charity toward the poor and the considerations arising out of this, we cannot ignore the hungry, the beggars, the homeless, those needing medical help, but most of all the immeasurable masses of all those who live without expectations... If we do not acknowledge this, we resemble the rich man, who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus, who lay at his door." (SRS 42)
"The Church is aware that its social message gains credibility more by the testimonial of deeds than by its structural unity or interior logic. This conviction inspires it when it embraces the poor, an act which is not exclusive and does not close out any other group. .... It is generally known that in modern society there are numerous varieties of poverty: not only material but also cultural and religious poverty are known to us. Love toward the poor, a basic characteristic and a lasting element of its inheritance, inspires the Church to turn toward the world in which, despite technical and economic developments, the danger exists that poverty will assume gigantic proportions." (CA 57)
The three pillars of the Church's social teaching
24. We quote three points of the Church's teaching especially: these have to be considered in every social and economic reform if it is to achieve its purpose, namely the common good. These are: the primary dignity of a person, and the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
The starting point of Christian social teaching is the person, who is at the same time an individual and a social being. For the personality, both components are indispensable. "The dignity of the human person is rooted in his being created in the image and likeness of God, and he gains his fulfillment in his invitation to divine happiness." (KEK 1700). "The person is the basis, subject and purpose of every social institution." (GS 25). No one has the right to sacrifice the person for the supposed good of society, but conversely: the person is also mutilated when he separates his own interest from his communal existence.
The respect of the person - human dignity - is the right of every human creature, no matter to what unfortunate group he may belong, whether the source of his misfortune is the decrease of physical strength, or economic or political impotence, homelessness, even moral shortcomings or sins. The Church stands up for social outcasts, for those who do not belong anywhere and opposes every discrimination in the interest of furthering equal opportunity. It considers differentiating between the so-called "worthy" and "unworthy" poor and those pushed to the perimeters of society "through their own fault" or "through no fault of their own" as senseless and damaging. Naturally, living off others as parasites has to be prevented, primarily by teaching honesty and responsibility to all.
25. The second basic principle of the Church's social teaching is solidarity: man can unfold [his talents - transl.] with the help of the community, that is, he depends on others; at the same time, he too has to contribute to the development of the community and has to help the life of others. The principle of solidarity presupposes an orderly society, orderly institutions, mandates for mutual help, the drawing up of a framework for communal living and the continuous improvement of all of the above. Solidarity is building community, developing the functions of society, rendering its institutions more effective; it is accepting responsibility for persons, affairs and processes. At the same time, the principle of solidarity contains more general social and ethical norms: service of the common good and the display of justice.
The requirement for solidarity in Christian social teaching originates in love. Concrete application of this duty in our day requires that all those who were pushed to the edge - for whatever reason - be given the necessary help toward a more humane life.
26. The third pillar of Christian social teaching is the principle of subsidiarity: "What single individuals are capable of achieving on their own may not be entrusted to the community; similarly, it is illegal to transfer to a bigger and better organized association all that which a smaller community, organized on a lower level, is capable of achieving and providing. At the same time, it is a serious sin to upturn the order of things since every social activity by its nature and inherent strength is obliged to help - to subsidize - certain sections of society but may never dismantle or absorb them. (QA 79). And this goes together with the statement that "the purpose to do their share is the common enterprise be awakened in everyone". (GS 31).
27. The principles of solidarity and subsidiarity have to be realized in every healthy society. Much effort is needed in Hungary for these principles to develop. Their realization cannot be expected merely by the structural reorganization of either economic or even political life. Basic changes in our way of thinking and way of life have to take place. A new philosophy of life has to be introduced, one which is enterprising, diligent and frugal, which respects other persons and accepts communality.
In the past decades, the party-state which possessed overdimensional power, paternized its subjects as one would those under-aged, depriving them of independent thought, personal initiative or free and responsible action. From the principle of subsidiary it follows that those in a difficult situation should not expect help from others only but should attempt everything in the interest of their own improvement. But this does not imply that the state should leave to their own devices those who - for whatever reason - are incapable of caring for themselves. In case of need and taking note of social standpoints, the state has to insert itself into economic processes, especially when private initiatives cannot establish the institutions to effectively serve the common and individual good. Laws are needed which will prevent the loss of ground of such individuals (the local minorities, handicapped, injured and maimed) in any area, whether economic, cultural or political.
The values of social justice and worthiness have to be considered with the expansion of the market mechanism so that they are in harmony with the requirements of the market economy and the long-range interests of society as a whole. This is the way to realize a social market economy: the transformation is difficult and slow, but the process can and must be initiated and accelerated by suitable measures.
Taking responsibility and initiative
28. "[the Church - transl.] cannot refuse the duties entrusted to it by God: not to judge in technical questions for which it neither disposes of the proper means nor has a mission, but rather to put its power into the scale in all such things which are related to moral law." (QA 41). Keeping this statement in mind, we outline a few suggestions.
29. The state government, local governments, civilian organizations and unions representing the interests of the workers and employers alike have to develop a coordinated and consistent program against impoverishment and illegal acquisition of wealth.
30. The establishment of a contemporary social market economy, mingling the principles of welfare and reasonable economic requirements is necessary. The requisite for this is that the economic policies and social policies be interconnected, and that the economic policies never become pre-eminent. The development of the economy and wealth cannot be an end unto itself but must serve the person and the whole of society. The entire population has to be considered the 'common property' of society, and its greatest treasure. The child, the family, the very old and severely handicapped are also a part of the common good: for their protection and care - and the associated expenses - every member of society has to accept his proportionate responsibility. The progression, which makes is impossible for these groups to overcome their own economic and social disadvantages, has to be arrested as best possible so that by starting a more humane life these individuals may join society.
31. The effectiveness of certain social institutions is seriously influenced by numerous other factors, especially the various aid-program systems. Some urgent tasks among many are the management of living conditions, the development of public education and employment, the coordination of [state] health insurance, voluntary self-insurance as well as social welfare and the activities of social movements. The activities of the voluntary aid societies have to be supported. The system of state welfare has to be examined so that it will not be humiliating and offensive to human dignity, and that beyond direct help, it will provide for the personal and financial independence of those in need. The poorest have to be helped to obtain the minimum income (national minimum) needed for their survival, and without being an unfair burden on the other members of society. During the period of transformation, the state has to pay particular attention in order to prevent the lowering of living standards among those who are honestly self-supporting.
32. The Church has repeatedly stated that it is not only the duty of all to work honestly, but also "that everyone has the right to work". (GS 67) It is the task of society and the state "to oppose unemployment, which is evil in every case, and if it reaches a certain size, becomes a real social plight". (LE 81) The responsibility for the decrease of unemployment "rests on the shoulders of the state but cannot be limited one-sidedly to the activities of public power." (LE 82) This struggle for the creation of jobs has to be continued even if the social institutions of the state and society face numerous difficulties: further, the employers have to be urged to create new positions.
33. The reform of state health insurance is unavoidable but has to be carried out in such a way that during its transformation not even one social group suffer unfair treatment. A multi-layered health and pension system has to be developed for the future in such a way as to guarantee the financial safety of the middle classes while the functioning of the social safety-net for the poor is also guaranteed.
34. The Church considers the family as the most important basic cell of society. The family has significant influence on society, as the base cell is not only an economic unit but also the most important site of transculturation and development of the human soul. This is where the child acquires those values with the help of which it may become a useful member of society. "The family has to live in such a way that its members may learn to care for the young, the old, the sick and the deprived, as well as the poor. ....Families have to be helped and protected by suitable social regulations. ....Public authority should consider it a serious duty to recognize, protect and strengthen the real nature of marriage and family, to protect public morals and to advance the prospering of families." (KEK 2208-2209)
35. Ready to help but also to critique, the Church - as throughout the world so in Hungary - aims to observe the social and economic events while keeping in mind the truths of the Gospel; to object to contradictions in political and economic life, and, in case of need, to raise its voice against any form of injustice or discrimination, most of all to protect the poorest, the ostracized and the unfortunate. All the while, she will undertake everything - within her strength - to participate in the amelioration of difficulties and the moderation of the suffering of the needy.
36. The love of our neighbor demands sacrifice, whether institutional or individual, and participation in the difficulties of others. We exhort our faithful, our priests, our parishes and communities, together with all men of good will, to assume their share in combatting misery, affliction, failure and impoverishment, to develop and realize social programs at those levels on which they live and work. Especially responsible in this respect are those Christians who participate in public life at national or local level.
The model of self-sacrificing, neighborly charity is the Good Samaritan, who lifts up the single, prostrated traveler. Such personal attention, however, is sufficient only for the saving of one or two persons. Today there are such masses in need of aid and next to them the small group of helpers dwindles into such insignificance. that we must find the institutional, organized version of brotherly love also, shouldering the advocacy of their interest in society and in the conception and realization of social programs.
2. The Economy
37. The enumerated difficulties and worries are closely tied to the economic life of Hungary; therefore, we have to mention it also since it delineates our possibilities for action in many other areas. Of course, it is not our intention to render here a comprehensive economic analysis. We merely wish to direct attention to symptoms which directly or indirectly affect our basic values.
A. The situation
The inheritance of the past and the economy worldwide
38. As we were able to note in the previous chapter, the most damaging and dangerous results of the economic changes of the past years were the growth of social inequalities. Large sections of the population sank near the threshold of poverty or even just below it. It is to be feared that during this progression such a rift between various social groups will appear as to make it permanently impossible to create a market economy. The spiraling social injustice can also hinder economic growth.
Dramatic also are the heightened geographical inequalities, especially between the country's western and eastern parts, between large cities, first of all Budapest, and the little villages. In the eastern part of the country for example, unemployment is three times as prevalent as in the western counties. In these detached areas it was not possible to utilize the modest reserve or resources.
39. Many forget today how weighty were the burdens which we inherited and only remember from the one-party past the secure living conditions and guaranteed jobs, although the central and eastern European "socialist" countries lost much in the past decades of their relatively favorable world economic standing after temporary and modest gains. For example, the Mediterranean nations' gross national production (GDP) in 1973 exceeded that of the socialist countries only by 25%; today this figure is 200%. The difference in income levels between developed, western countries has grown from a 1:2 ratio to 1:4. We notice a similar downward trend when we compare Hungarian experiences with those of Austria or Finland.
The international comparison mirrors well the fact that there were basic problems in the Hungarian economy. Firms working within the planned socialist economy underwent a distorted growth process. The socialist countries, ignoring quality and efficiency and concentrating on quantity alone, sold products which they could not dispose of elsewhere in each other's markets. Because of the permanent shortages, these markets bought everything; thus, nothing forced the enterprises to update and operate in a thrifty fashion. In this "collective irresponsibility" the equipment of these enterprises and their intellectual capital lost their value. Not only was the economic structure distorted but the market forms also; thus they found their place in the second and in the black economy when the one-party state decided in 1968 on reform.
The basic intention of the Hungarian state dictatorship was that the population did not interfere with politics in exchange for relative ease in living standards, and that it suffer in silence the rule of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party. After the explosion of oil prices in 1973 the then-leadership of the country missed the chance to carry out the necessary structural reorganization; thus the economy, in a more and more hopeless situation, was unable to achieve relatively good living conditions. To solidify their political power, the socialist rulers took out foreign loans, which they applied not to the development of the economy, but to maintain an ineffective economic structure and to keep up the standard of living. The debt and its interest we have to repay today.
40. Along with the burden of the past, a serious problem is caused by the fact that the change-over is taking place in a substantially-altered world economy. Economic growth has slowed down in Western Europe as well; society has aged and cannot uphold the customary level of service for living standards. Thus Hungary is joining a slowly growing geographical area, from which it can expect much less assistance but at the same time considerably more competition than those countries which entered the European Community in the 1980's.
Of these relationships very little is known publicly. We do not even know today what joining [the European Community] will mean to every layer of Hungarian society and what the accompanying symptoms will be. There is no real alternative to our joining the European Union. However, sharper competition, an overfilled agrarian market and the onerous mandatory compliance with legal requirements will all mean a serious challenge.
The current economic situation
41. The purpose of the change-over was the development of a socially-oriented market economy. This means that the damaging effects of the market economy would be adjusted for those groups which are not capable of participating in economic competition (children, the aged, handicapped, unemployed, large families). Indeed, during the last years, the important foundations of the market economy were established. The change-over has been much more protracted than anticipated and has been accomplished with many more painful side-effects.
The professional evaluation of current economic conditions is also contradictory. However, all of us experience that the change-over - probably very consequently - is accompanied by an enormous economic slide backwards. The gross Hungarian production in 1993 was only 82% of that reported in 1989; since then it has risen slightly. In the past years the standard of living has declined for most of the population. Since 1978, real salaries have never again reached the purchasing-power of that year; in 1993 it was merely 77% of the 1978 figure. Real income in 1993 was a mere 89% of that in 1989; in 1994 it rose somewhat, but by 1995 is sank again.
42. The tremendous burden on the economy is the national debt. By the end of 1995 the gross foreign debt exceeded US$31 billion, the net debt US$16.8 billion. The roots of the problem run deep. The money which was borrowed was not used effectively, loan upon loan was assumed, with dramatically increasing interest burdens. In 1993 the internal national debt also increased distressingly. (From 1,412 billion forints in 1990, it grew to 3,755 billion forints by the end of 1994 and amounts to 30% of the budget.)
43. For several years Inflation has been over 20%, which is damaging not only from the economic standpoint but also progressively impoverishes those living on salaries, the retired, families with children and increases inequalities among the population.
44. A favorable sign is that according to convincing facts, the structural changes have begun on the enterprise level and production has grown. An important part of this is foreign capital flowing in from abroad, but this has been prompted by motives which noticeably do not coincide with the long-range goals of Hungarian society. The importance of foreign capital in Hungary has become significant in this area: of the 200 largest Hungarian companies, 110 operate under foreign supervision.
45. The process of privatization is full of contradictory moves. From the outset it was not possible to find satisfactory, unambiguous principles for the process of privatization since property rights changed so turbulently during the storms of history that the re-establishment of former conditions was not feasible even though some - including political parties - entertained such illusions. Those receiving compensation received little real value due to the peculiarities of the process. A good part of the compensation coupons did not end up with the original owner who was entitled to such compensation. Whether it was the directors of an enterprise who gained ownership of the stock or whether a state office directed privatization, the population merely discerned during this transaction that tremendous, uncontrollable fortunes were created. The economic and political elite showed little solidarity with the poor in its behavior or consumption The engine of the market economy should be the entrepreneur who manages with reason, who strives for investment and growth, but who is also mindful of the consumers, the workers and the environment. However, we do not find many indications of this behavior in Hungary. The most powerful positions in the economy are partly in the hands of directors running the mostly state-owned or mixed-ownership stock companies and partly in those of businessmen involved in the illegal black-economy. Confronting them is the mass of small entrepreneurs who struggle against high taxes to survive. The middle layer of stable, well-to-do entrepreneurs is extremely thin.
The black and the grey economies
46. One dangerous accompanying symptom of the economic change-over is the rapid expansion of the black economy, in which, according to conservative estimates, 25-30% of the national total production is created today. The black economy represents an extremely grave damage to society. Those working without paying taxes and contributions progressively exclude from the market honest entrepreneurs, who in this competition are in a hopeless situation. As a result, the latter try to find work in the overfilled job market or they themselves become part of the black market.
Many avoid paying the common dues, and thus the burden of the respectable tax payers grows to unbearable proportions. "A devilish circle" follows: more and more citizens avoid paying their common dues which leads to ever greater taxation to the diminishing circle of honest citizens. This on the other hand significantly decreases the chances of economic growth and indirectly contributes to the further growth of the black market. As everywhere in the world, the black economy has close ties with organized crime and corruption. Beyond the immediate financial loss, it also represents another damage to society.
The grey economy further seriously jeopardizes honest market contacts. The inadequacies of legal regulation and the "little gates" make certain economic activities, which are not strictly illegal, possible but which nevertheless inflict damage on others and thus reduce budgetary income.
47. Hungary - considering its natural attributes - is a first-class agricultural region. The change in regime has brought both hope and disillusionment to the farmers tilling the soil. The partial solution achieved by compensation programs has caused enough uncertainty for years which persist up until today. After privatization, the structure of landownership was fragmented. The necessary restructuring of the large cooperative farms which had been established by force, their privatization, the large-scale foreign ownership of the food industry and food merchandising, lack of capital, high interest on agricultural loans, decreases in subsidies and absence of market protection have all reduced our agriculture to rock-bottom levels. Investments have dropped, livestock levels do not reach those of 1938 and agricultural production has decreased significantly. The difficulties of the transformation - unemployment and the lack of development resources - punish the small settlements. particularly those in stagnating regions in many ways.
48. As far as the future is concerned, it is the agricultural sector which can anticipate the greatest difficulties, as our joining the European Community would surely curtail agricultural production since we would be serious competition for [West-trl.] European producers. We have to reckon with the fact that the number of those engaged in certain branches of agriculture will sharply drop. Agricultural unemployment is already serious today. Foresight and positive strategies are needed for agriculture (and for the whole economy) to handle the new situation evolving out of our entering [the union].
The natural environment
49. Economic growth throughout the world changed the environment and is more and more damaging to nature. The spread of consumerism has brought the world close to exhausting its natural resources and is seriously threatening the vital natural order. The totalitarian political regimes of Middle and Eastern Europe paid even less attention to the preservation of nature than the Western democracies did. As a result, the environmental dangers are much more grave in Hungary than in the West. Although conditions have improved in certain areas since 1990 and pollution has slowed down in the most affected regions - mainly due to the shutting down of certain plants in the heavy industry which were not only damaging but also uneconomical - tremendous tasks for the saving of the environment and the protection of nature's treasures need to be faced. The problems above are made worse by the fact that the larger part of the population is unaware of the importance of environmental protection. It is a regrettable fact that the attention and energy of public figures in the economic and political arena are tied down by the short-term solution of economic problems. However, their public pronouncements, showing that they are aware of the importance of this problem, are encouraging. Long-range plans are missing nevertheless, even in the case of basic questions of vital interest.
50. The situation of the natural environment in our country is contradictory. In numerous locations pollution gravely threatening to health can be found (areas of industrial plants, illegal refuse deposits, big cities, agricultural regions overburdened with chemicals applied without proper supervision, military barracks, etc.). Especially significant damage can be observed in the vicinity of gigantic industrial enterprises. It is therefore a great pleasure that certain areas were able to keep their ancient aspect. Where industrialized agriculture could not be imported due to lack of money, there nature-friendly communities survived. In these regions in a relatively short time, five National Parks were established and numerous areas were placed under nature protection programs.
An essential problem of natural environment protection is that little money is allotted for the remedying of existing ills and even less for the introduction of preventive processes. Here attention has to be called to the dangerous practice of developed countries exporting their obsolete technologies and trash into our homeland. The exploitation of nature in many localities after privatization is an additional factor.
B. Standpoints and recommendations
The place of the economy in society
51. The traditional indicators of economic growth (such as gross national production, the rate of yearly growth, etc.) neither show true economic development nor the exhaustion of natural sources of energy. Efforts to improve these indicators led worldwide to the defiling of the environment and the quality of life. The creation of conditions for real, "upholdable" development and the unfolding of its direction, it is necessary to generate a system of priorities for the national economy and for the use of new result indicators.
52. On the one hand, Catholic social teaching recognizes the independence of the economy as one sphere of society with its own, particular laws of momentum; on the other hand, it most decidedly rejects the concept which, arising out of this relative independence, acknowledges no other standard than the realization of selfish interests by individuals and groups. "Economic activities have to be exercised according to their own methods and laws, but moral law has to be respected." (GS 64)
Nor can we omit mentioning the fact that, despite the invoking of slogans by the socially-oriented market economy, decisions are born accidentally, mostly according to the short-range interests of various groups, and social policies have been buffeted for decades by the strictures of the moment. A change in the above difficult economic situation could occur only if politicians directing economic policies and all the participants in economic life could demonstrate the necessary humility, openness, unselfishness in the search for solutions - since no one possesses the economic-policy miracle cure - and if certain interest groups could display a realistic self-restraint. Without these, an insupportable concentration of economic power could result.
53. "The basic goal of production and the economy is not the accumulation of products, nor profit or domination, but the service of man. In particular the service of the whole man, whereby it takes into consideration on one side his material needs and, on the other the requirements of his intellectual, moral, spiritual and religious life." (GS 64)
In the past century, the Church has consistently refused one-sided interpretations of economic organization, that is, both collectivism and liberal capitalism based on free competition. "Development cannot be entrusted exclusively to the instinctive, economic activities of individuals nor to public authorities." (GS 65). In 1991, after the glowing victory of capitalism, John Paul II did not consider it justified to come down on the side of one "model" when treating the question of desirable social arrangements in his encyclical entitled Centesimus annus, to put it simply. "The answer is complex. If 'capitalism' means an economic system which recognizes the enterprise, the market, private property and the responsibility which arises out of the method of production, as well as the basic and positive role of free human initiative in economic life, the answer is naturally 'yes'. But if by 'capitalism' we mean a system in which the freedom displayed in the economic sphere does not fit into a solid political system which considers economic freedom only as a component of total human freedom which has an ethical and religious core, then the answer is unequivocally 'no'. The Marxist solution has failed. .... (But) the danger is that a radical capitalist ideology will spread which... blindly trusts that the free development of market forces will solve everything." (CA 42) Today, when the whole world has sobered up after the illusions associated with the change of regimes, the words of the encyclical have proven painfully true.
54. The true task of the multinational corporations is fulfilled when they bring with themselves the order of the more developed economies and thereby expand the economic culture and morals in this country. When confronting a weaker partner, the possibility and temptation always exist to display one's superior strength. The teaching of the Catholic Church emphatically calls attention to the fact that the globalization of the world's economy goes together with universal responsibility - and this has to be imparted to the owners of the ever-weightier foreign capital in Hungary.
The duty of the state in the economy
55. According to Catholic social teaching, the state has an important role in correcting the damaging effects of market activities. Under the concept of social justice it has always understood distributory justice, that is, a certain reduction of financial inequalities. In recent years the view has spread among economists that the services rendered by a welfare state encounter obstacles because they impede economic growth. The narrowing of the state's duties is not identical, of course, to the retreat of the state from economic life since it has to create and then maintain the market-economy system; it has to defend the rights of individuals in economic life; with the limitation of monopolies and the regulating of competition it has to protect the latter. (CA 48)
56. It is in the national interest that the population which makes its living in the agricultural sector gain self-confidence, economic strength and renew its communal life and moral values. It is in the interest of the whole country that as many farmers as possible also own the land which they till. For this purpose, they have to receive all the necessary scientific and financial support for our agriculture to be productive and effective again.
Modern agricultural procedures have abandoned departmentalized production practices. Today, they prefer discussing regional farming. This term expresses the concept that long-range farming is viable only if the whole region is considered as a whole rather than as single plots or livestock settlements. Beside agricultural activity, the importance of coordinated regional development is stressed, that is, the establishment of new enterprises, nature areas, local cooperation and traditions. Nature and man have to live in harmony with each other.
57. Not only for social reasons but also for the future of the economy the final rupture of society has to be prevented. If only a narrow layer of the elite and marginalized masses constitute our society in the future, its position in the European Union - if it is ever admitted - will be a totally defenseless one. Many statements have been published about the importance of man and about education as a means of advancement. Lacking were, though, effective state and social efforts capable of obstructing the extreme inequality of opportunities. The ultimate measure of all state reforms is whether budgetary cuts will lead to future depletion. "It is the duty of the state to provide for the protection of the common good, which encompasses the natural and the human environment. This protection cannot be guaranteed exclusively by the market mechanism. As during the era of early capitalism, it was the duty of the state to protect the basic right to work, similarly new capitalism and society as a whole have to protect the common good, which, amongst others, form a framework within which everyone should be able to realize their personal goals." (CA 40)
58. The termination of the black economy is possible with a series of coordinated measures. Along with the lowering of the tax burden to reasonable levels, the rapid prosecution and severe punishment of crime have to be ensured. As a consequence, it will be more worthwhile to participate in a legal economy, which, in its turn, can lessen the danger of society's splitting into two camps: that of the rich and that of the poor. Every effort, however, is in vain if there is no parallel change in the attitude of certain individuals. Christians bear a particularly heavy responsibility in this regard.
Only within a solid market system and a stable, predictable legal framework will entrepreneurial integrity be honored and, in the long term, responsible management. Economic policy and individual behavior have to change simultaneously
59. The struggle against unemployment does not promise spectacular and quick victories. This, however, does not absolve the state, society or the leaders in the economy from continuously attempting, within their respective resorts, to further full employment.
60. The population will not be able to avoid the painful realization that it has to face more realistically the prospects of improving its material future. A more simple, natural and healthier lifestyle has to be initiated. This applies both to our national and international processes, as well as to global environmental problems. Nor should we forget that an appreciably larger segment of the world's population lives in misery which far surpasses our own; millions starve, especially in the Southern hemisphere.
61. It would be very important to teach the smallest child that we received our planet in custody and must save it for our descendants. For Christians there is a special duty and a clear command for the protection of the natural environment: "God took man and placed him in the Garden of Eden so that he might cultivate and protect it." (Gen 2,15). Indeed, we have to exercise self-criticism here because our moral education has neglected this duty. Yet, we all are responsible for protecting and cultivating the cleanliness, order and beauty of our immediate and extended surroundings, to safeguard nature, our country and the planet. Thus, the behavior of the individual plays a considerable part in the preservation of the environment.
Property and work
62. The Church consistently teaches that the right to property is a basic human right. However, this right is not absolute; during its exercise the common good has to be served as well. The poorer segments of our society struggle more and more under a heavy burden. We have already mentioned that those situated in the more powerful layers of the economic and political life have to show much greater self-restraint and solidarity than ever before. The necessity of creating capital does not exclude the political elite and businessmen from exercising restraint in consumption and from applying a greater part of their wealth toward the aid of others. "God intended the world for the use of all men and all nations, together with everything in it...Man, therefore, when he uses all that is created, is bound to consider his possessions as not only his own but also as a common good - common in the sense that it is not only for his own use but also for that of others." (GS 69)
"The Church recognizes the legal function of profit, as it indicates the functioning of enterprise... Profit, therefore, has a controlling role in the life of enterprise, but it is not exclusive. In this instance, different human and moral factors have to be considered which - at least in the long range - are just as essential in the life of an enterprise." (CA 35)
63. In the work place, the fear of unemployment, and the sense of being defenseless which feeds on this dread, as well as its undisciplined, unpunctual performance coexist. The rights and duties of workers have to be balanced in every sector of the economy: they should receive suitable pay and participate in the decisions of their work place. Institutional order, however, is not achieved by the creating of a few laws since these can be fashioned only by the efforts of individuals. The first principle of the whole social-ethical order is that of the common use of goods. A worker participates in the first place by just compensation which he receives for his labor. "Salary, that is the compensation for work, is the concrete means by which most individuals can attain those goods which are intended for common use." (LE 88)
64. In connection with work, consideration of our personal lifestyles also emerges Work is an extremely important part of our life, but we cannot become its slaves. The necessity for survival, the acquisition of luxury items or the amassing of wealth forces many individuals to extra efforts. Time which should be spent with the family or on the weekly day of rest cannot be sacrificed to its pursuit. (MM 248-253)
In their economic decisions, Catholics - whether they be shapers of the economy or politics, entrepreneurs or workers - have to be directed by values springing from their faith. In the area of adult education, the Church as an institution has to train the population in the necessary knowledge of the workings of the market economy, and most of all provide models of desirable behavior.
3. The State and Politics
A. The situation
The change in the political system and its results
65. In the former socialist countries, state organs and politics underwent a radical reorganization. In 1989-1990 this occurred in Hungary also after the peaceful transfer during the "constitutional revolution". Numerous positive elements of this process should be remembered: constitutionality, free elections, freedom of speech, assembly, conscience and religion, and human rights in general, to all of which only lip-service had been paid in the past. Many values, missing for forty years, became reality again, such as the multiparty system and political pluralism. Before 1989 these were unimaginable in Hungary, whereas it is they who preserved and still preserve human dignity and freedom, as the Church also proclaims. The institutions upholding the multiparty, pluralistic society have been established and are giving it fundamental stability. None of these institutions have visibly abandoned the constitutional or the legal path. The democratic institutions have proven to be solid.
The papal encyclical entitled Centesimus annus already in 1991 called attention to the fact that for the countries affected by this transformation a veritable post-war era was about to begin with innumerable problems. (CA 28) Political transformation and democracy, however, were not accompanied by the prosperity for which all hoped so ardently. Reviewing our situation today we have to say: Many of our hopes became reality - but much remains to be done to create a humane life in Hungarian society.
66. Those possessing authority, the members of the politically-powerful class, are not able to represent convincingly and credibly a new quality in politics, which is a rightful expectation of the citizenry. Some of the citizens consider the politicians and the parliamentary parties, as a new elite, often composed of individuals carried over from the former regime, and who are not responsive to the real situation and problems of society. We trust nevertheless that the majority of politicians strive to fulfill their mandate honestly.
Hungary during this transformation is a paradox in transformation: on one side the totalitarian, centralized, bureaucratic state, erected on national property has to be disassembled; on the other side a pluralistic state capable of functioning has to be erected. In truth, this entails rebuilding. But as there are no models, those symptoms which indicate a new nationalization and centralization, though totally unacceptable, are not surprising. Due to this, a vacillation in the role to be assumed by the state is noticeable, especially in the area of social services. The contradiction of the state's spreading in one direction, thereby weakening the self-organizing capabilities of society and withdrawing from social services in the other, is difficult to solve.
The successful operation of the state is assured by effective public administration. Along with good laws, good administration is mandatory as well as a well-paid and irreproachable civil service. It is regrettable that due to low salaries and [many-trl.] deductions numerous trained civil employees have left the public service in the recent past.
67. In many respects, the relationship of the state and society is not clear to this day. Representative democracy as realized in Hungary is carried out by elected representatives, who for a defined period of time, according to their promises and best judgment, conduct public business. This provides the foundation for the legitimacy of the government supported by the majority of representatives. The citizenry is sensitive to social legitimacy as well, that is the acceptance by society of such political power. To function, a continuous and frank dialogue between those in power and those in society is required, with an effective system for this to take place. Both state and society should strive even more to support cooperation and partnerships, to create new institutions and to aid existing ones. Without this, the general disillusionment with politics will increase. Evidence of this is growing as shown in the distrust toward politics and the decrease of political engagement.
The delayed transformation of society
68. Before 1989, one of the main demands of oppositional politics - whether toward the state or every kind of central or monopolistic authority - was the realization of a conscious, self-governing and independent society. This was the concept of the civil society, which contained on the one hand the requirement of decentralization, and, on the other, the participation in the running of housing and places of work, as well as other lower levels of public life, and the creation of acceptable social administration (which is urged by the principle of subsidiarity). Scarcely any of these goals have been realized. Political projections and directives for the inclusion of citizens are missing. What is more, the past one or two years - for example in public administration - indicate renewed centralization. At the same time, the politically untrained and inexperienced citizens, often disillusioned, do not credit themselves with the ability to collaborate in the improvement of the conditions of their immediate or general environment. The self-constituted citizen groups frequently lack financial backing to take effective steps, thus becoming useless or become dependent on the state for funds. The financial support of social organizations should be allotted according to their real merit and not according to political views or even individual interests.
69. The change in government did not lead to a sufficient degree to the participation of society in public life. Without this, the practice of institutionally-guaranteed democracy becomes an impossibility.
It was not in the interest of the state bureaucracy even after 1989, to further the formation of a true society and to initiate lower-level, civil movements or organizations. Apparent trends of centralization in the economy, in political or cultural life - despite its occasional inevitability - are accompanied by detrimental consequences in two ways. First, lower-level initiatives do not unfold. Individuals and smaller communities cannot obtain public experience; what is more, their commitment toward others or the community does not develop. Second, the mammoth organizations are so far removed from the world of real people and the lower levels of society that members cannot follow the requirements of the former, while the individual volunteers and community groups are overburdened and their tasks are more difficult to accomplish.
It is a favorable development though that the strengthening of civil society can take place according to more free, humane and democratic methods: currently, there are 41,000 public groups - at least according to the registries.
B. Standpoints and suggestions
Our personal responsibility
70. The inhabitants of no country may expect that its governmental and administrative organs carry out all their duties. Nowhere in the world are there perfect institutions. Often, laws are the result of short-term compromises; public administration is occasionally badly directed; decisions often result in unexpected and unintended consequences. Citizens have to participate personally in the solution of problems, not only with the exercise of their voting rights, but also through social and Church organizations, as well as individual initiatives. Their efforts can complement, or even correct, the work of central and local governments. The participation of the "civilian sphere", according to the principle of subsidiarity, is also irreplaceable in the formation and functioning of democratic institutions.
71. Pessimism, resignation or bad atmosphere should not be permitted to spread through society. Although we point out and criticise worries, problems, mistakes, we are at the same aware - and many forget this today easily - that the political and state institutions which have evolved since 1989-1990 brought a new, more true and humane world in the place of the decades-long totalitarian, single-party society and its servile system. We cannot forget that for decades the larger part of the population was deprived of the basic conditions for human dignity - although they existed on paper - such as human rights, religious freedom, democracy and constitutionality. The Church therefore confronts that petty perception which sees only the difficulties and evils of the changes, or which forgets the wonderful gift of liberty, thereby encouraging a false nostalgia for the past.
72. It is the duty of Christians to create and promote a democratic model of society. (OA 24) Its basic principle is the constitutional state which "subordinates everything to the law and not to the selfish will of men". (CA 44) "A true democracy is possible only in the constitutional state and with the proper interpretation of the human person. Democracy demands the creation of the indispensable condition which renders this possible: education." (CA 46) Though understandable, it is regrettable that the main source of the misapprehensions between state and society - and the consequent distrust toward politics - is ignorance concerning politics and the functioning of a democracy. Democracy and a constitutional state are values which cannot simply be given as a gift, but rather they must be assimilated by gradually making them a part of our thinking processes and general culture. Therefore, despite the difficulties with our living standards and our disillusionment with politics, we urge our faithful and encourage all to learn and assimilate these fundamental principles. We do this all the more since the common good encompasses the whole man, both for his bodily and spiritual needs." (PT 57) "Much care has to be expanded today, especially for the political education of the citizens so that they may fulfill their duties in the life of the political community well." (GS 75)
Expectations from politics and the state
73. The social teaching of the Church clearly indicates the desirable function of the state and its sphere of influence. Vatican Council II, as we have seen, calls attention to the mutuality of rights and duties. It emphasizes the duties of the state in the service of society, it warns the citizens not only against granting too much authority to the state but also against requiring unreasonable and excessive concessions from it. In exchange for the security and services received from society (i.e., the state), we have to "pay" to society out of a sense of responsibility. It is the difficult duty of the citizens to establish the delicate balance between respect and freedom, individual initiatives and solidarity, the necessary unity between multiplicity.
74. In the mirror of the principles listed above, we can outline our expectations from politics and the state.
Although the concept of common good has been forced out of our public speech and practice, on the basis of the Church's social teaching we still have to recall that the individual, the different communities and the state have to strive equally for the common good which includes the welfare of each and everyone of us. The leaders of the state may not grant to certain person or groups illegal or unjust favors but have to look to the good of the whole. "Under no circumstances can it be permitted that the state serve the interest of a certain, few individuals because it was established to serve the common good." (PT 56)
The duty of the state is the promotion of moral standards, the constitution and the common welfare (PT 63), on the basis of justice, charity and freedom, in order to create a new, more humane order of relationships "between the citizens themselves; between the citizens and their government; between each government; finally between single individuals, families, mediating societies, single states and among all humanity." (PT 69)
75. The government has to strengthen civil society to assure the conditions for its functioning so that the re-nationalization of society cannot continue. It has to protect lower-level initiatives against those which are stronger or higher up and has to limit therefore the concentration of political and economic power. "The rights of every individual, family and group have to be recognized as well as their exercise, not forgetting those duties either which obligate every citizen. Everyone owes to the state those material and personal services which common welfare demand." (GS 75)
76. Certain political and economic philosophies expect the state to support only the most successful individuals, organizations or enterprises - in the hope that later these will assure the future of the country. The experience of the past years has not validated this concept. In the spirit of Catholic social teaching we have to frame the expectation that the state - according to its possibilities - will insure for everyone a dignified human life. That is, its policies have to support not only the economy but also those who are in need. (PT 64)
The support of the population has to be carried out according to the ability of the latter to take the initiative and has to lead to its self-sufficiency. The state functions properly not when it manages passive citizens without conflicts by patronizing them, but when it can educate its citizens to be responsible persons, capable of taking care of their own affairs. This points to the desirable direction for the development of both the educational system and state organizations. (PT 63 and CA 48).
The responsibility of civil society and its duties
77. Above all, the creation a responsible, self-providing and self-administering "civilian society" is the moral responsibility and practical duty of individuals and their communities. Christians have to serve the common good in the knowledge of the mission received from God and therefore responsibly, as well as declare their solidarity with society. "It is in full accord with human nature that man should find such political and legal systems which can effectively insure the free and active participation of every citizen without any sort of discrimination in the erection of a legal foundation for the political community, the direction of public affairs as well as the election of officials." (GS 75) The reforms which make possible the free self-organization of a society "create the effective forms of solidarity, which are suitable to aid that economic growth which respects the values of the individual to a greater degree." (CA 16)
The organizations of the state have to prompt and support the birth of the democratic and pluralistic civil society with their own means in such a way that they give suitable help to lower (among them religious and ecclesiastical) initiatives without tying them to political, ideological or other conditions. "Statesmen should not impede family, social or cultural associations, these bodies and institutions which mediate between the individual and the state; nor should they make their rightful and effective activities impossible, but rather they should support them readily and in an organized manner." (GS 75)
78. It is the task of the citizens and of society that they resolve their common problems together, that they create communities and institutions for a common existence, so that they may engage in a dialogue with each other, all the while accepting their differences. Democracy has to be learned and practiced. The condition of its realization is to let individuals, communities or institutions also have a chance to express an opinion. Freedom and constitutionality are not enough for this. In the previous era, political, cultural and economic power was placed in the hands of a few. This system has not ceased yet - at the most it has been transformed - and is therefore a further impediment for all "small people" (and for all groups, organizations or ideologies which were discriminated against during the socialist-communist regime) to be heard or to obtain their rights. If the state, by invoking its neutrality, does not concern itself with this state of affairs, then it is transferring the conditions imposed by the previous regime on the future. The protection and furthering of "thinking differently" and of pluralism are the duty of the state (and naturally of society, the Church and every other institution). "This Vatican Council pronounces that the human person has the right to religious freedom. This freedom consists in...no one being forced to act against his conscience." (DH 2) It is obvious though that pluralism does not mean unlimited moral freedom: "It is the duty of every person...to search for justice, and having found it, to make it his own and adhere to it." (DH 1)
79. The renewal of our individual and social existence does not depend merely on the transformation of the social, political and economic aspects of our life but in significant measure on the tenor of our individual and community life-style. In this connection we wish to mention three spheres, those of culture, communication and education.
In the wider sense of the word, we call culture all knowledge which delineates the sort of life an individual leads, or rather which is necessary - using his Creator's permission and command - to shape his personality throughout his lifetime, to create personal relationships, to set up communities and to realize, through his activities during the various segments of life, his creations. "The word 'culture' in its general interpretation signifies everything with which man can develop and unfold his many spiritual and physical capabilities." (GS 53) Without culture that life which we consider human cannot be lived. In this regard, we have to mention both individual lifestyles and ways of thinking as well as public and cultural structures (institutions).
Social communication cannot be separated from culture, and yet it is a separate phenomenon. Its significance lies in that without true communion real communication cannot be realized. Society (and the individual living in it) becomes a real community only by means of social communication, in which common knowledge (culture itself) is attainable. Further, beyond making humane life possible, it also makes possible the development of the individual and community identity. That is, social communication makes it possible for the individual to fit into the community and to shape a social consensus, i.e., "socialization", and is therefore an important tool in its organization. As the source, foundation and fulfillment of our life is love, it is not sufficient to experience it merely in our relationships, in our private life, but we also have to carry it over into the life of our society. Pope John Paul II repeatedly invited us to build the civilization of love, according to the example of Christ, because only this way is it possible to assure the happiness of mankind, even its survival.
Education and upbringing are basic and indispensable tools in the evolution of a society, the growth of a personality. Human progress is assured when the knowledge and traditions transmitted by our forebears are handed on to successive generations. In our ever more rapidly changing world, and especially amidst the profound changes taking place in Hungary, the educational institutions have an especially important role and responsibility. But perhaps even more important than this is upbringing, both from the point of view of the individual and of society, since man, who was created free, is responsible for the formation of his life and character; further, members of a society have to assume responsibility for each other and the common good.
Our individual lives
80. We also are responsible for our own difficulties and troubles. The past decades have inflicted grave damage on our physical and spiritual health, have trampled on our ideals and damaged our system of values. Therefore, the precondition of a renewal is that, having examined our conscience before God, we render an accounting with ourselves, and re-examine our ideals, and - where necessary - change our behavior, our attitudes, perhaps our faulty or distorted system of values.
81. We cannot merely put the blame on the past, no matter how much was destroyed during the former forty years. In a society, every single person has his particular responsibility and duty. The decay in public morals, corruption, the abuse of political power, the dishonest enrichment of certain individuals burden all of us. Most of us are not only suffering, passive subjects but also participants in the distortion of our society, whether by our own incorrect acts or passive silence. It is the personal duty of each of us to find our allotted tasks and to accept them in a responsible manner.
82. The respect for life has declined. The number of suicides, especially among the young - despite the decrease in 1988 - is exceedingly high. Sins against life are proliferating. It has become almost a matter of course to extinguish unborn life. The artificial termination of the incurably ill is publicly debated. Politicians advocate the legalized consumption of certain drugs.
A considerable segment of the population has been forced into a self-exploiting, unhealthy, self-destructive, inhuman lifestyle. Many lose their self confidence and their hope in the future, mostly because of poverty, fear of unemployment and worsening social or economic opportunities.
83. According to European research, Hungarian society, compared to the rest of our continent, has become an outstandingly individualistic one. In our selfishness we are concerned only with ourselves. We have forgotten the value of shared joy, shared responsibility, the duty of caring for each other. It is therefore heartening to note that there are efforts to the contrary. Numerous voluntary civilian initiatives with charitable goals have sprung up. Parishes and communities seek out and support the old, the sick, large families and other individuals in need. These efforts are growing in strength. The significance of these affiliations, initiated by root organizations, is enormous, especially at a time when the state is appropriating less and less funds for social purposes. Solidarity with the indigent and the support of the deprived are important, as is the communality which evolves as a result.
84. We have seen in other ways that in the past decades our moral world, our system of values, have been loosened and in many respects destroyed. This nationwide loss is even more sharply apparent in the changing circumstances of today's society. There is no serious indication that the population's distorted values are improving or its culture growing, both of which would ease the rebirth of our society and the re-emergence of a spirit of public responsibility.
The quality of life has decreased further not only in material terms but also with respect to cultural and moral values. This danger and its consequences cannot be underestimated. It is on these very values on which notions such as why it is worth living, what we owe to God, to ourselves and to our fellow men, what is good and what is evil are founded. Since this deterioration is wide-spread among the population, public opinion does not help the individual with the acquiring and keeping of any values, particularly moral ones.
The loss of values is dramatically noticeable in three areas: in public, family and cultural life.
In the public life
85. Since for forty years there was scarcely an opportunity to express an opinion freely or to formulate conflicting ideas, it is understandable that a significant part of society does not consider it obligatory to respect others in cases where their views or interests deviate. The discord, the distrust and the restlessness impede not only the emergence of a healthy public life but also a robust, democratic political atmosphere. The respect for others has weakened alarmingly, as have the ability and willingness to adapt oneself to others without which no human community can exist. Deeply rooted, not rarely racist, prejudices exist in many (often among self-professed Christians) against other religious or national groups, against minorities and finally against all those considered 'foreign'. The appreciation of others is missing in the political and business life, often even in everyday contacts. We do not accept our neighbor as created and loved by God.
The protection of basic values, necessary for the survival of society and the dignity of man, is the duty of the state in the interest of all. Nobody can escape this common responsibility. We all have to exert ourselves so that basic human values receive their due in the public forum.
86. Both common and private property is endangered. The reason for this can be found only partly in past practices. Greater damage is inflicted by the loss of basic moral laws concerning property. It is as if the tools in our places of employment, objects in our environment and public property were all free booty. It depends on us how much we protect our environment, how much we respect and safeguard common or private property. Where society does not condemn abuse and theft, there justice and law is helpless.
87. Frequently, ignoring basic business morals, citizens try to cheat each other and to profit illegally and immorally by these transactions, thereby trying to turn a profit. Work morals have also worsened appreciably in the past decades in Hungary. The tempo of work has quickened recently, but not everywhere sufficiently. Now we are participants in an international competition in which not only Western Europeans take part but also Asians. Only with greater effort can our economy keep up. Employees can expect higher wages only with more substantial performance. Honest work with total commitment is a moral duty and economic necessity. At the same time, however, new forms of exploitation are spreading: certain employers, taking advantage of unemployment and the possibility of a black-market labor force, pay only starvation wages.
88. Rough, uncouth and selfish manners are spreading alarmingly as is deliberately destructive, brutal behavior which damages both individual and public property. Vandalism does not even respect the sacred confines of churches. Neither public opinion, media, state institutions or social organizations - with some admirable exceptions - confront these phenomena, or when they do so, they do it half-heartedly. Nor do they encourage a true spirit of culture.
89. Society scarcely considers investment in the future and for the future worthwhile. Values necessary for individual and communal life have lost their credibility and attraction. Consumerism has become the prevalent attitude in the midst of poverty. It is as if the officially-advocated materialistic ideology of the past and the secularized life-style of the West, which emphasizes exclusively the financial advantages of the individual, had the same effect on society. Many do not trust in the future, nor have they learned to purposefully and responsibly plan for it, and, in the case of need, to sacrifice in their own interest. This is particularly worrisome among the young where the lack of perspective is greater than ever. Difficulties in adapting to social norms are also on the increase.
90. Regrettably, many marriages are shallow and fail; they do not fulfill either their human or sacramental nature. Lacking a home and enduring human relationships, many individuals lose their interior equilibrium and moral posture, and instead of serving the good of the community, they turn into parasites on the body of society or waste their life and happiness on drugs. Not only are divorces numerous, but so are the numbers of those who fear a life-long commitment: more and more individuals live together merely as partners, without entering marriage. It is sad that the cohabitation of same-gender couples is shown in a positive light by the media. Thus public opinion also accepts that which formerly it considered against nature and which according to our Christian concepts is totally inadmissible.
91. Due to the quasi-irreversible change in family structure, that is, the continuously decreasing number of children who are born and reared, the majority of pensioners are deserted in their old age. Their care is essentially left to society, which cannot handle the problem. Their means often do not even suffice for the necessary medications or food. Many more have to face the fear of loneliness, either because they do not have relatives or friends to look after them, or because their children and relatives do not minister to them.
92. Due to the large number of divorces, the number of one-parent families is very high. Even in intact families, almost in every case both parents have to work because of cost-of-living problems, and not infrequently they have several jobs. Thus, in most families the healthy education of children is not a given. Children in certain groups of society often do not receive even a minimal education at the beginning of their life, even though they have not only a right to life but also to an education worthy of man. Legally, the children are also defenseless, and the political representation of their long-range interests is practically impossible.
93. Families rearing children, especially large families, deserve special attention. In many cases, the ideal family life is realized: the children are reared carefully and learn the correct way of living in a good and happy family atmosphere. In the other families - most of all because of economic and cultural reasons - the growing children scarcely receive any attention, and their chances are significantly lower than would be in families where there are fewer children. It is generally true that those parents who accept more children suffer disproportionally higher financial burdens.
94. Many symptoms for consideration could be listed. Here we shall mention only a few as examples:
a) Earlier, central party directives paralyzed and now financial collapse threaten cultural life; at the same time, cheap "culture items", which disfigure the human personality, overwhelm society.
b) In certain areas of the country, but most of all in the capital, cultural life - that is, cultural institutions - has quickened in the past few years, mainly under the influence of volunteer social initiatives.
c) Today, it is a typical symptom that if the situation of a group worsens throughout society, the chances for its betterment are rare. The path for individual social advancement in the decades of dictatorship was mainly political; nowadays, it is the uninhibited, unchecked acquisition of wealth which is on the rise. Privileges attained by means of money prevail also in the cultural life.
95. In the past, contacts between individuals were knowingly suppressed, that is, civic - meaning from the roots - volunteer initiatives attempting social organization. There was scarcely a chance for free expression of opinion, independent thought or for the formation of communities. The population was used to adjusting its opinion according to the centrally-run press. This situation, unfortunately, has not changed much since 1989-1990. This is evident in several areas.
96. Neither in our private nor public life can we effectively and positively resolve the conflicts which arise. Nor can opinions and values become public on a national level so that the various efforts which reflect attempts to remedy them might be coordinated. Suitable dialogue for the elimination of faulty values or concepts is lacking. Thus, diverging opinions and life-styles are left unresolved, the necessary social consensus concerning basic values is lacking, and free individual or group initiatives do not receive a just outlet.
97. We have not faced our past sufficiently. Facts surrounding the events of the past years are largely unrevealed. Even more necessary is that the wounds, both of individuals and society as a whole, resulting from injustice and distortions, be healed. Our self-esteem is low and shows strains of national dimensions, whether individually, jointly or relative to our place among nations. There is no equilibrium between our national past, our self-esteem or self-respect. That is why they fluctuate between extreme, frequently party-politics generated chauvinist and racist exaggerations or opinions which underestimate our particular national values and favor economic profit.
98. For the time being, the mass communication media does not truly contribute to the advancement of the population, i.e., to the development of a more harmonious existence, a healthier society, a moral economy and unblemished public life. Little does it fulfill its duty to inform the population factually, thoroughly and objectively, and even less its task to educate both individuals and society. The influence exercised on radio and television broadcasts by party politics and administrative organs is significant as is their financial dependence. Many positive steps have to be taken (in the legislative branch also) for the mass media truly to fulfill its vocation for the good of society as a whole.
Education and upbringing
99. Among educational and behavioral institutions, we have to call attention first of all to public, advanced and adult education. That these institutions seemingly are considered unimportant in Hungary today, the conditions necessary for their functioning are not assured and the transformation required by this age is not progressing adequately will have serious and grave consequences. This becomes obvious mainly in that our current educational system does not receive that financial support which is necessary to maintain it at present levels - not to speak of its enhancement.
Generally, it is also true that society does not concern itself enough with the future of the younger generations. Public education does not receive proper recognition. Teachers, forced to take second jobs due to their low salaries, are overburdened as a result. Schools do not receive the necessary financial support to carry out their work and the state does not make the development of institutional pluralism, which reflects the variety prevalent in society, possible.
100. No satisfactory policies concerning the content of the curriculum have been formed until now. The attempts to bring it up to date, which were often at cross-purposes (especially the debate concerning the National Basic Curriculum Plan), have not developed a well-reasoned foundation on which to proceed. This is important so that all further steps are taken with the greatest possible foresight and create the still nonexistent consensus, in order that the uncertainty already noticeable in the schools is not increased further.
101. The institutions of public education, and most especially of technical education, fulfill less and less the duties entrusted to them by today's society. Generation after generation is graduated without being truly prepared; their knowledge is useless for society.
Public education scarcely or not at all guarantees an opportunity for advancement for the underprivileged. This way, significant sections of society are neglected and lost to future society. Therefore, the system does not carry out its most elementary "service", namely to help the individual to prosper.
Hence, it is not surprising that it is mainly those children who grow up without a family - as foster children of the state or as street children without receiving the education which would make them useful citizens - who will be debased and become criminals subsequently.
102. Neither individuals nor today's society truly recognize the importance of continuous training or retraining, nor is the system of retraining after having gone through public schools reassuring despite the efforts made, although it would (along with other means) genuinely contribute to the solution of unemployment, if only by decreasing it.
103. Special mention should be made of the fact that Hungarian higher education is becoming more and more sterile for society as a whole. Higher education is not simply an important means of societal reproduction but is rather an exceptionally important institution to train those who will take over the organization and leadership of society from their predecessors. At the beginning of a new Millenium, our society - even more than before - cannot exist without a professionally-sophisticated class nor without what is customarily called a "creative" intelligentsia. Higher education, due to the anti-intellectual politics and ideological orientation of the past decades, has sunk to such depths that we are automatically at a disadvantage as far as our joining Europe is concerned, even if we can proudly point to outstanding results in some areas even today. Compared to our need, the number of those receiving higher education is low indeed.
104. Problems have appeared around the new church-affiliated teaching institutions. Some seem to ignore that no small portion of society - taking advantage of their constitutional right - wishes its children to receive religious education and to attend such schools. The establishment of a satisfactory network of such church-operated schools which would satisfy rightful social needs is necessary for the creation of a democratic, constitutional state. Nor is it clear to all our citizens either, that on the basis of the 1990.IV. law on freedom of conscience and religion, religiously-affiliated schools have the right to obtain the same financial support from the state as other schools. The education and spiritual culture of future generations is the duty of the state and society. Therefore, it would be truly essential that the principle of sector-neutral financing be established, according to which church schools performing such public tasks would be entitled to public funding, without state interference. Presently, it is not clear whether the above problems are a temporary disruption during a transitional period or whether we have to learn to live for a longer period with conflicts arising out of disagreements involving our values.
105. In healthy societies, the education of children takes place on three levels: in the family, the schools and in society generally. Presently, families, who should be primarily responsible for the upbringing of their children, in most cases cannot or will not take on this responsibility, thereby depriving the children of a nurturing environment. In society, in real life, unfortunately also in the press and most especially on television, negative examples are much more prevalent than positive, educational influences. Thus schools are the last resort for educating our youth, but Hungarian public education is neither prepared and nor does it consider this duty its own. We can add that, by itself, even the most perfect school is incapable of replacing the lack of family and social upbringing and counterbalancing the damaging influences which are inflicted on children. The duty of educating has to be made a joint responsibility again, gathering all those public-spirited forces which feel an obligation for the future of the nation.
Standpoints and recommendations
106. Our educational system has to be considered of exceptional importance. On the one hand, respect for knowledge, the value of diligent and honest work, the social acceptance and appreciation of those basic values without which no culture can last (for example, dependability, honesty, diligence, initiative, responsibility for others and for the common good, the respect of other nations, love of country, the respect of tradition) have to be re-established. On the other hand, it would be necessary to prevent further destruction of values. The basic principles for public education should not only outline the subject and its content with an up-to-date concept of culture, but they should define the true and complete concept of man.
107. Families have to be helped financially and morally in equal proportions so that they fulfill their vocation by bringing up their children better and passing on basic values at an early age within their own walls. A child- and family-friendly attitude has to be developed in society: the press and the electronic press should fulfill an especially important role in this. Presenting violence and pornography in an attractive fashion should be curtailed (whether on television or videotapes).
Our educational system has to give special attention to youngsters who are disadvantaged, physically and/or mentally handicapped, to those brought up by the state, to those having difficulty in adapting to society, those who at an early age become victims of alcohol, drugs, who lead a senseless life without purpose and outside the law. For the prevention of early crime and suicide - or at least their decrease - long-range and effective programs should be developed by having state and private initiatives cooperate. It would also be very important for the state to support these volunteer service organizations.
Everything has to be done to limit radically the number of those for whom the state cares and to help the character of these youngsters unfold in a helping atmosphere. The state has to support all those initiatives of the Church and society which assume responsibility for threatened families, alcoholics, drug-addicts, convicts and former prisoners.
Cooperation for the future
108. Our culture will become strong again - and help those who come after us to a more complete and happier life - only if we can formulate within ourselves and in them responsibility for the future and a life-style which follows true values,handing down a valid and attainable picture of the future. One of the greatest treasure of society is hidden in those young people who consciously prepare themselves for a worthwhile life, at the service of society and humanity. For this reason, the coordinated efforts of state and society are needed to show increased respect and appreciation toward teachers and schools. A badly-paid teacher, who does not perform his job out of a sense of vocation, will not make up for those shortcomings which the student brings with himself from home. State and educational institutions have to provide a decent salary for teachers. "We have to make sure that everybody obtain the fruits of culture, most of all to the so-called basic rights forming basic culture..." "... Everybody who has talent should to receive higher education. Thus, every individual and every social group can fully unfold their cultural life, which is in harmony with their talents and traditions." (GS 60)
109. In the process of transformation, programs which encompass the entire educational and cultural sphere have to receive appropriate emphasis. "Culture has to perfect the personality, the good of the community and all mankind...It has refine the spirit...further, care has to be taken of the development of religious, moral and social sensitivity." (GS 59) The Church offers here the values of the Gospel, the treasures of its two-thousand-year-old tradition, its service in education and upbringing. Throughout the world numerous signs warn how much the loss of traditional value systems threatens the existence of mankind. The party-state system has greatly contributed to the ruin of solid moral principles. It dispersed those communities and dismantled and weakened those institutions which sustained these values. On their ruins, encountering practically no resistance, unlimited license reign, concentrating only on material goods and selfish consumerism. Christianity, by its embodiment of truths and values which are indispensable for a humane life, serves all mankind. "We find numerous links between the message of salvation and culture." "The Christian good news ...constantly refine and ennoble the morals of nations. By their richness, which stems from God, they render them more productive, strengthen and complement them, even renew them in Christ." (GS 58)
110. It is the duty of the state and a matter of conscience for all members of society to support all those initiatives which ennoble life and teach human values, serve public culture and family life. "Public authority should render suitable assistance so that all may lead a cultured life, even national minorities." (GS 59)
It is necessary that the public means of mass communication provide thorough information concerning events taking place in the world and in our country. Instead of fueling confrontations in society, they should encourage dialogue, participate in education and provide entertainment by taking moral precepts into consideration as well as human dignity. "Society has the right to be informed concerning all those matters which are useful to know for the population, individuals and groups....This demands that the content of the communication be true and complete." (IM 5) "The Church considers the media God's gift since they bind peoples together." (CP 2) "Every communication has to satisfy the greatest laws of honesty, reliability and truth." (CP17)
111. The Church itself furthers the dialogue taking place in society and the development of a desirable consensus by supporting within its own community various forms of honest and fraternal dialogue. It also wishes to participate actively in the formation of public opinion and the organization of the society into a community. "Better understanding, concern, helpfulness and creative cooperation are goals - which the mass media can support to an incredible degree - which harmonize with the aims of the people of God and which the Church renders ever more profound." (CP 18)
112. Numerous problems have been listed, numerous problems have been spotlighted. All this we did not as outside critics but in the knowledge that the Church participates even today in the life of society, as it has for a thousand years. How can these and the other duties awaiting us be fulfilled? The painful problems and profound changes prompt us to national cooperation. Not only our legal order, political system and economic life are at stake but also our moral, cultural and human existence. Our common burden and the symptoms of a crisis discourage some or even renders them impatient. The Catholic Church - its leaders and its faithful - could not and cannot exempt themselves from these burdens. Together with the members and organizations of our society, it too accepts those duties which are its share. With this pastoral letter we state this intention. No matter how impenetrable the road to success seems, we do not lose our confidence. We know from Jesus Christ, for what purpose God created man and invited him to unfold his being, improving his surroundings and creating peace and happiness in society. Christ invited us to hope. We are confident that by exercising this hope we can all work together in building the future of our country.