Hungary and the painful triumph of morality

Hungarian President Katalin Novák announces her resignation. (Presidential Office)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

Katalin Novák’s resignation is not surprising but unexpected. I secretly hoped that there was some mysterious explanation, unknown to me, for the decision to pardon a person who assisted in the molestation of minors, which, without justification, rightly outraged the vast majority of society. I was hopeful because this was so out of keeping with the image of the president that her decision seemed incomprehensible.

However, the reasons given for her resignation make everything understandable: She said that she had opted for clemency in the belief that the convict had not abused the vulnerability of the children entrusted to him. It is natural that a head of state does not study thousands of pages of documents before making her decision, she simply does not have the time to do so. Such requests are prepared by duly selected experts and the head of state decides on the basis of their recommendations, but nevertheless, she must take responsibility for the decision.

Katalin Novák took it on, as did (former President) Pál Schmitt earlier, and as right-wing politicians usually do. Neither of their cases raised any criminal issues, only moral concerns, and they left with the knowledge that they had given up their careers so that their mistakes would not leave a stain on a community of which they are convinced members. It is a community that is capable of uniting millions when it stands by its principles without renouncing them. Excuses can always be found, but this community is far from being unprincipled and is not prepared to be ashamed, even for forgivable mistakes.

That is how it should be, it is what gives strength to the struggle of the values-based community against the army of hypocrites who expect it but are intolerant of it. The other list, that of those who take no responsibility for their actions, is much longer.

We have never known exactly what role (former President) Árpád Göncz played during his years in prison after 1956; but there was the “naïve” commentary on Gyula Horn’s communist activities, also related to 1956, the exposure of former Socialist Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy in the D-209 (spy case), former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s admission of lies or the embezzling schemes related to the renovation of the Chain Bridge.

Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg, because the pro and con list could go on and on, which could leave many people feeling that, under any other type of government, this is a country without consequences.

It is not so, and for that I would like to thank Katalin Novák, who, recognizing her mistake, did not seek to explain away the unacceptable, but drew the conclusions, further empowering those who sometimes painfully but proudly embrace this moral community.

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