The self-governing bodies of the religious denominations are time-honoured institutions of Hungarian civil society. Apart from dogma, all aspects of the life of a denomination are influenced by its self-governing body. In Hungary, the self-governing bodies of religious denominations have a history going back to the Reformation, but such bodies became fully functional only in the nineteenth century. The necessary legal framework was provided in three stages. The legal status of the Catholic Church as state church was abandoned, but there was no separation of - or division between - church and state. The halfway solution - the co-ordination system - both permitted and required the religious denominations to operate self-governing bodies. The so-called established Christian denominations as well as legally recognised denominations were permitted to establish self-governing bodies at national level. The canons of the Catholic Church and the exercise of royal patronage impeded the establishment of a Catholic self-governing body - an organ that would have included laymen. Thus, it was only in the Diocese of Transylvania (which was not subject to royal patronage, as Transylvania was an autonomous principality) that a Catholic self-governing body was established. It became known as the 'Transylvanian Roman Catholic Status'. The Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), and Unitarian churches, on the other hand, were founded upon the self-governing principle, and so they immediately began exercising the rights of autonomy under state supervision and with the equal participation of laymen. In the Orthodox (or Greek Catholic) episcopal church, the ecclesiastical organisation and the self-governing body formed two separate but intertwined structures. The religious organisation of the Jewish denomination represented a concomitance of self-supporting religious communities, each of which enjoyed full autonomy. Their higher organisations functioned as administrative fora, facilitating communication between the dicasters of the state and the various religious communities. The rules and regulations of the self-governing bodies (also known as church constitutions) were drafted and adopted by the competent fora of the denominations. The head of state or responsible government ministry then endorsed them, so that in principle they could be applied/enforced by means of the state. Due to the 'co-ordinated relationship' - a Hungarian peculiarity - the system of autonomy also ensured co-operation between the state and the religious denominations. Exceptions were, however, the legally non-recognised (merely tolerated) religious denominations. Such denominations could operate as associations. Thus, in their case, a full separation of church (denomination) and state was upheld. The self-governing bodies of the Christian and Jewish denominations functioned without hindrance during the pre-Communist era. However, after the declared separation of church and state in 1949, the established religious denominations were rendered fully subordinate to the state; their self-governing bodies became mere formalities.
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