Set against the backdrop of the rise of right-wing Christian nationalism in Eastern Europe, this book declares that Catholic theologians ought to be understood and studied as intellectuals: socially and historically situated creators of national cultural traditions. While the Romanian government funds thriving schools for the country’s Hungarian minority, NGOs founded by Transylvanian Hungarians continue to organize volunteers to supplement this formal pedagogy. These volunteers understand themselves to be reviving a national tradition of “serving the people” by educating the region’s rural Hungarian populace.
While this book is about the challenges Catholic educators face in teaching villagers, it is just as much about their new effort to call groups of volunteers from across the border in Hungary to teach alongside them. In these encounters, Transylvanian Hungarian educators remake their intellectual tradition, especially ideas about the basis of pedagogical authority, the ethical character of the nation, and the social location of selfhood. When contemporary Catholic intellectuals urge teachers to manifest their national self-consciousness, they carry with them the assumption that selfhood emerges where humans collaborate with God. While Transylvanian Hungarian intellectuals are enmeshed in constant competition, by focusing on contemporary theologians Reforming Apostles unmasks the struggle over the nature of divine presence that animates this revival of a Christian national tradition of intellectual service.
Dr. Marc Roscoe Loustau is a cultural anthropologist and scholar of religion who studies Eastern European religion and politics. He is author of Hungarian Catholic Intellectuals in Contemporary Romania: Reforming Apostles (Palgrave MacMillan, 2022). He co-edited Mediating Catholicism: Religion and Media in Global Catholic Imaginaries (Bloomsbury, 2022). His academic articles have appeared in Anthropological Quarterly, Ethnos, the Journal of Religious Ethics, and other international scholarly journals. His opinion and commentary articles have appeared in major international magazines and newspapers including the Christian Century, La Croix International, America: The Jesuit Review, and The Tablet.