Project Canterbury

True Religion
An Address delivered at South Bend, Indiana, Sunday, May 4th, 1913.

By Victor von Kubinyi

South Bend, Indiana: no publisher, 1913.

Transcriber's note: Victor von Kubinyi's parish was received into the Protestant Episcopal Church in December, 1913 by the Right Reverend John Hazen White, first Bishop of the Diocese of Michigan City. It continues as Holy Trinity Church, South Bend, Indiana.



Ladies and Gentlemen:--My name is Victor von Kubinyi, and I am the first Bishop of the Hungarian National Church in America, believer in God Almighty, justice, brotherly love, and truth. I was duly elected by my following Bishop of the Hungarian National Church in America, which was incorporated, as required by the laws of the State of Indiana, and last Sunday was consecrated; the consecration services having been performed in a very similar manner to the Latin Rite of Rome. But as soon as the consecration was over I told those present that I, by the very fact of my consecration, have solemnized my separation from the Church of Rome, which separation, in fact, was prevailing for the last year.

As I told you before, Ladies and Gentlemen, the consecration services were conducted in a way similar to that of the Church of Rome. But we have left out two very essential features, viz: I did not profess allegiance to the Pope of Rome, and I did not promise to pray against and to persecute heretics and schismatics, as required by the Roman regime. I did not profess allegiance to the Pope of Rome because, in my opinion, no individual can render allegiance to two potentates at the same time. I and my flock do not know any other potentate, as American Citizens, but the Constitution of the American Republic as represented by the President of the United States. As Christians, I and my following do not know such things as heretics and schismatics, because we believe in absolute religious freedom, and we do not acknowledge the right of any one to discriminate between religion and religion. So I am a Bishop who has nothing at all in common [1/2] with the Church of Rome, and who simply stands on the ground of Christianity and absolute freedom of religion, and who is wearing this purple robe, not because he thinks he is more than any one of those present, but because he and his following know that he is legally entitled to wear it, no matter whether some people do like it or not.

I therefore hereby openly and solemnly declare I am not a Roman Catholic Bishop, neither are those of my flock Roman Catholics. As you all know, there are Anglo-Saxon Catholics who are called in this country Episcopalians. There are Armenian Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Greek Catholics, Dutch Catholics; there are the Russian Catholics, Bulgarian Catholics, Roman Catholics, and now you have Hungarian Catholics. So, if you so please, you can call me and my following Hungarian Catholics; but, as a matter of fact, the corporate title of our church corporation is simply Hungarian National Church in America.

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, if there is anybody here in this audience who can prove that I am not a Bishop legally elected by his flock, duly incorporated according to the laws of the State of Indiana, and consecrated according to the rite which he and his flock deem--for the time being--most fitting and proper, please step right up here and prove it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us forget that we are in the Oliver Opera House, South Bend, Indiana.

Let me suggest that we transform this theatre into a temporary court room--the defendant is Victor von Kubinyi, first Bishop of the Hungarian National Church in America.

The plaintiffs are the Church of Rome, represented by its local pastors, especially so by Rev. Alexander Varlaky, Pastor of St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Hungarian Church in this city, and several Hungarian national papers, especially so the local Magyar Tudosito, the editor of which, I am sorry to state, is the Pastor of the Hungarian Presbyterian Church of this city, and who consequently, in my opinion, ought to be broad-minded. If he is not, we cannot help it, but he ought to be. This gentleman [2/3] seems to have no idea of American fairness. He would print any old stuff my opponents would put up against me, but he could not lift up his mental equilibrium as high as to look at the other side of the matter referred to.

Besides those as aforesaid, there are among the plaintiffs two or three saloon-keepers, several dozen ignoramuses and some more hypocrites. I beg all those present to consider themselves members of the jury, and I appeal to your independent American judgment, which I know will be fair, for it can not be otherwise.

Rest assured, Ladies and Gentlemen, had I not the utmost confidence and respect for American fair treatment, I would not have volunteered to lay my cause before you.

Charges are made by more or less (and I would say less) responsible people,--I should say by some more or less irresponsible people, that I am not Bishop of the Hungarian National Church in America; perhaps because I did not ask their previous permission. For this reason I challenge this fair court that this charge be proven, and if it cannot be proven right here and now, I am ready to have it proved before any court of record in the United States of America.

It is further charged that I dare to differ with the Church of Rome, and that I attempt to divert from time-worn religious customs, and that I dare to use my own judgment based upon my conscientious conviction.

It is also charged that I am here to perturb the peace of my fellow-countrymen. It is also charged that I am here to establish a new religion, and it is also charged that, by doing this, the comforts of the Hungarian community and that of South Bend at large will be seriously disturbed.

There may be hundreds of more charges, Ladies and Gentlemen, but whenever a defendant appears before a court by his own volition and faces its decision, such a one, in my opinion, is a braver man and a better man than those irresponsible fools who use public slander in order to try to prohibit a man in a free country from following the dictation of his conscience.

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me show you the witness-stand I am placing myself upon.

[4] Articles in Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.

Article 1: Political and Religious Freedom.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The following is from

The Constitution of the State of Indiana. Section 46: Natural Rights.

"We declare that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain un-alienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that all power is inherent in the people; and that all free governments are, and of right ought to be, founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety and well-being. For the advancement of these ends, the people have, at all times, an indefeasable right to alter and reform their government."

Section 47: Rights to Worship.

"All men shall be secured in their natural rights to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences."

Section 48: Freedom of Thought.

"No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions or interfere with the rights of conscience."

Section 49: No Preference to Any Creed.

"No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry against his consent."

[5] Section 50: No Religious Test.

"No religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of trust or profit."

This is my witness-stand--mighty strong! Dare to touch it? Be careful that you don't hurt your fingers.

I was ordained a priest according to the Roman Rite some sixteen years ago, and therefore I know what I am talking about. I had the wonderful opportunity of coming to this country and become acquainted with your liberal laws, with your Constitution; and I came to the conclusion if there ever was a country which is following the footsteps of Christ, then this is the country.

As I told you, I do believe in God Almighty. And I also want to tell you that I do not believe God is a Roman Catholic, or an Episcopalian, or a Hebrew; neither do I think he is a Presbyterian or a Baptist. I do believe God is God, plain and simple. God so loved the world that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to reform a decaying population. He did not give Jesus Christ orders to collect dollars and cents for His work, or to accumulate property. Christ established the church, but He established it not for the sake of a certain sect, but for the sake of all those who choose to join His church.

"If any man hear my word and believe not, I judge him not, for I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world." That is what Christ said. Quite plain, is it not?

Christ's whole preaching can be summed up in one sentence--"Love God and be charitable to your neighbor."

As soon as Christ was put upon the cross, and before his mortal body turned cold, there appeared promoters on the scene, as they always do, and the wonderful gospel preached by Christ was turned into a cold-blooded money-making proposition. It was so new, it was so magnificent, it was so far-reaching, that people could not fail to see the chance to turn the gospel of Christ into profit.

Christ died a poor man, without any worldly possessions whatever, His only aim being to make all nations come together, to love each other, to do the right thing by each other, and by thus [5/6] doing to get nearer to His Father and to Him. After Christ was dead, his successors were looking not only for worldly power, but for the actual control of the whole world, and not only in a spiritual way, but otherwise.

Ladies and Gentlemen, history will teach you that for a long time--for centuries, in fact--the successors of meek Christ were controlling the whole known world, and tried to extend their power upon all the newly discovered parts of this globe. Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is where I claim misrepresentation of the principles of Christ and of God Himself.

God will at times, in His providence, allow men to go their limit, but He will never sanction their assuming divine attitude. When Napoleon, one of the greatest men history ever knew, began to think he was more than an appointee of divine providence, God Almighty did not hesitate to use His blue pencil, and to say, "Now, Mr. Napoleon, you are going too far; you have begun doing things which are not good for the people entrusted to your care; I want you to stop right now!"--and Mr. Napoleon did stop, because he had to.

And there is another instance.

When the successor or representative of His Son, the Pope of Rome, went too far; when he began to assume an attitude not becoming an apostle of the true gospel, God Almighty again took His blue pencil, and He put down September 20, 1870, and you could again hear His voice--"Mr. Pope, you are going too far: I am going to deprive you of your worldly power, of which you are about to take advantage at the expense of those for whose salvation My Son died on the cross!"--and the worldly power of the Romish church ceased in the year of Our Lord 1870.

Christ was a poor man and died on the cross. His successor lives in the Vatican, a palace of several hundred rooms, and his subordinates, archbishops, bishops and priests live on the fat of the land, forgetful altogether that poverty can never be divided from the gospel of Christ. In some countries of Europe the clergy own thousands and tens of thousands acres of land; and in many instances the members of my flock were compelled to seek the shelter of the Stars and Stripes because they could not cope with the extortions as practiced by those supposed to be the successor of Christ.

[7] As I have told you, I consider myself as being on trial right here now. The crime I am charged with is that I have the nerve to state openly and frankly my conscientious convictions: If a thousand, a hundred, or less people get together to form a congregation of any denomination, and build a tabernacle, church, or temple, or whatever you please to call it, put up a residence for their pastor, priest, or bishop, and pay for all this real estate, the title to all such property ought to be and ought to remain with the donators, and not with His Lordship, Bishop So-and-So. The trouble in the Hungarian population in this city began when the congregation came to learn that the title to their property had been turned over to Bishop Alerding, of the Fort Wayne diocese.

After reaching this country I was so deeply impressed with the well-controlled freedom and the habit of being equitable, that I could not help but join the protest of my people. Most of you Ladies and Gentlemen are Americans, and you certainly will appreciate this statement. This is a public place, and I am talking to the public, and I am going to make the public take notice of it; and I am going to talk as often and as long as I shall succeed in getting your moral support, and that is what I want. It takes great courage for a stranger to talk to an audience about matters of utmost importance. But if one has not got the nerve to talk just what he thinks is right, such a one has no business to enter public life.

I represent my fellow-countrymen, the Hungarians, and I want you to listen to me.

Are the Hungarians undesirable citizens? Seemingly so. But why? They were suppressed; they came from the darkness of oppression right into the wonderful garden of freedom. Most of them had no schooling at all. Can you blame them if they take liberty for license? Can you blame them if they go wrong politically, morally, and otherwise, being bamboozled and fooled by those very men who are supposed to be their natural leaders and representatives in this country? How can you expect people of a foreign nation to make themselves to home and to make themselves useful citizens, if their natural leaders, the priests, have the nerve to stay in this country for seventeen, eighteen and [7/8] twenty years without acquiring at least the rudiments of the language of this country? My fellow-countrymen have been handled here just exactly like cattle--not by the Americans. I admire you Americans who are treating so decently and so fair those people who, as a matter of fact, without any of their own fault, are actually a burden to this country. If their natural leaders are using their influence to the detriment of their own flock, how can you expect Americans to feel induced to give the Hungarian a fair deal. And still they do. Give them a chance to show that they are good people,--they are nice people, with a strong dose of inborn intelligence,--and then you will see that in two or three decades from now you will have no reason to look upon the Hungarians as inferior beings, which today nobody could blame you for.

Your great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, and your grandfathers and grandmothers used to start from the East coast with a yoke of oxen and traveled for months and months; they fought wild beasts and bloodthirsty Indians to come here and make a home for you. They lived in log-houses and burned a tallow candle. Would you expect any one of your relatives today to live the same, way, and to travel the same way? You would be foolish if you did. The world has progressed and is progressing, and will progress still more, because it is bound to progress, and nobody can stop the world in its speedy progress. By your fair dealings and the wonderful American energy and progressiveness and perseverance you have made your country the greatest country on the globe. Today we travel in almost no titne on the greatest railroad system of the world. The day of the tallow candle has passed, and today we turn on the electric light of the Twentieth century, and the radium light will be the next discovery. The sailing vessel is a matter of the past, and today palatial steamers are rapidly fighting the waves of the ocean to bring all the sisters and brothers closer and closer, Step by step we have improved in everything from day to day. We are making new laws that will make life safer and happier and to suit the trend of times. The sciences and medicine have improved. We are making laws to clean politics and to cut out adulterated food, in order [8/9] to protect our bodies and the bodies of our wives and of our children. There is only one thing that has remained stagnant and inactive, and that is the time-worn laws of the Roman church, which is supposed to protect, not the body, but the souls of ourselves, of our wives, and of our children.

And here I see my mission.

I am going to turn on the light in the minds of my fellow-countrymen, most of whom never have had the opportunities of education, freedom, and fair treatment, which you have. I know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that if you. understand thoroughly this question, the American love for a square deal will guarantee me your moral support.

Christ had the privilege given Him by God Almighty to give His life and blood for the salvation of all those who wanted to be saved by Him. He established the most wonderful Providential reform system that was ever successfully executed, and then He was crucified. And what do you think would happen if Christ should "dare" descend from heaven today? Do you think they would crucify Him? No. They would simply tear Him to pieces. And who would be doing this? Those who claim and who are supposed to be His successors and His representatives!

Christ, the Son of God Almighty, admitted that He was frail and open to error; and the one who claims to be His successor says he is infallible. What a nonsense! What a blasphemy!

Here I am in this robe. I don't give a snap for it as .a garment. I am wearing it because I am legally entitled to it. But, do you think I consider myself better than any one here, or any man who is walking the street barefoot, just because I am Bishop of the Hungarian National Church in America? I would be a fool if I should do such a thing. I am too intelligent, I am too good a Christian, I am too good an American to get in this foolish attitude; and all those who are getting into that attitude, in my opinion, and to put it very mildly, are branding themselves superabundant fools.

[10] Now, I want to tell you something, Ladies and Gentlemen, (and I shall make it as short as possible) about the inside of my troubles, and how it happened that I came to South Bend.

A little over two years ago I received a Special Delivery letter from the then chairman of the church committee of St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church of South Bend, asking me to take charge of their church. I was then in the Roman Church--that is, in appearance; in my heart I was not a Roman priest for the last six or seven years. I could not break away from Rome as long as my father was alive, because I knew I would have made the rest of his days miserable. He was a man of the Old School. He meant well. And I like him the better because it was him who, when I had to face so many trials, slanders, and all those things, helped me by having given me the nerve and the courage to stick. There was a monk--Girolamo Savonarola of Florence--who, when threatened with execution, said "Frangar sed non flectar," which means, "You can break me, but you cannot bend me." And you remember Martin Luther, don't you? What would have become of humanity if Martin Luther had not raised his voice, which sounded like thunder, but which did not mean destruction, but which meant evolution, progress, mental and religious freedom, and consequently the approach of happiness, if there is such a thing as real happiness on earth.

When my people induced me to come to South Bend (and I came just a year ago today--isn't that strange!) I told them I had not come as a Roman priest, because by the very fact of having set foot in South Bend without permission of the Romish Bishop I became separated from Rome. And we established an independent congregation--a Catholic congregation, but not a Roman Catholic one. I was observing, so to speak, the mental development of my flock, and serious doubts came to my mind. I was put face to face with the question whether my people knew the importance and the meaning of a secession from Rome?

There is a Papal delegate in Washington, D. C.--I don't know, and I think nobody knows, how he ever got to Washington; but he is there, claiming to be the Pope's ambassador. I did not consider myself belonging to Rome, and I was afraid that a [10/11] secession from Rome might perplex or confuse my flock, so just to set them an example of obedience, I left my flock at the "command" of the Papal delegate and because I thought it was best for them to return to their church. I set them an example of obedience by obeying the call of the Papal delegate, against my conviction and with the utmost disgust, but for the sake of those for whom I was working I left. They wanted me to go to Rome and seek justice there. I did not expect very much from that trip. I was ready to go, however, when a delegation came after me and asked me not to go anywhere, but to return, and if I didn't want to return as priest, to return in civilian clothes. I did return, and the secession from Rome was executed properly. My people put up a church, and paid for it. Then an incident occurred which made me hesitate. There is a Sick Benefit Federation in this country for the Hungarians, called The Federation of the Blessed Virgin, in which Federation there were certain people of my following, and it was threatened to expel them from this Federation unless they would return to the Romish Church. Last December they began to expel those of my flock. And since I did not think it was right that anybody should face damages because of adhering to my belief, and because I was afraid that the whole movement, as far as my following was concerned, was more of an infatuation than conviction, and since I was not impertinent enough to take advantage of the infatuation of the people, I left again on the 26th of December, 1912. I had a hidden purpose when I left: I wanted to test the worth of the movement--whether it is infatuation or whether it is the result of discrimination and knowledge.

All during the previous nine months I was trying hard to educate my people. I was telling them things like this, for instance: "If you cannot be a Christian without going to the confessional, in my opinion, there is no chance for you to be any Christian at all." When I preached like this, I expected my people to leave my church, but the next Sunday I had a crowd twice as large. That did not satisfy me. I was still under the impression that they are infatuated--that they were like children; not only small children, but big ones, too, who are infatuated with something new which [11/12] comes to town, like Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey, etc. You will see most sensible people stand on the street corner and watch the parade twenty times over because they think there might be a new elephant or camel or something. Well, that was my impression. But I tell you now, my impression was wrong.

I went to Chicago, and was studying the situation in other cities, and I came to the conclusion that I have to continue my work, but I also knew it would be unwise to continue my work without seeing its continuation secured for the future to some certain extent. So then I took up the matter with Archbishop Vilatte, who is the head of the independent Catholics in America, and he called me, by previous understanding, to have a meeting at the Oliver Hotel some three weeks ago, and then he gave me the sanction of himself and other independent bishops, and consecrated me Bishop of the First Hungarian National Church in America, in order to give me jurisdiction to extend this movement. As pastor of a certain church I have had no business, no authority, to go to any other city or village and establish a new congregation. As Bishop, I have the right and I have the authority, and I propose to exercise this right and this authority; and you will see in a year from now, if God will spare my life, that we have accomplished something worth while.

After I had come to the conclusion that I must continue my work, that I was bound to resume my work again (having previously been arrested by a saloon-keeper because I did not turn over the church records to him) I returned and I was consecrated, to the greatest dissatisfaction of certain hypocrites, who do not acknowledge my claim of being a bishop. But I am a bishop. But don't you think, my dear friends, that I give a snap for the fact that I am a bishop! There is nothing in it. But I do give something for the fact that I have people--hundreds of them, of my own nationality and some Americans, fine men, who have good brains and are using their brains--who are siding with me and who are awake to the importance of this movement, and who know just as well as I do that my work will be very hard. I have to face many a slander. I am going to face it, not only because I have the nerve to do so, but because I have the conviction that I [12/13] am trying to do the right thing by my fellow-countrymen, not only for their sake, but also for the sake of this country.

I said a little while ago, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the whole gospel of Christ might be summed up in one sentence. I just happened to think it might be summed up in just one word--TRUTH.

If you are true to yourself, if you are true to your wife, if you are true to your children, if you are true to your fellowmen at large, you are true to Christ and you are true to God Almighty Himself. This is the very religion I am going to preach. I do not believe in expensive ceremonial display. I do not believe in wonderful church garments or ornaments. If you knew how I feel in this robe, I am sure no one would envy me for a minute. This robe does not weigh maybe more than a pound and a half, but if it weighed so much that it required strength to be borne upon the rostrum, I would not be any more freely perspiring than I am now. It is heavy--it means duty; it means responsibility; it means that I myself might go to pieces while trying to perform my duties or while trying to live up to my responsibilities. But Truth will never go to pieces. The more you kick Truth, the more you try to do away with it, the stronger it will be, and it will crush to pieces all the fools. As Bishop of the Hungarian National Church in America, I am to exalt the simple church service, to do away with useless display, and I am going to be only the spiritual head, so to speak, of my church. As far as church display is concerned, in my opinion, services as conducted by the High Episcopalians ought to be the limit,--a neat, plain, dignified display. And church display, in my opinion, cannot be used as anything else but a useful means to lift up our minds, and not to scare ignorantly.

I shall also endeavor to educate my flock so as to enable them to believe they can go to heaven without confession and without written permission of anybody, because they do not need it.

Now, please do not accuse me of trying to do away with mysticism. Mysticism, is necessary to make our religious life happy, just as poetry is necessary to make our ordinary life enjoyable.

[14] If mysticism is overdone, however, it is bound to result in perplexing hypocrisy and superstition, and consequently will work harm to all concerned.

There are optimists and pessimists, and now, Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to say a few words to the pessimists.

Some of you are business men. Others are professional men. Again, others are plain workmen. It does not make the slightest difference. But all of us are inclined, when evening comes, when the day is done, to sit down in the rocking chair and try to tell the other fellow how hard we were working.

Don't you think you forget something?

Don't you think if we live right, there are compensations to our work; that our prizes are not all held up until we get to heaven? The beam of sunshine, the whispering of the leaves of the tree, the song of a bird, the glad-hand of a friend--do you forget all that?

Just yesterday I was so tired--mentally, bodily; my brain was tired, my heart was aching. Oh, I felt sick! It was not a regular heartache. No. It was the heartache of a man who is trying his level best and who is slandered. A lady of my congregation walked in with two little babies--beautiful children. The little four-year old boy attempted to kiss my hand, according to the custom. I lifted him, looked into his big blue eyes, took in all the glory of God's most perfect gift--an innocent child, and it was I who kissed his little hand; and, believe me, I forgot all about being tired. I had my compensation for that day's work and trials, and they were many.

Do I believe in prayers?

Of course, I do.

Pray. Make your prayers the hardest work of your day. I do not care where you pray, or how you pray, but pray. God will listen to you, even if you happen to be sitting in a rocking chair. Be honest, be truthful, be sincere, and do not try to bamboozle [14/15] God, because then you would be fooling yourself only. When you call on a sick friend you are praying. When you save a little child from being run over by a buggy you are praying. When you help an old woman to carry her bundle, or when you stand up in the street car and give her your place, you are praying. Believe me, you are. And when you go down on your knees and make the sign of the cross, and fold your hands, you are often telling the most dirty lie that ever was uttered.

It takes so little to pray, and you get so much for it. You get the salvation of your soul. From whom? I don't care what you call him; call him God, call him Buddha, call him Confucious, call him the Great Master-builder of the universe. He is either. He will take care of what is immortal in yourself.

I did not come here, Ladies and Gentlemen, to make an appeal to you, although I feel that I ought to appeal to somebody. I cannot appeal to the Honorable Mayor of this city, because he is bound to be impartial; neither can I appeal to Chief Cassidy, or any other official who must be neutral, too. And I would hardly think so far that I could appeal to the local press, because they are under a wrong impression. But I am perfectly satisfied that when they know the truth, when they know the facts, they will give me a fair treatment without appealing to them, because they are members of the great organization which we call the American Press. But I come here, Ladies and Gentlemen of this jury, to put myself and my flock under the protection of your fair, square, American judgment, and I know you will not deny me that which you could not deny even if you wanted to, because you are American. In doing this I am performing my sacred duty as the head of the Hungarian National Church in America.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind attention, for which I shall try to be grateful as long as I live.

As a slight token of my profound gratitude and love, for all of you present, and for all of those living in South Bend, Indiana, let me bid you a hearty farewell and God-speed with a few verses of that wonderful, genius, Kipling:

[16] " * * * * * * *

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same.

" * * * * * * *

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son.

I thank you!

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