DIOCESE OF VILKAVIŠKIS
Paluobiai Open Letter:
Honorable Senior Instructor at the Kapsukas State University of Vilnius, A. Augas:
In the March 1, 1974 issue of Kauno Tiesa (Kaunas Truth), No. 31, in your article, "Behold the Cassocked Friends of the People," you write:
"In the beginning of 1945 Bishop Bučys, urged by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Montini (the present Pope Paul VI) assigned the priest Pranas Račiūnas to gather intelligence data about the Red Army.
"Račiūnas was supposed to hand on the information to the Vatican spy Laberge, then in Moscow, he to the Vatican, and the Vatican, to U.S. Intelligence. Račiūnas, firmly believing that the Americans would liberate Lithuania, eagerly served them."
In your article, you do not mention that I was imprisoned for twenty-five years without trial. You do not indicate the true reason for my confinement. Here it is:
In 1947 in Lithuania, the Bishop of Telšiai, Vincentas Borisevi-čius, his auxiliary, Bishop Pranciškus Ramanauskas, and the Bishop of Kaišiadorys, Teofilius Matulionis, has already been arrested. The danger loomed that the dioceses of Lithuania would be left without bishops. The bishop of Panevėžys, Kazimieras Paltarokas, according to Canon Law, could not consecrate new bishops without permission of the Vatican. The bishop had no direct way of contacting the Vatican. For this reason, upon orders of my spiritual superiors, I went to Moscow to visit Father Laberge, Chaplain at the U.S. embassy, to request that he obtain the pope's permission to consecrate new bishops for Lithuania. On my arrival in Moscow, I obtained written permission from the local militia to live temporarily in Father Laberge's quarters. This request of mine was the basic reason for my imprisonment.
You accuse me of rushing "to serve them"; i.e., to gather and transmit information about the Red Army. I ask you to show specifically when, where, and what kind of information I gathered, and when, where, and to whom I handed it on, or even tried to do so.
It seems that you have never read, or do not wish to relate accurately the records of my interrogation, not even one of the most important, supervised by Lt. Col. Chistiakov, Chief of the Interrogation Section of Vilnius Security. The question of espionage against the Red Army does not figure at all either in the records of my interrogation in 1949, or in the decision in the review of my case by the Military Tribunal of the Military Region of Moscow.
I served sixteen years without seeing a judge, hearing the accusations of the prosecutor, or the testimony of witnesses, or hearing the reasonable judgment of a court, even though I demanded such a trial many times in writing, even though the Soviet Constitution guarantees each citizen of the Soviet Union the right to defend his innocence in court. The method of punishing "in absentia," such as was used in my case, was condemned by the Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR.
In the labor camps, living with professional thieves and robbers I had occasion to hear that their ethic forbids one to beat a man who is bound. Among them, breaking that rule is punishable by death. It is a cheap shot for you today to write articles libeling priests when it is practically impossible for them to respond to this libel via the press, radio or television.
If I, for example, were to call you, even in a private letter, a spy for the Chinese or English, you, feeling innocent, could take me to court and I should be punished for libel. But when you libel me, even publicly in the press, I cannot defend myself in that same press, even though the law provides no exception for priests or faithful.
Does your atheistic conscience consider it honorable to abuse the situation which has developed? Should not your self-respect as a university teacher be greater than that of the above-mentioned criminals?
Paragraph No. 7 of the Civil Code of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic indicates that "a citizen or organization has the right to require through the courts that information demeaning respect and honor be retracted, if the person disseminating such information cannot prove that it matches reality."
The law therefore obliges the person who disseminates information to prove that the information by him fits reality. If the respondent is unable to prove it, then such information is to be corrected. "The one who states that another person is unconscientious is obliged to prove it." (A. Vileita, "Piliečių garbes ir orumo gynimas," "Defense of Citizens' respect and honor", Mintis — Thought, V., 1969, pp. 32-37)-
"Since the law obliges that the validity of information disseminated be proved by the person disseminating the information, and since he did not demonstrate such validity, and the court has no other proof of the validity of the information disseminated, the court finds that the information disseminated by the respondent does not fit reality and orders the latter to deny such information." (ibid. p. 55).
It would be possible to accuse me and other persons mentioned in your article only when you had undeniable proof.
On what basis do you affirm that in 1945 Bishop Bučys assigned me to spy on the Red Army? Bishop Bučys left for Rome before June 15, 1941, and from the time when the Soviet Army marched into Lithuania in 1944, I had no contact with him. Read about this in the records of my interrogation.
You state categorically that Father Laberge was a spy of the Vatican. Look at the decision of the Moscow Military District Military Tribunal's decision in its review of my case in 1965.
There it is clearly stated: "It is not proven that Laberge was an agent of foreign intelligence." Whom to believe? Your libelous article or the document of the Military Tribunal?
You write: "In the beginning of 1945, at the instigation of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Montini, Bishop Bučys assigned the priest Pranas Račiūnas, of Panevėžys, to gather information concerning the Red Army." In 1945, Montini was neither a Cardinal, nor the Vatican Secretary of State. It was only in 1958 that Pope John XXIII elevated Montini to Cardinal, when he ruled the Archdiocese of Milan.
Finally, can you submit evidence that the present Pope Paul VI (Montini) ever urged Bishop Bučys to spy on the Red Army? Can you specifically show where, under what circumstances, Pope Paul VI gave such instructions? On what documents do you base your statements? Show which records of my interrogation speak of this.
I do not know what urged you to write such untruths and to mislead the Soviet reader, libeling Pope Paul VI, the late Bishop Bučys, Father Laberge, and me. I do not know whether you concocted such an article, or whether someone else wrote it, and you simply signed it.
Perhaps you wished in this way to serve atheistic propaganda in Lithuania. However, even atheists are obliged to keep to the norm of ethics. Do you not, by such an uncritical article, lower the prestige of the honorable title of Senior Instructor of the University of Vilnius? I do not know your moral standard. I do not know whether you, having had the nerve to write untruth, as a representative of learning, without ascertaining the facts, will have the will to make amends. An honorable person of strong character, having made an error, will always make amends. But will you, having had the nerve to calumniate several people, even the pope, have the courage and self-respect to recall those calumnies, or at least see that Kaunas Truth would print the text of my open letter?
Your article appeared in the press just a few days after the visit of the USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko to Pope Paul VI. Do you think that your article, accusing a pope of organizing espionage against the Red Army, is the beginning of a new campaign against the present pope, fitting in with the present course of Soviet foreign policy?
On the basis of Paragraph 7 of the Civil Code of the Lithuanian SSR, I demand that you prove legally the truth of the accusations you have made against me. If you can not, you are obligated to recall the aforementioned accusations. Otherwise, I retain the right to take you to court.
I am sending copies of this open letter to: His Excellency Bishop Juozas Labukas, His Excellency Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis, USSR Minitser of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko, the Rector of the University of Vilnius, J. Kubilius, Commissioner for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas, and the editors of Kauno Tiesa.
The Rev. Pranas Račiūnas
Paluobiai, March 20, 1974