To the Chief Prosecutor of the LSSR
Copy to: His Excellency Bishop Liudas Povilonis
A Statement by the Rev. J. Zdebskis
At the beginning of December, 1976, while I was out, four unknown citizens arrived, one of them in militia uniform. Finding my mother and some guests at home, they arbitrarily walked about my rooms, insulting my guests with threats. They gave no names, nor did they leave any warrant, or record of the search.
A few days earlier, a similar operation was carried out by other persons, among whom was the principal of the Šlavantai Middle School, J. Petrauskas.
I request the Prosecutor to explain the incident and to remind the persons mentioned of Soviet law.
Šlavantai, December 20, 1976 Pastor of Šlavantai
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AN OPEN LETTER The Honorable K. Pikturna, Editor of the "Communist Word" of Kelmė:
On May 29, this year, in your column entitled "Don't Do As I Do, But Do As I Say", you write:
"Some time ago, the pastor of Stulgiai, J. Bučinskas, discharged from work the little old lady (Miss) Žaludaitė, who had served the church all her life..."
In your article you fail to mention why I fired her. Why do you not mention that Miss Žaludaitė showed up in the Village of Stulgiai not as an employee of the church, but as a vagrant, unable to cope on her own? That she was not so much hired, as given shelter? This can be confirmed by (Mrs.) Mikutienė, who lived in Stulgiai at the time. At the present time, she still lives in the vicinity of Kražiai.
Why do you not mentoin that the self-same Miss Žaludaitė, approximately twelve years earlier, together with Father A. Zukas, was evicted from a house belonging to the church, and was left without support or shelter?
In reporting the matter, you should have mentioned that I terminated her employment at the order of (Mrs.) Drazdovienė, Directress of the local medical clinic. Žaludaitė had had a major operation. Why do you not wish to know that I arranged a house for her? This can be attested by those who worked on it: Vladas Gara-levičius, of the Village of Stulgiai, Antanas Rudys, of Darvyčiai Village, Antanas Kvietkus, of Daidatiniai Village, Edmundas Ba-zauskas of Stulgiai Village, and other men of the area.
Incidentally, a request was made to the Chairman of the Communal farm, A. Navickas, asking any assistance he might give. The answer was negative. I then applied to S. Ačas, the District Chairman, requesting a few sheets of asphalt roofing. He replied, "I have no way of writing it off."
Why do you keep silent about the fact that the bed and bedding were given her by me? This would have been verified by (Mrs.) Bronė Milašienė, who lived in Stulgiai at the time, and by other women who were neighbors of Miss Žaludaitė.
You write: "... He put her out without asking where she would get work or how she would make a living."
But why do you keep silent about the fact that it was I who obtained her invalid's pension for her? This can be confirmed by Doctor Kopkaitė, of Telšiai, by Dr. Tamulionienė, of Kaunas, and the Director of the Psychiatric center, Dr. Aganauskienė, of Kaunas. After all, the District Soviet was approached on this point several times. The answer was, "We have no funds for that." So it was I who obtained the invalid's pension which Žaludaitė had coming.
Honorable K. Pikturna, I have heard it said that in the labor camps the inmates have a rule among themselves: "You must not strike a man who is tied up." Those who break this rule are sentenced by their fellow-inmates to death. It is well and good for you to write articles calumniating me and by the same token other priests, when it is impossible for us to defend ourselves against these articles of yours in the press, on radio, or by television.
If I were to write even the slightest untruth about you, then you, feeling yourself wronged, would probably take me to court. But when you calumniate me in the press, I cannot, practically speaking, demonstrate my innocense in that same press, even though the law provides no such exception for priests or religious believers.
Does your atheistic conscience consider it honorable to take advantage of such a situation? Shouldn't your honor, as an editor, be greater than that of the inmates of labor camps?
While I was living in Stulgiai several persons were discharged from work: Pranas Varanavičius as labor brigadeer; Vytautas Zubric-kas as a farm laborer; and the teachers (Mrs.) Zieringienė, (Mrs.) Grigaitienė and (Mrs.) Terapienė, from the elementary school at Stulgiai.
Now these women had worked in education for a long time. Did you write about them, inquiring where they would be working or how they would make a living? But you raise such questions with me, simply because I am a priest and you can say or write anything you want about me, without regard to elementary human truth.
Further in your article you write, "At the beginning of this year, the little old lady (Miss) Pranciška Butkutė died abandoned in the hospital..."
Everyone living in the Village of Stulgiai knows that Miss Butkutė died in the Village of Patulgis, at the home of (Mrs.) Sofija Kazdailevičienė. She died suddenly, and was found dead the next morning. The body was taken to the hospital at Kelmė for autopsy. It would be interesting to know why you conceal the fact that about 65 rubles were collected from the faithful for her funeral. This can be verified by: Ona Jakutienė, of Stulgiai; Aleksas Volfa, of Stul-giai; Bronius Jakšta of the Village of Dvarvyčiai; Povilas Kontrimas, of the Village of Žirnaiciai, and others who contributed funds towards the burial of the deceased. Money was also collected for the casket. So the faithful did take an interest.
If it was the District Soviet and the management of the commune who purchased the casket and furnishings, then where did the money contributed by the faithful disappear? What was is used for? Willy-nilly, the thought arises, confirming the words of Antanas Skinderis to the effect that District Chairman S. Ačas drank for three days after Miss Butkuté's funeral.
Moreover, why was no attention paid to the requests of the faithful that the deceased be buried with religious ceremonies? After all, those at the funeral were all believers, except for Acas and Party Secretary A. Snilis. Can two people outweigh the demands of twenty or more of the faithful? Was it not because they are believers that no heed was paid them, and one may act with them as one pleases?
You write: "Among them were some, who, bearing the casket to the cemetery, tied the cemetery gates..."
None of those attending the funeral saw the gates tied. The men who carried the casket freely entered the gateway, with no interference from anyone. Nor did the caretaker of the cemetery, Ona Jakutienė, nor Sofija Druktenytė, nor Ona Sungailienė nor Stasė Vitkienė, nor any of the other women see the gates tied. And when Viktoras Garalevičius, on the occasion of his wife's retirement, asked the District Chairman Ačas why he had said so, the latter replied, "I lied—There was nothing else I could do."
Honorable Editor Pikturna, I would like to ask you on what you base your statement that in a sermon, I said that Miss Butkutė should be re-interred?
Of 150 to 200 believers participating in services on Sunday, not one could have heard any such announcement, because it simply was not said. And this allegation was denied by me on March 5 of this year, when I was summoned before the District Soviet by Vice Chairman Pažarauskas, of the Rayon Executive Committee. If it was still unclear, they could have asked the faithful. After all, you have all the facilities, you could have checked.
Moreover, no one in Stulgiai that day of Miss Butkuté's funeral saw any procession, cross, banners or any priest in liturgical attire.
But then why may I not bless the grave, or pray? After all, this was all done at the grave of a believer, not of an atheist. The deceased had been a believer all her life, and prior to her death, she never signified to anyone that she was renouncing her faith. What law forbids placing flowers or wreaths on the grave of the deceased? Perhaps it is forbidden just because it was done by religious believers, with myself officiating as a priest.
On the road from the school to the Village of Stulgiai is a sign saying, "An orderly homestead gives pleasant rest". These days the press and television urge more and more frequently that the individual homesteads come back. It is therefore unclear to me what you meant by writing that I live in a well-kept homestead, where there is a new garage, with several lacquered "Zhiguli" automobiles.
In the yard stands not a garage, but a farm building erected according to the typical Plan 408. The out-buildings and the main building were checked with Rayon architects and a permit for the building was obtained from the Rayon Executive Committee. Where the "lacquered Zhiguli" automobiles came from, you can ask the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Honorable Editor Pikturna, I do not know what modvated you to write this article, disseminating lies and misleading your readers. Most probably, by so doing, you hope to serve the propaganda purposes of atheism in the Rayon. Even the atheists are bound by the universal norms of ethics.
If you lie so baldly to people who clearly know the facts, then does it not follow that all your work on behalf of atheism is based on a lie? By this article, do you not demean the noble title of "editor"? I do not know whether, having dared to write such a bald lie, you will have the will power to retract it.
A person of honorable and strong character, having made a mistake, will always rectify it. We live in the twentieth century. You preach equality and fraternity. It is time to stop trying to do us priests in with lying atheistic propaganda.
And having had the nerve to calumniate me, will you have the nerve and self-respect to retract those calumnies, well known to the residents of the District of Stulgiai—or at least to see that the Komunistinis Žodis prints the full text of my open letter?
I am sending copies of this open letter to:
1. His Excellency, A. Vaičius, Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai.
2. The Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs.
3. The editors of "Komunistinis Žodis" of Kelmė Rayon.
Rev. J. Bučinskas
Stulgiai Pastor of Stulgiai
TO THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION OF THE LITHUANIAN SSR:
A Petition from Citizen Aldona Šeduikienė, daughter of Feliksas, residing at Pionierių 51-1,Telšiai.
In August of 1976, I applied to Director A. Šulcas, of the children's music school of Telšiai, for a position in the institution under his direction. With my application I submitted my Diploma, No. 2371 31, issued July 2, 1972, by the State Conservatory of the LSSR, which certifies that I have completed studies, specializing in choral conducting. The principal told me that they had no lack of choral directors, but that there was a position for an accompanist.
The principal kept my application and document, and asked me to come by in a couple of days, when a teachers' meeting was scheduled, for a final answer.
On the appointed day, I stopped by. The principal first asked me where my husband works. Having learned that he is the organist at the Cathedral of Telšiai, he told me that he did not have the authority to engage my services, and that the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Rayon of Telšiai was willing to speak with me if I had any questions concerning the matter. If the matter were cleared up there, said the principal, returning my application and diploma, I was to apply directly to the Department of Education.
The Assistant to the Principal of the Children's Music School of Telšiai accompanied me to the office of Second Secretary V. Duoba of the Communist Party of the Rayon, and was present during the interview which followed.
The second secretary inquired about my husband's beliefs and about mine, and learning that we are religious believers, refused to issue a permit for me to work at the Music School for Children.
Some time later, at the beginning of September, I paid a visit to V. Motuzas, Director of the Department of Public Education of Telšiai, asking him to explain why I was not allowed to work at the Music School for Children. The Director replied that it was on the basis of the Soviet government decree on Separation of Church from State and of School from Church, and said that teachers with religious beliefs, as soon as their beliefs were discovered, are discharged from the educational system.
Knowing that the Constitution of the USSR guarantees freedom of conscience to all the nation's citizens, and that refusal to hire citizens because of their religious beliefs, is liable to criminal action according to Paragraph 145 of the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR, as an offense against the laws concerning separation of Church from State and of School from Church, I am forced to submit this complaint to you.
Please tell me why the Department of Public Education of the City of Telšiai arbitrarily transgresses Soviet law. When will the situation be remedied? I am asking not for privileges, but demand my rights to work in the educational system, not only as an accompanist, but as a music teacher, according to my specialty.
Telšiai, January 14, 1977
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"CONTRACTS" FOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS
In 1948, the Soviet government ordered that every church have a "committee of twenty" of the faithful, and allowed them, in accord with a "contract" drawn up by the government, to rent their own churches, which the government had confiscated. If the committee did not sign the contract, the church was threatened with closure.
No one doubted that Stalin was capable of carrying out this threat. The country was cowed: People were being hauled off to Siberia, prisons and dungeons were packed with innocent people, in the city squares lay the mutilated bodies of partisans, a third of the priests were in the Gulag Archipelago, and the only bishop left
in all of Lithuania, Kazimieras Paltarokas, hoping to save priests and faithful, did not oppose the compulsory signing of the "contract" too strenuously.
Here is the kind of "contract" which was foisted on the faithful of Lithuania:
"1. We, the undersigned citizens, contract to take care of the house of prayer consigned to us, together with all property belonging to it, and to use it exclusively for the purposes for which it has been assigned. We accept the responsibility of keeping up and guarding the property consigned to us, and of carrying out all the responsibilities which this contract places upon us.
"2. We contract to use the bulding, and to make it available to all others of the same faith, exclusively for purposes of religious worship and not to allow to perform therein such religious services, any ministers of cult not registered with the Deputy for the Lithuanian SSR, of the Council for Religious Cults attached to the Council of Ministers of the USSR.
"3. We contract to do everything necessary, so that the property entrusted to us would not be used for purposes not in accord with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of this contract.
"4. We contract to pay from our own resources all expenditures for the maintenance of the house of prayer, and also all other expenses necessary for the repair, heating, insurance, safety, local taxes, etc.
"5. We contract to keep an inventory list of all appurtenances of cult, including articles of religious cult newly acquired by gift or by other means, and which are not personal property.
"6. We agree to allow persons deputed by the Executive Committee of the city, or by the Deputy of the Council for Affairs of Religious Cult, to examine the property, though not during the hours of services.
"7. For destruction or damaging of property entrusted to us, we assume collective responsibility.
"8. In case of the return of property received, we contract to return it in the same condition, in which it was received for use and care.
"9. In case of transgression of the terms set forth in this contract, we are liable before the law, and moreover, the Executive Committee of the city has the right to terminate the contract.
"10. In the event that we find it necessary to terminate this agreement, we are required so to inform the Executive Committee of the city in writing. Moreover, within a week after the submission of said resignation in writing, we are not relieved of responsibility for care of the property, provided in the contract, and we bear all responsibility for the carrying out of the contract. We also agree within that time to return the property received, in good order.
"11. Each of us signing this contract, has the right to withdraw from the number of those involved, by submitting our resignation in writing to the Executive Committee of the District. This, however, does not relieve the individual resigning, from liability incurred for damages to the house of prayer or to other property received, incurred while the person resigning was a member of the management of the property.
"12. None of us, individually or collectively, has the right to prevent any citizen belonging to our confession, and whose rights have not been taken away by law, from signing this contract at a later date, and becoming a full-fledged participant in the management of the property, together with all who have signed this contract."
Soviet propaganda is constantly condemning capitalists, who unlawfully take possession of material goods belonging to others. Is there another such capitalist in the world, who would take everything from a person, and then rent back to that same person the very things which are his, forcing him to pay rent, confiscating those things which the tenant might in the future obtain, and which might be given him?
This tenant is so bereft of rights, that he must at all times be prepared to turn over to the capitalist all his material goods. The tenant is not allowed to admit anyone whom this capitalist does not like, but must always let the capitalist in to examine the stolen goods. Such a capitalist exploiter can be found nowhere, but in the Soviet Union.
The atheistic government boasts that it turns churches over to believers to use free of charge. But this is a lie! Paragraph 4 of the contract obliges the believers to pay insurance and local taxes, and to pay six times the going rate for electricity—25 kopeks per kilo-watthour.—These charges bring in huge sums for the government.
In this contract, only the tenant assumes obligations, while the "owner"—the Soviet government—assumes no responsibilities. Such a one-sided "contract" demeans and cheats the faithful. The faithful would gladly enter into a reasonable bi-partite contract, but that is not possible.
Recently, the government has come up with an even more rigid "contract". For the past five years, the government has been forcing parish committees to sign the new agreement. Some have signed, while others are trying to resist.
Neither church leaders nor the faithful were consulted in the drafting of the new contract. It is most regrettable that the church leadership itself never took a clear stand against this unjust and unreasonable contract.
The government, conscious of its own dishonesty and fearing sharp reaction, delayed the signing of the new contract for a number of years. The government keeps angling, as it were, to see whom it can catch first: Some it frightens with threats of closing down the church, others it simply deceives, or, it finds some pastor sympathetic to itself, who helps make the signing of the contract palatable, etc.
How does the new contract differ from the one in Stalin's days?
"We, the undersigned, residing in and making up the religious group called , registered ..................................... 19 in accord with the determined procedure, hereinafter called 'PERSONS', and the Executive Committee of the Council of Deputies of the Working People of the city (rayon) of hereinafter called 'THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE', have entered into the following contract:
"1. 'The Executive Committee' assigns, and 'the persons' accept for use without charge the following property:
a. A masonry, wooden (underline which) house of worship, located at (address) and enclosed by a masonry, wooden (underline which) fence;
b. Religious objects named in the attached list ................................................
c. A dwelling, located at .... (exact address) .... containing sq. meters of useful space, and the following buildings .......... (name them)
d. Other property .... (list) .........
"2. The 'persons' signing the contract, assume the responsibility:
a. To care for and safeguard the house of worship and other property assigned to the religious group for its use.
b. To keep the house of worship in repair, and to pay from its own resources the necessary expenses: heating, insurance, safety and other tariffs connected with the use and care of this property.
c. To reimburse the state for all losses inflicted on it by damage or loss of this property;
d. To use the house of worship and other property only for purposes of religious cult.
e. To keep an inventory list (book) of the property assigned, in which would be entered all objects of cult newly acquired (whether by purchase, by donation, or by transfer from other houses of prayer, etc.) so long as it is not the personal property of any individual.
"3. The 'persons' agree at any time, except during religious services, to allow representatives of the Executive Committee of the Rayon (City), periodically to examine the property, to ascertain whether the religious group is making correct use of the property assigned to it, and to obtain information necessary to set the rate of reimbursement for the ministers of cult and other persons.
"4. This contract can be terminated:
a. If the believers using the structure terminate the contract;
b. If the religious group fails to fulfill the conditions of the contract;
c. If, in keeping with established procedure, it is decided to close the house of prayer (worship structure), the use of which was permitted by this contract.
"5. This contract shall be drawn up and signed in triplicate: one copy to be kept in the files of the Executive Committee of the Council of Deputies of the Working People, the second in the files of the religious group, and the third in the files of the Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs, attached to the
Council of Ministers of the USSR, for the Republic of Lithuania.
For the Executive Committee of the Supreme Soviet of Working People The "Persons": Name, Patronymic, Address, Signature, of each.
"All believers of the appropriate confession have the right to sign this contract saying that they are being allowed to use the house of worship and other property, even after the religious property has been turned over, thereby becoming full-fledged participants in the use and discretion of said property.
"Each individual signing this contract has the right to revoke said signature, provided that he submits an appropriate declaration to this end to the Executive Committee of the City (Rayon) Committee of the Working People. However, this will not relieve him of responsibility for the care of the property and its safekeeping up to the time he submitted the required resignation." (Date)
In the new contract, the executive committee of the religious group is obliged to report how much the priest receives for religious services. Undoubtedly, the government seeks to introduce in Lithuania the system already in effect throughout Russia; e.g., Parents wishing to have an infant baptized apply not to the clergyman, but to the treasurer of the religious group.
The parents are obliged to submit a written request to have their infant baptized; they submit their personal documents, a certificate is made out and a receipt is issued. This receipt is taken to the clergyman, who then baptizes the child. The government is interested not only in how much the clergyman makes, but also in who makes use of religious ministrations.
Will private matters of conscience remain secret if they must be shared with all manner of treasurers and chairpersons, who are often people in the service of the government? Paragraph No. 14 of the Order of the Praesidium of the Supreme Court, dated July 28, 1976, grants the Executive Committee the power to expell from the list of the religious group anyone unacceptable to the government.
In forcing the faithful to sign the new agreement, the government obliges them to agree that "in accord with established procedure" the church can be closed. That "established procedure" consists of unknown conditions yet to be determined by dictation of the Soviet government.
Who knows whether in a few years the Soviet government will not require, as it has in Byelorussia, that representatives of the religious community be stationed at the door of the church to turn back students and youth up to eighteen years of age, because otherwise "by established procedure" the church might be closed? The requirement to sign such a contract is tantamount to placing a noose about one's own neck.
According to the new contract and the new order of the Prae-sidium of the Supreme Court, the faithful, upon closing of the church, are required to surrender to the government everything, including the sacred vessels, which can then be placed on exhibition in museums of atheism or put to other profane use.
Is it possible to offend and humiliate the faithful any more than this?
There was a time when the government forced people to join communes, and hauled them off to Siberia, while proclaiming that Lithuanians voluntarily joined the communes, and that they moved to Krasnoyarsk on their own. Equally "voluntarily" now parish committees are signing this unreasonable "contract". So the Helsinki accords remain just a hypocritical document.