267. Letter From the Deputy Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs (Leverich) to the Chargé in Hungary (Ackerson)1

Dear Garry: The informal memorandum which you sent under your letter of August 21, 19572 raising certain problems in connection with Cardinal Mindszenty has been discussed thoroughly in EUR and was the basis of a memorandum which was sent from EUR to Mr. Murphy, a copy of which is enclosed.3 Certain action and decisions have resulted which I would like to relay to you in this letter.

The first point which you raised was the desirability of learning from the Vatican its views as to the Cardinal’s future. You will recall that while you were here on consultation, we mentioned to you that Mr. Murphy had already broached this question directly with the Apostolic Delegate here in Washington but that no reply had been received. Quite by chance, almost immediately after reading EUR’s memorandum, Mr. Murphy saw the Apostolic Delegate, who had been absent for some time in Rome. The subject of the Cardinal was raised (whether by the Apostolic Delegate or Mr. Murphy, I am not quite sure), and the Apostolic Delegate indicated that the Vatican “prefers to let sleeping dogs lie”. It is the practice of the Church, he said, to keep the shepherd with the flock and the Vatican would not therefore call Cardinal Mindszenty out of Hungary. The Vatican believes that we are handling the whole question of the Cardinal well and has no suggestions to make.4 It thoroughly understands the restraint which we must place on the Cardinal’s activities and would not wish it otherwise. Mr. Murphy gained the impression from the Apostolic Delegate that the question of the Cardinal is not a “lively topic of conversation” in the Vatican. In short, the Vatican is quite content to leave the problem in our lap.

You will notice in the memorandum to Mr. Murphy that EUR recommended that no consultations be initiated with other powers at this time on the eventual representation of American interests in Hungary.5 The reasoning is given in detail in the memorandum so I shall [Page 664] not elaborate here. Mr. Murphy agreed with the recommendation and we shall therefore initiate no action until there appears to be an immediate likelihood of a break in relations.

After reading the memorandum, Mr. Murphy commented that we should not request a written statement from the Cardinal should he decide to walk out of the Legation. This, he feels, would only disturb the Cardinal, who is a temperamental old man. He concurs that if no other power is willing to assume the responsibility of the Cardinal at the time of a rupture in relations between Hungary and the United States, you should try to take him along with you out of the country. Mr. Murphy feels, however, that the Cardinal almost certainly would not desire to leave and that you should do nothing if he refuses to go or if the Hungarians forcibly prevent his departure. Mr. Murphy concurred in EUR’s recommendation that no notification need be given to the Hungarian regime should the Cardinal relinquish his refuge.

Basically I am afraid this leaves all of your problems concerning the Cardinal pretty much as they were. At least we now know, however, that no positive action can be expected from the Vatican. It is our view here in EE that it would be better to refrain from indicating to the Cardinal in any way, for the present at least, that he has been the subject of an exchange between the Department and the Vatican.


  1. Source: Department of State, Budapest Mission Files: Lot 75 D 163, Mindszenty, 1956–57. Secret; Official–Informal.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 265.
  3. Not enclosed, but for text, see Document 265
  4. Ackerson wrote the following marginal note at this point: “Easy for them to say! A”
  5. At this point Ackerson wrote the following marginal notation: “I did not suggest consultation—merely that Dept. give matter thought as this would be an important factor if we had to ask some nation to take over our interests here.”