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I Confess!

August 8, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

I have harbored an illegal alien.
It was October 1965. I had just finished Notre Dame’s intensive German program in Salzburg, and we had ten days to travel before our sophomore year abroad began in Innsbruck. As usual, I intended to hitchhike, and made plans to visit Germany, winding up at Oktoberfest in Munich.
On my last afternoon in Salzburg, a knock came on my door. Frau Höferer, the Austrian woman who ran the program, told me in hushed tones that a member of the Hungarian national soccer team — which was playing a series of games in Austria that week — wanted to defect. He was a friend of one of her assistants, whose family lived in Linz.
Would I help him?
Well, in those days every Catholic boy knew about Cardinal Mindszenty, the primate of Hungary who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Communist government after a show trial in 1948. We all knew how ruthless the Hungarian government was, especially after the Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956 to quell the revolution there.
During that revolt’s brief moment of freedom, Cardinal Mindszenty was released from prison and took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, where he remained until 1971, when he was allowed to come to the United States.
On Austria’s border with Czechoslovakia, our class had seen the watchtowers and the automatic murder machines — installed to guarantee that, if a Soviet soldier wouldn’t shoot a refugee trying to cross the border, the machine would.
We knew they were brutal. So when Frau Höferer asked if I were willing to help a young Catholic Hungarian fleeing Communism, I said, “Sure.”
I had to leave for Linz immediately. It took a couple of hours to hitchhike to the apartment on the Landstrasse where Geza was being dropped off by a friend from Vienna. No Austrian could get him any closer to the border, for fear that they would be apprehended by the Austrian police. An American passport was apparently a lot more persuasive with the gendarmes than an Austrian ID card.
But wait — why would the Austrians return him to Communist Hungary at all?

Our Lady Saves Austria

When World War II ended, Austria, like Germany, was divided by the Four Allied Powers, and Vienna, like Berlin, had four occupation zones as well. In February 1946, Fr. Petrus Pavlicek, a Capuchin, visited Mariazell — Austria’s national shrine of our Lady — to beg for Austria’s liberation from the Soviet occupation. He founded the Crusade of Reparation of the Holy Rosary in 1945, and placed Austria under the protection of Our Lady of Fatima.
For nine years Fr. Pavlicek led processions, retreats, and vigils throughout the country; by 1955, some 700,000 Austrians were praying the daily rosary, calling for the aid of our Lady.
It worked. In May 1955, the Soviet Union miraculously signed the Staatsvertrag (State Treaty) and agreed to leave Austria with the other occupying powers that same year. However, Austria was not allowed to join the West; rather, it was required to declare its neutrality, which is why, ten years later, it was not enough for a Hungarian fleeing Communist Hungary to make it across the border into Austria; he had to make it all the way to West Germany.
Geza was on an official sports visa; if the Austrians caught him, they’d have to turn him over to the Communists at the Hungarian border.

On The Road

Geza arrived in Linz that night and we left first thing in the morning — me with my knapsack, him with a gym bag, hitchhiking toward Passau, West Germany, some sixty miles straight upriver on the Danube.
Of course, I didn’t speak Hungarian, and Geza spoke no German. But we had both studied Latin in high school, so that’s what we spoke, when we had to. My German was passable, so on our various rides I would talk to the driver while Geza pretended to sleep.
We got to Schärding, about a mile from the border across from Passau, and bought something to eat. As we sat on a park bench with our food, three Austrian policemen walked by.
“Gruess Gott,” I said (“God greet you,” still the universal greeting in Austria). “Gruess Gott,” they replied, and walked on.
We waited awhile, and started toward the border crossing. Finally Geza said, “This is where I go into the woods. They’re meeting me there.” (I’m not sure we knew the Latin word for “woods,” but that’s where he was pointing.)
And we parted.
I walked on to the border crossing. The policemen we had seen were now on active duty.
“Where’s your friend,” one of them asked cheerfully, as I handed him my passport.
“He didn’t want to come along — he had all these Austrian coins he couldn’t use in Germany,” I replied.
They all laughed. “Where are you going,” the guard asked. “Passau — the youth hostel,” I replied.
A car came up to the crossing. “Hey, will you take this American to Passau?” the guard asked the driver.
“Sure.” And he did.

Geza And Eduardo

A few years ago our assistant pastor called. “Chris, can you talk to this guy?”
Eduardo had knocked on our parish door in a snowstorm. He was looking for money to spend the night in a local motel. He was from Sonsonate, El Salvador. His family got to Virginia by paying thousands of dollars to Coyotes who took them through Mexico and then, illegally, into the U.S. Every day Eduardo was knocking on the door of a different church.
Did Eduardo have friends here? No. Did he have a job? No. Did he have plans? No.
“Eduardo, Sonsonate is beautiful this time of year. Why don’t you go home?”
“I’d like to, but my wife wants the kids to go to school here.”
For less than a day, Geza was an illegal alien in Austria. When he got to Germany, he had friends, a job, and plans for the future — and he was immediately legal, under laws passed in Germany in 1951 and updated in 1965.
I never heard from Eduardo again (although I paid for his motel that night). He had already been in our rural Virginia town illegally for several months, knocking on church doors and sending his kids to our public schools, and he’s probably still here now. As a volunteer interpreter for local law enforcement, I constantly talk to Hispanics who are using stolen IDs, Social Security numbers, and countless other welfare benefits they’re not eligible for, and many stay around for years.
There are some ten to twenty million illegal Eduardos in the U.S., and some border bishops in Texas insist that we allow millions more. With high-toned moralistic epithets, the shepherds castigate Catholics (and anyone else) who disagree with them. Throughout the country, many Catholic bishops routinely defy the law and encourage illegal aliens to do the same, making it clear that amnesty, not marriage, the family, and sexual morality, is their highest “moral” priority.
Cardinal Mindszenty was the victim of an illegitimate government, a Godless tyranny. So was Geza. In making their case for illegals, American bishops often come dangerously close to condemning the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law as illegitimate as well. Of course, their allies on the left do the same, but they are also the sworn enemies of the Church and her moral teaching.
In forging their marriage of convenience with the left, while heaping contempt and abuse on millions of law-abiding Americans, including those in their own flock, the bishops are playing a very precarious game indeed.

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