{2-599.} The Last Wave of the Counter-Reformation;
Recognition of the Romanian Orthodox Church

The Counter-Reformation inspired significant new measures at the beginning of the period, including a decree in 1751 on apostasy and mixed marriages. The antecedents included a decree, issued in 1727 by Charles III, which imposed sanctions on those who deserted the Catholic faith, but which was not put into effect. In the 1740s, the Transylvanian bishop Ferenc Klobusitzky urged that measures be taken against apostasy and the celebration of mixed marriages by non-Catholic clergymen. The Gubernium temporized, then divided over the question. Protestant councillors defended the Catholics' right to convert, while Catholic councillors twice made recourse to a petition. Finally, the Ministerialkonferenz took a stand. Those who had converted to Catholicism, then reconverted, and those adults who had been christened Catholic and subsequently converted would be charged with perjury (and thus deprived of the rights to bear witness, be a plaintiff, and hold public office); and Protestant ministers could bless a mixed marriage only with the permission of a Catholic bishop. The ruling clearly violated the established order of four recognized religions.

Protestants were the most affected by the next sanction, which involved restrictions on study abroad. There were stormy debates in the diets of 1752 and 1753 before the enactment of Law 1752:I, which charged the Gubernium with assessing the suitability of candidates for study abroad and the public utility of the project. Candidates had to guarantee that they would travel only to countries enjoying friendly relations with the Habsburg empire. The central government sought even greater restrictions. To prevent Protestants from studying abroad and absorbing anti-Catholic and anti-Habsburg notions, the queen proposed in 1761 that a university be founded in Transylvania offering a program in Protestant theology. Nothing came of the idea, and, in 1764, another proposal {2-600.} was presented, linking the creation of an interdenominational university and the total prohibition of study abroad. Protestant denominations united in protest and forestalled implementation. In the end, the restricted possibility of study abroad was preserved.

The forces of the Counter-Reformation resorted to the same tactics as before. Catholics were given preference in the public service; around 1762, five of the seven highest national offices were held by Catholics, the remaining two by a Calvinist and a Lutheran. A decree issued in 1770 stipulated that only Catholics and Uniates were eligible to fill vacancies in the Treasury. A similar preference prevailed in local government. In the 1760s, Unitarians were totally barred from holding public office. As noted, the forceful efforts made in 1768 to convert the Anabaptists at Alvinc broke up the community.

The Counter-Reformation did suffer one embarrassing setback: the evident, if partial failure of religious union, necessitating recognition of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Transylvania. After the resignation in 1751 of Micu-Klein, it seemed as if stability would return to the Uniate Church. One of Micu-Klein's three early disciples in Rome, Petru Aron, won election as bishop and worked zealously — and at times with forceful methods — to consolidate the union.

When, in 1726, the czar gave his backing to the empire by signing a treaty of alliance with the Habsburgs, Transylvania's Orthodox came to regard Russia as their principal foe. Nicolae Pop, formerly the Uniate dean of Balomir, was the first eminent Romanian from Transylvania to visit Russia. His trip, which had a political purpose, occurred in the late 1740s, and began with his escape to Wallachia. Responding to his urgings, Czarina Elizabeth instructed her ambassador in Vienna gather information on the problems of the Romanians, clergy and others, in Transylvania, and, if necessary, to intercede on their behalf at the Habsburg court. Ambassador Bestuzhev-Riumin complied with such zeal that the {2-601.} Habsburg government had him recalled. Meanwhile, two other Transylvanian Romanians, Brother Nicodius and Ioan Avramovici (Ioan din Aciliu), had travelled to Russia. Vienna continued to be the target of the Russians' now more circumspect diplomatic pressure on behalf of the Orthodox in Hungary, Croatia, and Transylvania. Additional support for Transylvania's Orthodox Romanians came from Wallachia as well as from the archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Hungary, Pavel Nenadovic, whose seat was at Karlóca.

With the onset of the Seven Years' War, the Habsburgs became even more dependent on their alliance with Russia, and more concerned to preserve domestic tranquillity in Transylvania, if necessary by compromising on the issue of religious union. In summer 1758, the line propounded by Prince Wenzel Kaunitz prevailed: the existence of Orthodoxy had to be acknowledged, and a Transylvanian Orthodox bishop — independent of the archbishop of Karlóca — should be appointed. Dénes Novákovics, the Serbian bishop of Buda, was selected for the post. The so-called Orthodox Edict of Tolerance, issued almost a year later, still only promised the appointment of a bishop, but it effectively exonerated those who had left the Uniate Church earlier. The movement of secession from the union now gained massive proportions, and it acquired a leader in the person of Sofronie (Stan Popovici), an Orthodox monk from southern Transylvania. Although the authorities found Sofronie intractable, his movement did not take a political course but remained purely religious in purpose. The government hurriedly dispatched Novákovics to Transylvania and ordered the military commander, Buccow, to supervise the division of parishes and property between Uniates and Orthodox. In the outcome, the Uniate Church counted 25,164, and the Orthodox Church 126,652 families. Although the government safeguarded the organization and financial base of the Uniate Church, the Orthodox Church was now legally tolerated, if not recognized on the same footing as the other {2-602.} denominations. However, by granting Transylvania's Orthodox an episcopate, the government had isolated them — at least in administrative terms — from Karlóca, and the creation of military districts in the frontier zone also isolated them to some extent from the Orthodox Church in the Romanian principalities.