This year, Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs Kazimieras Tumėnas began to "enlighten and educate" the bishops, the administrators of dioceses, and ecclesiastical deans. In February he gave a lecture at the diocesan chancery of Telšiai; on Fabruary 18, at the chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas; on March 18, at the chancery of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys; and on April 17, at the chancery of Panevėžys.
In his lectures, Tumėnas attacked the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
Tumėnas explained that relations between state and Church are improving. There are problems and difficulties, but these can be resolved.
Long experience shows that the Soviet government will maintain good relations with the Church only when the latter capitulates. At the present time, vital problems of the Church are going unresolved; e.g., the publication of catechisms, the question of the seminary, etc.; only new ways of destroying the Church are being sought.
As Tumėnas sees it, villages are shrinking and consideration should be given to the consolidation of parishes. However, he did not say that with urban expansion, consideration should also be given to the construction of new churches; for example, in the suburbs of Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Alytus, and other cities. In the development of Lazdynai in Vilnius there are 40,000 people, and there is no church.
Tumėnas admitted that at times officials act badly, tactlessly.
Why, then, are they not punished? They may terrorize believers, destroy wayside crosses, establish quotas for the seminary, exile bishops, and teachers may spy on churches with impunity and dragoon children who are religious believers into Godless organizations.
The Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs said that the Vatican Radio has taken a bad line. One can agree that the Vatican Radio could learn from Moscow Radio how to turn out propaganda. The broadcasts of the Vatican Radio at the present time are a great moral support to the Catholics of Lithuania and even to non-Catholics. Thousands of people listen.
The deputy for cult emphasized that a catechism would not be published. He stated that while there could be more relaxation, there would be none because then the Chronicle would claim, "We obtained it by our own efforts."
What is the Chronicle guilty of? Is it not true that, up to the time of its birth, two bishops were exiled, the seminary saw quotas established, believers were persecuted, etc?
The believers of Lithuania do not expect tavors. They require not favors, but justice—the observance at least of Soviet law.
Tumėnas promised to grant in the near future permission to freely print 80,000 copies of a prayer book and to see about the problem of the production of religious articles.
Using the money of the faithful, the atheists are publishing books and pamphlets on a massive scale, while believers are not even allowed to reprint a catechism. It is not clear to Catholics during which five year plan the re-opening of shops for the production and sale of religious goods will be allowed.
The deputy for cult explained: "It is important that anti-Soviet elements not enter the seminary. It is too bad when young men come in with the wrong ideas. When they finish the seminary, they get involved not in the priesthood, but in the publication of the Chronicles. It is necessary to improve the quality of seminarians . . ."
The Catholics of Lithuania ask Tumėnas, the KGB, and all the others not to interfere in the affairs of the seminary, because the Church needs not security personnel in cassocks, but dedicated shepherds.
On September 15, 1975, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius wrote a petition to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, requesting to be restored to his duties as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius. On November 24, 1975, a similar petition was sent to the Chairman of the Lithuanian Council of Ministers by the priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius. Moreover, on October 4, 1975, the priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius wrote an open letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Lithuania concerning the falsehood of an article by instructor J. Aničas, a doctoral candidate in history, in which he tries to prove that in Lithuania there is complete freedom of conscience.
These communications, submitted in writing, were answered verbally by the Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs, K. Tumėnas and his associate.
The Representative summoned Bishop Steponavičius to his office in Vilnius. He gave him a vague reply, promising to confer further with Moscow. He affirmed that the answer to the question depended on negotiations between Moscow and the Vatican.
Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs Tumėnas replied to the above-mentioned petitions of the priests, but not to all the priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius at once.
In the spring of 1976, the deans of the aforementioned archdioceses were summoned to the chancery of the Archdiocese of Vilnius. Here Deputy Tumėnas spoke mainly about theChronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. He threatened to uncover it and to punish its producers severely.
The Deputy was angry because the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania writes even of such matters as the preservation of the ecology of Lithuania and about nationalism. These things concern them, too.
If Bishop Steponavičius wants to return to his duties, the Deputy continued, he will have to do certain things; e.g., forbid the Chronicle, with which the bishop himself allegedly cooperates.
Having good priests is also the concern of the Deputy, he said, and therefore, if anyone has any candidates for the seminary he should inform either the Deputy or Krivaitis (the Rev. Česlovas Krivaitis, Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius). The two of them would have to pass on the candidates together.
Moreover, Deputy Tumėnas summoned the priests of the following rayons:
On March 15, Šalčininkai; March 17, Švenčionys; March 24, Ignalina; March 27, the Rayonof Vilnius, with the exception of the City of Vilnius; April 2, Trakai; April 7, Varėna.
In some rayons Deputy Tumėnas spoke; in others, his associate Ruslanas. Both said clearly that the petition of the priests for the return of Bishop Steponavičius to the See as Apostolic Administrator of Vilnius would not be honored because the bishop had not mended his ways. The main indication of his recalcitrance, added the Representative, was the bishop's appeal to the civil government, which even reached abroad.
In Švenčionys, Tumėnas' associate repeated several times that Bishop Steponavičius is unacceptable to the Soviet government. When the priests asked for an explanation of what the bishop was guilty, the speaker replied, "I cannot tell you." The priests insisted. The speaker, losing his poise, blurted. "The bishop, in administering the diocese, paid attention only to Canon Law. He paid no heed at all to the laws of the State. The Soviet government cannot allow the Church to be, as it were, a state within the state."
There can be no talk of the return of Bishop Steponavičius. "We need bishops who will pay attention not only to Canon Law . . ." As an example of a good shepherd, he offered Bishop Romualdas Krikščiūnas.
In Šalčininkai, the associate deputy said, "It does not appear that the bishop's attitude has changed, since he wrote his protest to the government in the tone of a prosecutor, blaming only the government for everything. He cannot be allowed to return to his duties, because there would be much unpleasantness in the future. It will be better if in Vilnius there is no bishop at all."
In Trakai, he affirmed that the bishop's return depended on him, the Vatican, and the government. "The bishop must be broad-minded."
In Varėna, to spite the priests, Deputy Tumėnas said, "If you want the bishop to return, go to the pope. We don't appoint bishops; the pope does."
At Ignalina, the deputy said: "We have invited you here to reply to your two petitions. In one of them you request the return of Bishop Steponavičius to Vilnius.
"Regarding Steponavičius, he has either not established contact with the Soviet government, or he has not fulfilled certain requirements of the law . . . Apparently, he felt that he had to have a serious disagreement with the government of the republic, and not just with Rugienis, as you wrote in your petition," The deputy alleged that Steponavičius wrote the government a letter "that wound up where it should and where it should not."
"It was explained to him that at the present time it is impossible for him to return to Vilnius. I have met with him, and I think that we will meet again several times. I have been working at this position since just recently; we will see how he behaves. I want to see, and he should see—his future depends on him. If he is seriously considering returning, he must change your attitude."
"Your communication regarding the Aničas articles constitutes an attack on laws now in effect and on the state . . . Aničas wrote his articles as a private individual—a correspondent of the Academy of Science, and not as an official."
(Now he is director of a section of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania, his articles would thus assume a different value.)
"Hence you should send your response to his article directly to him. There are some doubtful statements in his articles. I would differ with him on some of his writings."
A voice was heard from the audience: "If he wrote articles in the newspapers and spoke on television, let him now publicly retract. Even though we are 'private individuals' no one lets us write columns in the newspapers or speak on television . . ."
The deputy " . . .In our country it is forbidden to establish any kind of schools, organize illegal groups, clubs—even church-affiliated. Citizens can study religion privately. The children may be taught at home by parents, older brothers and sisters, or others . . ."
Voice from the audience: "How can parents or anyone else teach children religion if we are not allowed to print any religious publications, even the catechism?"
The deputy returned to the question of Bishop Steponavičius: "It is more difficult now for Bishop Steponavičius to return to Vilnius to work. About the question of his serving as bishop elsewhere, we will see. The question is not unresolvable."
Voice from the audience: "And why can't Bishop Steponavičius do his work? For what offenses has he been punished by banishment from Vilnius?"
The deputy: "He has not been punished, but merely relieved of his duties."
(Laughter in the audience): "Is removal from duties then not a punishment? Perhaps it's a reward."
The deputy: "The government decided that it would not allow Steponavičius to work in Vilnius because he has been disloyal to the Soviet government."
Voices from the audience: "Specifically what has he been guilty of?"
The deputy: "I do not know. The Representative at that time was Rugienis. Ask him. He will explain. He will explain." (He repeated that in anger.)
The deputy responded to the last part of the open letter of the priests from the Archdiocese of Vilnius, in which they ask the government to abrogate all laws and regulations agains freedom of conscience:
"I must say that among us there is not a single regulation contrary to freedom of conscience. There is none. Religious freedom is something else entirely. The Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and other freedoms named in the Constitution. As for religious freedom—there is no such thing among us. Religious activity assumes a state character and is regulated by the state laws.
"If it seems to you that somewhere there is in reality denial of the freedom of conscience, you have the right to ascertain this and to report it to us. I do not know of any local government regulations that deny freedom of conscience—I have never heard of any. Even therayon government cannot promulgate such regulations."
Voice from the audience: "In my parish we had the following incident: One man, a believer, comes to church on Sundays, and since he knows how to play the organ, he plays for us during services. For this the supervisor told him in no uncertain terms: 'Choose between the Church and your job with us. If you want to play in church, you cannot work here.' "
The deputy: "That is not right. In such a case, let me know. I will intervene."
Voice from the audience: "It happens that something allowed by the government in onerayon is considered a criminal offense in another, and we ourselves do not know how to act if there is no official direction from above."
The deputy: "Read the Government News. There you will find in the near future the laws for religious groups. In putting them together, the documents of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic were used as a guideline, with modifications to suit the needs of our country... As for the traditional Christmas visitation of parishioners, it is forbidden. Nor does that ruling contradict the principle of freedom of conscience. Basically, such visitations were tied in with collecting dues, and every kind of dues collection is forbidden."
Voice from the audience: "And what if the home visitation is done without any collection of dues? What if we merely visit parishioners to become acquainted with them? Even the rayontax department demands that we tell them how many believers we serve. How can we tell the number in the parish if we are forbidden to visit them?"
The deputy: "Visiting the families of believers is not forbidden. You can visit them not necessarily in winter, around Christmas. You can visit them in the summer or in the fall. That is not forbidden."
Voice from the audience: "Believers out in the country are more apt to be free from work during the winter."
The deputy: "No escort is allowed. Besides, some people may not want the priest to visit them."
Voice from the audience: "But what if the faithful themselves invite the priest—even in writing? For example, in the Village of Didžialis in the Parish of Ceikiniai."
The deputy: "If you begin to go from house to house, you will be in violation of the rules . . . The public blessing of homes with all the trimmings is forbidden. Blessing from within—nothing special— you will be doing nothing very wrong . . . You are allowed to bless a new home."
Voice from the audience: "You accuse Bishop Steponavičius of last year giving the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania a copy of his petition to the Soviet government. But this has not been proved. What is the evidence that he did it himself?
The deputy: "I do not know. Perhaps you were the one?"
Father Garuckas: "Or perhaps it was you. If we do not know for sure, then we have no right to accuse anyone. Someone else could have given the information to the Chronicle—it was no secret."
The Deputy, after a few moments, reacted with annoyance.
Father Valiukonis: "What can be done so that any young man really wishing to do so might be able freely to enroll in the seminary?"
The Representative: "If we decide that any candidate upon completion of his seminary course is going to engage in anti-Soviet activity, we will not allow such a person to enter the seminary."
Voice from the audience: "All the current candidates are products of Soviet schools—some of them, even of institutions of higher learning. Many have worked in various Soviet agencies or industries. They have performed well and have been awarded medals. How can you decide that they are going to engage in anti-Soviet activity? For example, the teacher Antanas Klikūnas of Telšiai was not accepted."
The deputy " . . .If you have candidates for the seminary, let me and Krivaitis know. We will be able to help them. By the way, it seems (he added with some sarcasm) that you lack candidates from Lithuania. As far as I know, you have a Ukrainian studying . . ."
Voice from the audience: "You know that Krivaitis is of no use to us."
The deputy: "Well, it seems to me that up to now no one has complained about Krivaitis."
Father Valiukonis: "What about the number of seminarians? Is it still going to be limited by the government?"
The deputy: "That question is being decided by the Ordinaries."
Fr. Valiukonis: "I wonder, if we asked the Ordinaries, whether they would concur with your statement. . ."
The deputy: "You can ask them."
Voice from the audience: "It would be very good if the Deputy would put in writing everything that he is saying today. It would then be clearer to us all."
The deputy: "The very reason that we have invited you all to one place is so that no written report would be necessary."