The following article is based on several chapters of History of the Lutheran Church in Hungary by Mihaly Bucsay and is my translation of the original German. 

  As a result of the Landtag (Translator’s note:  An assembly of nobles, higher clergy and representatives of Royal Free Towns in Hungary to enact laws and deal with issues and concerns of the representatives) held in 1714-1715 called by Karl III (also known as Charles VI of Austria) the Lutherans and Calvinists of Hungary lost their freedom to worship, their autonomy and their right to make judicial appeals.  King Karl’s intention was to make the state and his power as Emperor a tool of the Counter Reformation throughout his Empire.


  Subsequently new laws that would become known as his Carolina Resolutio were decreed on March 21, 1731.  This decree renewed and strengthened Articles XXV and XXVI of 1681 and Article XXI of 1687 the so-called Explanatio Leopoldina.  In effect it permitted the Protestants the private profession of their faith and worship in their homes.  Public worship was only permitted in the designated Articular Churches (two Lutheran and two Calvinist Churches were permitted in each County.)  Only these communities were allowed to have clergy.  Within the family circle the Lutherans and Calvinists were allowed to read devotional books and tracts.  No neighbours or others were allowed to participate.  In all other non-Articular communities all Protestants were placed under the jurisdiction and care of the Roman Catholic clergy.


  Estate owning nobles could only allow religious concessions to their subject tenants upon approval and permission of the King.  The Protestants could elect Superintendents (Translator’s note:  The Roman Catholics refused to allow the Protestants to call their leaders Bishops) but their election had to be validated and approved by the King.  All Protestant clergy were responsible to the nearest Roman Catholic Arch Deacon and had to pass a theological examination in terms of their beliefs about baptism.  All marriages were legally under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church and performed by a priest but in the case of marriages between Protestants the priest had to use the Protestant form.  Conversion to Protestantism was forbidden and resulted in punishment by the state.  Roman Catholic priests could perform mixed marriages but the children had to be raised as Roman Catholics.  Protestants had to observe all Roman Catholic festivals and participate in them.  Protestants who were members of guilds had to participate in religious processions.  All Protestants who held public office in the state, town or county had to take an oath to the Virgin Mary.  All petitions and appeals by Protestants could only be personal and not on behalf of a community and directed to the King and could not be presented or discussed at an assembly of the Landtag.


  As a result of the Carolina Resolutio both Protestant Churches petitioned the King to    be allowed to hold the election of their Superintendents and re-establish organized church life that had been completely destroyed and dismantled during the Decade of Sorrows in the previous century.  In response to the petition the King decreed the “Second” Carolina Resolutio on October 20, 1734 which permitted the election of four Lutheran and four Calvinist Superintendents.


  As indicated previously, in cases of mixed marriages all the children had to be raised as Roman Catholics.  Because of the oath to the Virgin Mary all Protestants were effectively removed from holding any office.  The jurisdiction of the Arch Deacons over the Protestant clergy proved to be oppressive.  The Episcopal visitations of parsonages resulted in bazaar questioning and accusations made against them by their interrogators over the question of baptism.  Nobles were pressured to force their peasant subjects to convert to Roman Catholicism even if they were Protestants themselves.


  In spite of these existing impediments the Roman Catholic clergy demanded even more!  One of the chief spokesmen was the Cardinal Archbishop of Vac, Friedrich Althan who raged against the Carolina Resolutio because of its “concessions” to the Protestants and appealed to the Pope.  The King ordered him to come to the royal court for an audience and to recant his protest.  Karl III publicly tore the letter of protest into bits and took over his lands and estates.  A year later due to the personal intervention of the Pope his estates were returned to him.


  In various other ways, Karl III strengthened the position and the power of the Roman Catholic Church.  To a great extent most of the churches and schools were confiscated from the Protestants.  All Protestants were dismissed from holding public office including the Transylvania Saxons who had been granted autonomy as a nation centuries before.


  But strangely enough the Habsburg King was more tolerant towards Protestants who came as settlers into the recently won former Turkish territories and his daughter Maria Theresia also had to do the same for these “foreign” settlers.  When Karl III appealed to his German vassals for colonists and he promised freedom of worship and conscience to any Protestants who came to Hungary.  A massive stream of Protestant settlers were settled on the private estates of the nobles in Hungary from 1723-1729 and also throughout the rest of the 18th century.


  Maria Theresia originally opposed any Protestant immigration into her lands.  She found it necessary to qualify her position for political reasons.  She permitted the recruitment of Protestants making concessions with regard to granting them the freedom to practice their religion.  As a result in the Military Frontier District she allowed the settlement of Slovak and German Lutherans at Alt Pasua in 1770.  The later Danube Swabian village of Neu Pasua resulted from the efforts of Joseph II’s later final phase of the Schwabenzug (Great Swabian Migration.).


  Count Claudius Florimundus von Mercy (1666-1733), the Governor of the Banat was a Roman Catholic and was instrumental in reorganizing the Roman Catholic Church in the “liberated” territories.  Initially he found five existing congregations but by 1733 the figure had risen to thirty-nine.


  On his own estates in Tolna County in Hungary he settled Lutherans arriving from Hesse and Württemberg in separate villages that were organized into congregations under the leadership of the Pietist, Georg Bárány (1682-1757).  After his education in Raab (Györ), Pressburg and Eperies he studied at the University of Jena in 1708 and from 1709-1711 in Halle in the immediate circle of August Hermann Francke the leader of the Piestistic movement.  He first became the pastor at Nagyvarzsony in Veszprem County but gave up his ministry there to serve newly emerging congregations in Tolna County at Gyönk, Györköny and Szarszenlörinc.  In 1720 he organized seven congregations to form a Seniorat (Church District).  By 1725 it included ten congregations.  This Seniorat bound these congregations to the life of the Lutheran Church in Hungary and its structural organization and constitution under the law.


  The Seniorat of Tolna involved congregations that represented different nationalities that spoke different languages.  Bárány was a Magyar and alongside him serving as his co-senior (Dean) was a German-speaking pastor.  Later when there was a German Senior his co-senior was Hungarian.


  The chief adversary and opponent of these developments in Tolna County was the Bishop of Pécs who was also the High Sheriff of the County.  He was the former Field Marshall Franz Nesselrode a descendant of German nobles.  But Count von Mercy became the protector of his Protestant settlers and was able to assist Bárány and the other pastors to remain and serve them.  This was not true for Protestants in other areas such as Somogy County where Martin Padanyi von Biro was of the same stripe.


  Karl II provided money and support for the strengthening of the Roman Catholic Church in the “liberated” territories.  He founded new parishes, sent priests, built churches and schools and demanded the support of the nobles and landlords in these efforts.  Maria Theresia came to the throne in 1740 with the assistance of the Magyar nobles including the Protestants.  But their loyalty to the Habsburgs was rewarded by her intransigent intolerance.  She stood firmly behind her father’s Carolina Resolutio.  She commented, “We do not desire to persecute but we cannot abide toleration either.  Here we stand on the foundation of our House (of Habsburg).”


  The Archbishop of Gran (Estergom) played the leading role in the repressions against the Protestants during her reign.  He saw to the banning of foreign books and a strict censorship of books being published in Hungary and closed down all of the schools of higher learning that had been established by the Protestants.  Protestants were forbidden to study at foreign universities; he attempted to take over congregations that had no resident pastors and placed restrictions on all forms of Protestant public worship.  The Bishop of Veszprem in his book “Enchiridion” called for the destruction of all heretics and called upon the Crown to enforce Article IV of 1525 calling for the public burning of all Lutherans.  The Empress, however, called only for the confiscation of his book due to the protests lodged by diplomats from the major Protestant powers in 1750.


  In 1758, Maria Theresia assumed the title of “Apostolic King of Hungary.”  She founded more new bishoprics than any of her predecessors since Stephen I.  She undertook what she called “a quiet Counter Reformation”; established parishes with the task of converting the heretics in their vicinity; brought in or established Orders to re-catholicize Hungary.  The ongoing terrorizing visitations of Protestant congregations and their clergy now went into full swing.  Bishop Biro in Veszprem following his visitation of the Protestant congregations in Somogy County had forty-six Protestant churches closed and boarded up.  Only teachers were left in many congregations who read sermons, led in prayer and singing as the pastors were banished from office and driven out of the County.


  In the schools established by the Jesuits the sons of the Upper Nobilty were infused with hatred against the Protestants.  These young nobles looked to the Empress and the Higher Clergy to support them in their confiscation of the churches from their Protestant peasant subjects and serfs and to hinder the calling of clergy to those without pastors and prevented the Protestants from worshipping at Articular churches in their area and used force if necessary.  Under Maria Theresia the Protestants experienced the longest ongoing repression in their history and yet only a handful converted to Roman Catholicism.


  Even though the Protestants remained faithful they were often unable to save their institutions, churches, parsonages and pastors, schools and teachers.  Between the years, 1711-1781 they endured the Babylonian Captivity of the Protestants of Hungary while the Roman Catholics claim it was “the flowering of the reign of Mary in Hungary.” 


  The Counter Reformation was an ally of Habsburg Absolutism and promoted the centralization of power.  The Church served the State.  The State provided support to the Roman Catholic agenda.  As a result the Hungarian Church was impoverished in terms of its inner life.


  When Maria Theresia was succeeded by her son Joseph II he went the way of toleration because the only alternatives were mass emigration, civil war and unrest.  He was in every way a true son of the Roman Catholic Church but an opponent of its methods.


  His Edict of Toleration was codified at the Landtag 1790/1791 by his successor Leopold II and toleration was no longer simply by the Emperor’s grace.  Protection of the rights of the Protestants was now guaranteed in the Hungarian Constitution.


  During the times of trouble as the years of repression were called that ushered in the final phase of the Counter Reformation, church life among the Protestants was of two kinds; that of the Articular congregations and those without a pastor or building and no services of worship.  The latter were referred to as “orphaned” congregations.


  But even the Articular congregations were hindered in the full expression of their church life.  There were the ongoing visitations by bishops and interrogation of pastors that provided a way to monitor if Catholics attended Protestant services or if children in mixed marriages attended the Protestant schools or received instruction from the pastor.  They were always on the lookout to discover reasons to exile pastors and teachers.


  Because the vast majority of the Protestants were part of “orphaned congregations” they were unable to worship in their home communities or have a school for their children to attend.  They worshipped at the distant Articular churches and sent their children to school there.  The buildings were often too small to accommodate the vast number of worshippers coming from the outlying area and requests for permission to enlarge the worship facilities were often ignored or denied.  But church life remained in full bloom expressed in the Pietism of the Lutherans and Puritanism among the Reformed and Calvinists.  These influences were most noticeable in childrearing, catechetics, new hymns, devotional literature, household worship and Bible Study groups.  The preparation classes for Holy Communion among the Lutherans developed into confirmation classes and the rite of confirmation.  The baroque influences of the times around them also had its effect on the Protestants especially in terms of the use of allegory in preaching and elaborate weddings and funerals.


  In these “orphan” congregations it required a great deal of sacrifice to persevere in “the faith of the fathers,” especially in terms of handing down that faith to the next generation.   The filial congregations associated with the Articular churches were certainly far better off than the “orphan” congregations.  Although they did not have a resident pastor to lead their worship they had schoolmasters who played the role of a Levite Lehrer.  He played a dual role:  teaching the children and leading the congregation in worship.  In their schools the children learned the catechism, the prayers, Bible history and hymns in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic.  There was no event in life that was not addressed by Scripture and congregational singing.


  In many places when the schools were closed no visible sign of Protestant church life was permitted.  Protestants in such cases only had the right to practice their religion privately.  This meant that only a family or individual could read or share Scripture, read devotional books and gather to sing hymns.  It was only in this setting in which parents could teach their children the catechism.  But in many places, pious and simple men and women gathered children and youth around them and assisted parents in their teaching office.  When members of an “orphan” congregation desired to have their child baptized in one of the Articular churches they had to pay a fee to the Roman Catholic priest under whose jurisdiction the local Protestants had been placed.  Funerals were often held without preaching or payer.  They simply sang hymns.  Only rarely would Protestants request a Roman Catholic priest to officiate or participate.


  In the “orphan” congregations we discover that the roots of the Reformation had been a people’s movement and not a result of pressure from above on the part of the nobles.  They withstood both the pressures of Church and State so that during the period from 1781-1784 no fewer than 1,015 of these “orphan” congregations applied to Joseph II for recognition under the regulations of the Edict of Toleration.  This included 267 Mother Churches and 748 filials.


  During the period of repression and persecution the Lutherans and Reformed were drawn towards one another ecumenically.  This had nothing to do with confessional indifference.  Sometimes a Lutheran congregation was able to secure a Reformed pastor when none of their own was available.  It was also true of Reformed congregations that were served by Lutheran pastors.  In such cases Holy Communion was celebrated in the form used by the congregation.  This was not “unionism” as some later charged but simply a crisis remedy.


  Censorship had been imposed on all Protestant writings in 1670 and was done under the supervision of the Archbishop of Estergom during the 18th century.  Only books that would not do harm to the Church of Rome in any way were allowed to circulate.  This certainly limited the distribution and publication of Bibles, Protestant catechisms, hymnbooks, devotional literature and collections of sermons.  Only hand written copies dealing with systematic theology and polemics were possible.


  In the first half of the 18th century Pietism of the Francke variety played a leading and crucial role in revitalizing the life of the Lutheran Church; the second half of the century would be highly influenced by Rationalism.  The conflict between the Orthodox and the Pietists emerged as early as 1707 at the Synod of Rosenberg.  The major portion of Hungarian Lutheran literature was of Pietistic authorship.  The centre of Pietism was the Trans Danubian Church District (also known as Swabian Turkey) where almost all of the congregations were affected under the leadership Andras Torkos, George Bárány, Márton Vásonyi, Janos Sartorius and Janos Bárány.


  Another centre of Pietism was Pressburg (Bratislava) under the leadership and influence of Matthias Bel (1684-1749) who grew up in Francke’s household at Halle and was a graduate of the school system there.  A prolific writer he issued a Slovak Bible in 1722 along with Daniel Krmann one of the leading Orthodox theologians.


  Leopold II (1790-1792) the successor of Joseph II, although an Enlightenment man like his brother had to deal with the havoc created by Joseph’s Germanization and centralization policies that had stoked the fires of latent Hungarian nationalism among the nobles and townspeople of Hungary.  In terms of the Protestants and the “toleration” granted to them, Leopold proceeded to guarantee their rights by law on the basis of the Laws of 1608 and 1647 and to set aside the legal proscriptions since 1681.


  During the assembly of the Landtag in 1790/1790 a fierce battle ensued between the King and the Roman Catholic clergy.  But the spirit of the times was against them as all of Europe was gripped by the aftermath of the French Revolution. Pamphlets were in circulation in Hungary identifying the Church of Rome as an enemy of liberty.  The Roman Catholic nobles at the Landtag openly gave expression to their sympathy towards their Protestant compatriots and their centuries’ long ordeal of suffering.


  The text prepared by Leopold guaranteeing toleration was passed at the Landtag by a vote of 291 to 84 and it became Article XXVI of the Hungarian Corpus Juris beginning in 1791.  The Article still affirmed the pre-eminence of the Roman Catholic Church but also acknowledged the autonomy of the Protestant Churches in terms of their relationship with the State and the Crown.  The former decrees outlined in the Peace of Vienna and the Peace of Linz became the basis for the full rights and freedom for the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches in Hungary.


  The seventeen points of Article XXVI are as follows:


1)       The practice of religion, the use of churches, building of towers, the use of bells, schools and cemeteries are free from all restrictions.


2)       All worship may be held openly and in public.  Nobles and landlords were required to provide a building lot for a church, school and parsonage for their Protestant tenants.


3)      No one can be forced to participate in the worship of another confession.


4)       Protestants are allowed to structure their church organization as they sit fit and hold Synods with the approval of the King.


5)       Protestants are free to establish and maintain their schools and Protestant students are free to study at foreign universities.


6)       Roman Catholic clergy cannot require the payment of fees from Protestants.


7)  Protestant pastors are free to visit the sick and those in prison without hindrance.


8)    All public offices of the state and government as well as the judiciary are open to Protestants.


9)    Protestants taking an oath did not have to declare it by saying, “By Mary and the saints.”


10)  Protestants are given control of all bequests and endowments to institutions they have established.


11)   The marriage process for Protestants would be a civil arrangement until the Protestants established their own Church Courts.


12)  If any estate owner, whether a noble or private landlord attempt to take over a Protestant church by force he will pay a fine of 600 Gulden.


13)  Conversions to either of the Protestant Churches are permitted but must first be reported to the King but overt attempts on the part of Protestants to “lure” Roman Catholics into their churches and attend their services if strongly forbidden.


14)   These religious freedoms to Protestants do not apply to Croatia.


15)   All mixed marriages must be performed by a Roman Catholic priest.  All children born to this union will become Roman Catholics if the father is Roman Catholic.  If the father is Protestant the sons “may” be Protestants but the daughters will be required to observe the religion of their mother.


16)  All mixed marriages must be processed through the Roman Catholic Church Courts.


17)  On the occasion all Roman Catholic feast days, Protestants must observe a public day of rest.


  On May 1, 1791 all Protestant congregations held services of thanksgiving on the day the King sanctioned Article XXVI.


  But the Roman Catholic hierarchy was not prepared to let the matter rest.  They saw themselves as the first line of support for the dynasty and the Hungarians as rebels and ungrateful.  They formed a conservative coalition with the Magnates and upper nobility against the Protestant inroads and the danger that they represented to the status quo.


  The Hierarchy used a legal manoeuvre in an attempt to thwart the intentions of Article XXVI through the Hungarian State Chancellery on September 25, 1792.  They were partly successful by instituting some changes.


1)   In the case of mixed marriages all children must be raised Roman Catholic.  If this is hindered in any way force can be used by the police to remove the child or children from their parents and be raised by the State.


2)    Stronger punishments were authorized for Protestants who invited Roman Catholics to Protestant services as well as giving, lending or sharing a book containing Protestant teaching of any kind.


3)    Pastors were threatened with fines and imprisonment if they did not expel Roman Catholics from their services.


4)    Roman Catholics who attended Protestant worship or placed their children in Protestant schools were fined and imprisoned.  If a pastor received a Roman Catholic into his congregation without the prior consent of the King would be dismissed from the ministry of the Protestant Church.


5)    The worship facilities of Protestant congregations could not be called churches but were “prayer houses” and their clergy were could only be referred to as “preachers.”


6)    All would-be-converts to Protestantism were required to take a six week course on Roman Catholicism under the direction of the local Roman Catholic priest.  The priest also had the option to extend the course for an additional three months or could order that the would-be-convert be instructed again by another priest.


  In the years ahead the Chancellery continued to remain, “the whip of the heretics” well beyond 1791 as subsequent history would reveal.

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