In a surprising turn of events, Katalin Nóvak, the President of Hungary, has publicly acknowledged her errors and offered her apologies to those she has hurt. This comes following a significant uproar and subsequent demonstrations against her decision to pardon a deputy director of an orphanage, who was found guilty of covering up sexual abuse perpetrated by the center’s director.
Nóvak announced her resignation on Saturday, a decision she described as not difficult for personal reasons but challenging due to her commitment to her oath of office. She was quoted as saying, “I had to find an answer to the question of whether I could continue to serve as president for the benefit of the Hungarian nation.”
She admitted that her “measure of grace” had caused confusion and discomfort for many, referring to the controversial pardon she granted. She acknowledged the public’s expectation for an explanation, conceding that the power of forgiveness is perhaps the most sensitive of all.
Nóvak clarified that she had spoken out in favor of clemency in April of last year, believing that the convict did not abuse the vulnerability of the children in his care. However, she now admits that she was wrong and that her decision and the lack of justification could raise doubts about zero tolerance with pedophilia.
She reiterated her stand against abuse, stating that there is no doubt and there can be no doubt in this matter. “I would never have forgiven someone who I consider to be physically or mentally abusing a minor. That’s how it was before and that’s how it remains today,” asserted the former president of Hungary.
She also underscored the importance of children and their protection, describing them as the nation’s most important treasure. She added that despite differences of opinion, everyone is united in the duty to protect children.
Highlighting her personal experience as a mother of three, she acknowledged that unprotected and vulnerable lives need security and protection. She also expressed her regret for any mistakes made during her presidency, and offered an apology to those she has hurt and to any victims who may have felt that she did not defend them.
In her final remarks, Nóvak emphasized the harsh and sometimes cruel nature of politics, while also advocating for more women in public life. She argued that the world would be fairer, more peaceful, and have more meaning with the presence of women in public roles.
The resignation of Nóvak came after her return from a trip to Qatar and followed a mass demonstration where thousands gathered to demand her resignation. The scandal also implicates Judit Varga, the then Minister of Justice, who endorsed the pardon.
In response to the recent events, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that he will promote an amendment to the Constitution to prevent a person convicted of pedophilia crimes from receiving a presidential pardon.
The deputy director of the orphanage had previously been sentenced to three years and four months in prison for coercing one of the victims to sign a false statement and offering another victim money if she recanted her testimony. He was pardoned in May 2023, during Pope Francis’ visit to Budapest, with just nine months remaining on his sentence.
The orphanage director, who had been awarded the Hungarian Bronze Cross of Merit by the authorities before being charged, was sentenced to eight years in prison after several failed attempts by the victims to open a court case against him.