Transylvania has disquieted me somewhat. It is stunningly beautiful, but its core is most definitely, unlike the rest of Romania, Central European and not Eastern European. I'm always slightly uneasy in Central Europe. I think it is the fact that the buildings tell a story, a story about the interplay of Protestant and Catholic. And it is a tale which neither side has won. Religion for the most part in Central Europe feels like a museum piece. Now that Transylvania is Romanian and there are newish Orthodox churches everywhere and the only people who go to church in any great numbers are the Orthodox it is easy see the Orthodox as some sort of victors in all of this. It is easy enough to look on the rest as history, as some sort of museum piece.
You have to pay entry to all the Lutheran churches. They feel like museum pieces. Communist suppression and Saxon migration back to Germany have left only small populations of Lutherans about. The Catholic Church was brutally suppressed too by the Communists and it shows and there are some aspects of this that I wish to write about in this blog.
But as we drove along the back roads well away from the tourists Mum kept saying (and she should know): gosh this is just like Ireland 60 years ago. She wasn't just referring to the hay stacks, the horses and carts and the general bucolic idyll. She was referring to the Orthodox church. It is very clerical, very much part of the status quo and quite rich. Please God, it doesn't decay completely and rapidly like Catholic Ireland has done.
Getting back to the Catholic presence in Transylvania, firstly, the majority of functioning Roman-Catholic Churches are Hungarian speaking. They don't seem particularly well attended. They are not always that easy to find. We were staggered by the following Catholic Church in the town of Dumbrăveni. It is simply the largest "functioning" Catholic structure I have seen in all my time out here and the main feature of the central square in the town. Expand the picture and you will see why I wrote functioning in inverted commas. It is close to falling down. The interior is little better than the exterior, there are significant cracks in the arches in the nave and the general dustyness has you thinking of Miss Haversham.
Having left my parents to digest their lunch on a shady park bench in the very pleasant town of Mediaș, I went off to explore by myself and was thrilled to see this:
Servant of God, Cardinal Iuliu Hossu and there is a rare functioning Greek-Catholic Church at the top of the street. The Greek-Catholics (lay and clerical) punched above their weight in their opposition to Communism. I have even heard Orthodox referring to them as the Martyr Church. They simply saw annihilation as the only way forward rather than submission to Communism. Here is a useful list of the Catholic Bishops who resisted the Communists in Romania.
And here my disquiet grows. History may say that the growth of the Greek-Catholics (Uniates) was a political thing: Byzantine rite souls who wanted the protection of Catholic Monarchs and States. I remain unconvinced that this is the whole story. If the Supremacy of Rome means something then it means EVERYTHING. It is something that (like Newman) you turn to in the fullness of faith. She is the Eternal Bride, She is the love of the Son. I do not believe the Uniates would have accepted martyrdom in such large numbers if it were simply just some political rejection of Communism that was fuelling them.(Though politics does have its own secular martyrs). No, they were martyrs for the Truth. They believed in the supremacy and authority of Rome and of the Bishop of Rome and that is why they were willing to die and suffer as they did.
But now we have a Pontiff who doesn't seem to believe in what these souls were willing to die for, a Pontiff who sees the Uniates in purely historical terms with a right to exist but not as bastions of some Eternal Truth about himself.
I am tired, my head hurts, I wonder about the whole Catholic Church and what she is and what she has become.......
Here is a nice picture postcard of not too touristy but ever so pretty Transylvania to cheer you up, best not think about religion....