Word has reached Lithuania from Rome that Bishop Matulaitis-Labukas has requested the Vatican Curia for an invitation, to take care of matters pertaining to the Church in Lithuania—most probably to consult on the appointment of new bishops.
These matters pertaining to the Church are truly in an abnormal state. At the present time, not one diocese in Lithuania has its own Bishop Ordinary. Most Lithuanian dioceses are ruled not by bishops, but administrators. Two bishops, Julijus Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius, have been banished from their dioceses for over fifteen years now, without trial.
Is it a normal state of affairs that the Catholics of Lithuania have no prayer books, or catechisms, and that the youth is being pressured into atheism? The seminary is run by Dr. Viktoras Butkus, who has compromised himself both at home and abroad.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, as the only independent voice of priests and faithful, feels obliged to declare: Lithuania needs not new bishops, but new priests. In the Soviet system, a bishop is no more powerful than a simple priest-administrator of a diocese, when it comes to taking care of Church affairs. Even children in Lithuania know that priests are appointed to parishes not by the bishop or by the administrator, but by state security forces working through the atheist Kazimieras Tumenas.
We will not be exaggerating if we say that for the ordination of a few seminarians and the consecration of the holy oils, there are enough bishops in Lithuania at this time. The future of the Church in Lithuania depends not on the number of bishops or administrators, but on the work of dedicated rank-and-file priests on the pastoral front.
Presently the atheistic regime is trying to hide the tragedy of the Catholic Church in Lithuania from world public opinion, by means of the purple trappings of the episcopacy. In the current state of affairs, Moscow will not allow even average candidates— let alone good ones—to become bishops, so what good will the appointment of new bishops do the Church?
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania appeals to everyone concerned about the persecuted Church—warn the Apostolic See of the atheists' tricks!
PRESSURE BY SECURITY FORCES ON SEMINARIANS
The eyes of many are on the seminary in Kaunas. (The only one allowed to function since the Soviet occupation — Translator's Note.) People of good will are disturbed because it is being strangled by Moscow at the hands of the atheists.
There are not enough new priests to fill vacancies left by those who die. In 1976,twenty-five priests died, but only nine finished the seminary. For eight years everyone has been crying, "The atheists interfere with young men applying for admission to the seminary; they set limits on the number of those who can be admitted, etc.
Let us call these atheists by their correct name. They are the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the VSK (Vidaus Saugumo Komitetas—the Internal Security Committee—the Lithuanian branch of the Soviet KGB — Translator's Note)—That is, the Party and Security.
To avoid problems, these "protectors" of the seminary increased the number allowed to enter from five to ten, and later from ten to nineteen. Lest anyone doubt the good will of the atheists, rumors are being circulated that in the future the number of seminarians will be increased still more.
Those familiar with the tactics of the Communist Party and of the VSK immediately became concerned over this maneuver: If the number of seminarians is increased, Security will throttle the seminary some other way. It was probably no accident that those applying for admission to the seminary in the summer of 1976 were so zealously recruited as collaborators with the enemies of the Church —unofficial agents of the VSK. Some candidates were invited a half-dozen times for "chats".
The recruiting of seminarians to become the agents of the Chek-ists (An allusion to the Czarist secret police — Transl. Note) best illustrates how the law of seperation of Church and State in the Soviet Union is observed. You may be a priest—even a bishop—but you must at the same time be a Chekist. "We—the Soviet government—will give you a good parish, if you do not attract young people to church. We will allow you to travel to America, if you only proclaim there the freedom of religion in the Soviet Union, or at least keep quiet. We will allow you to maintain contact with the Holy See, if you will only help us realize our plans effectively to subvert the Church."
The recruiting of seminarians and of priests for the subversion of the Church is one of the greatest crimes of the VSK, which must be raised at the conference scheduled in Belgrade on the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act.
No less an offense committed by the VSK against the seminary is the constant screening of applicants to the seminary. According to the VSK, only the following may study at the seminary: those prepared to work as agents of the VSK, invalids, those not too bright, and those of doubtful moral character: For example, one gentleman from Vilnius, upon entering the seminary during the summer of 1976, expressed himself thus: "Will I ever do some drinking, once I am a priest!" (The Chronicle refrains from revealing his name, in the hope that before long he will leave the seminary of his own accord.)
One or the other candidate with good qualifications gets through the VSK screen—then one hears it said, "See, Security doesn't interfere in the seminarians' life!"
One would think that VSK officials would be satisfied that the seminarians are intimidated, distrustful of one another, barely able to make the grade in their philosophical and theological studies, and constantly in need of medication and recuperation. But no, their appetite is too great to be sated.
Vincas Kudirka (Lithuanian patriot and author of the national anthem — Transi. Note) wrote over a hundred years ago: "Nor print nor writ will they allow us; They want Lithuania dark and dull."
Steeped in the same czarist spirit, VSK officials see that the seminarians' entire interest consists of athletics, parties, breaching of seminary discipline, and an exaggerated concern with one's health and well-being. Just so the interest of the seminarians should not rise to the level of concern for the Church and Country, Security has seen that even Vatican Radio should not be heard in the seminary.
The seminarians are forbidden to have transistors, to read the Chronicle, or new religious publications circulating in self-published form. During this academic year, the seminarians have been forbidden to wear even a tiny cross in their lapel, lest they thus annoy any Soviet youth they might meet by accident.
Perhaps now the officials from the VSK would calm down? Not at all! It is too little for them that the seminarians' spirit is fed by the Communist newspaper Tiesa (Truth) and by Sportas (Sport). One will not find any other publications in the seminary.
Security people are concerned lest, perchance, any "retarded" seminarians turn up, who might be too little interested in Communist "truth". For this reason, during 1976,political information lectures were introduced at the seminary, similar to those in the army or in labor camps.
On December 4, 1976, a commemoration of the USSR Constitution was held at the seminary. The rector of the seminary, Dr.
Viktoras Butkus, spoke of the great achievements of the USSR in all areas of life, and of the most democratic constitution in the world: that of the Soviet Union.
Afterwards, he introduced to the seminarians a lecturer from the "Žinija" Society, saying that "the honorable lecturer will visit us more often and give us an entire series of political lectures".
And indeed, on December 16, the lecturer from "Žinija" gave the seminary a lecture entitled, "The International Situation of the USSR, Its Relations with Other Countries, and The Growing Significance of the Socialist Bloc".
The lecturer did not forget to belittle Academician Sacharov, whom he characterized as a great man, but ideologically uneducated, and given to hallucinations.