Book Review: The Captive Cardinal

VOC Academic Council Member, Dr. F. Flagg Taylor IV, reviews József Cardinal Mindszenty’s Memoirs, by scholar Daniel J. Mahoney, for The Washington Free Beacon. Dr. Taylor’s review comes after Mahoney’s book was highlighted during an event at the Victims of Communism Museum. Dr. Taylor offers the following insight into the work:

Faith requires not only inner assent to certain truths, but living those truths in community with others. This kind of communal living creates a history that one looks to for guidance—and for the joy of remembrance and communion with the past. In other words, to be human requires a historical awareness and connection.

Yet the totalitarian movements of the 20th century each sought to create a new kind of being—one that could fully escape any connection to the past. But such an escape would require destruction. For József Cardinal Mindszenty—twice imprisoned by the Communists and once by the Nazis in his native Hungary—this was the ground where the battle with the two totalitarianisms needed to be joined. As he put it in his installation address (as archbishop of Esztergom and primate of Hungary) on September 16, 1945: ‘I wish to be the conscience of my people. … Contrary to the errors that are now springing up, I proclaim to my people and my nation the eternal truths. I want to resurrect the sanctified tradition of our people.

József Cardinal Mindszenty first published his memoirs in German and English in 1974. They were soon translated into many languages. When the book’s English language publisher MacMillan was subsumed under another larger publishing house, Memoirs fell out of print. The scholar Daniel J. Mahoney, who penned an informative and eloquent introduction for this handsome new edition by Ignatius Press, calls Mindszenty one of the ‘antitotalitarian titans of the twentieth century,’ and readers will have difficulty disagreeing with that assessment.

Read the full review in The Washington Free Beacon.