864.404/12–3048: Telegram

The Minister in Hungary (Chapin) to the Acting Secretary of State


1993. Personal for the Acting Secretary. Supplementing mytel 1992, December 30,1 it appears manifest that Mindszenty case has major significance in that it clearly designed prove to all concerned that religious bodies of whatever persuasion are powerless to defend their communicants or even their ministers from the new temporal and ideological Communist power. For if a prince of the church and his suite may be unceremoniously ill treated, browbeaten and broken in order obtain alleged incriminating evidence, what chance for justice has ordinary citizen who objects or criticizes unlimited state power on moral or spiritual grounds?

Although I am well aware of our traditional national policy to abstain from any action which might appear to affect religious issue, it nevertheless seems to me that the cynical arrest of Mindszenty and his probable ruthless liquidation culminates a long series of blows striking at basic human freedoms and transcends all sectarian considerations. In this issue we are faced with a direct assault on one of the most vital main streams of the western heritage. It seems to me therefore that if it becomes manifest that Communist officials who locally represent Soviet power may arbitrarily violate religious freedom and flout local opinion and conscience without arousing violent condemnation from free peoples and institutions, the declaration of [Page 453] human rights of which we are a signatory will be regarded as a “scrap of paper”, the moral leadership of the US will suffer severely, and the foundations of hope for the 100,000,000 or more newly condemned inhabitants behind the curtain will have been destroyed. It will be obvious, moreover, that the harmful effects of this assault on western spirituality by Marxist materialism may well dishearten other peoples wavering between conflicting ideologies.

Although we may find ourselves unprepared at this time effectively to intervene on behalf of Mindszenty, nevertheless we can and must, it seems to me, direct attention in terms that are compelling to men and women of religious conviction, to the enormity of the event with which we are faced, and we can, I am convinced, facilitate mobilization of spiritual forces for struggles which today more than ever before appear unavoidable.

Accordingly I venture to suggest that you may wish to bring to the attention of spiritual as well as political leaders this desperate menace to our civilization. Specifically I suggest that since this attack on Mindszenty is a logical sequence of the attack on Lutheran Bishop Ordass and other Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Jewish leaders here, the support of all American groups and sects devoted to religious freedom should be united in a campaign which might well become worldwide if taken up in already existing international bodies.

I submit finally that this case presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

  1. Not printed; in it Minister Chapin reported having been informed by the French Minister in Budapest that the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty appeared to have been thought up and dictated by Soviet authorities who wished to force a showdown on the general religious question in Eastern Europe (864.404/12–3048).