November 17, 1976, the administrator of the Catholic Church in Grinkiškis sent the Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Radviliškis, this petition:
"On November 16, 1976, Director Kirtiklis, of the Middle School of Grinkiškis, summoned pupil Rimantė Vaškytė and reprimanded her for visiting the rectory on several occasions. The Dirctor forbade the child to visit the priest, and threatened to have the priest transferred from Grinkiškis.
"A couple of times two boys stopped by—I don't even recall their names—and Director Kirtiklis forbade them too to see the priest. The pupil Vilė Dauknytė was also persecuted. Now, fearful of persecution, the girl stays away from church.
"Parents are always complaining to me that the atheists of the middle school of Grinkiškis persecute their children, and that the children are forbidden to go to church.
"Such behavior on the part of Kirtiklis and other atheists insults me not only as a priest, but above all as a person. To hear them talk, the priest is some kind of criminal, whom one can not agree to greet, or to engage in conversation, or visit socially. I know that there are atheists of such low culture, but the fact that teachers are such can only be regretable. In Grinkiškis, some school children break church windows — I would not be surprised if they started throwing stones at me, a priest—that's how they are trained by their atheist teachers.
"I have never driven away anyone, young or old, who came to me, nor will I ever do so. And I think that neither Kirtiklis nor anyone else can keep me from associating with the faithful."
Father Vaicekaukas received no reply to this complaint, from Vice Chairman Alfredas Krikštanas.
On April 6, 1977, the Radviliškis Rayon newspaper printed an article by A. Milelis, entitled, "Imaginings of the "Liberators' Overseas". Here we present almost the entire article, which illustrates perfectly the "truth" of the Soviet press—its bold-faced lying, and its scolding and threatening of people it hates
"As it loses the youth, the Church loses its future. For that reason the clergy and their church-mouse activists are going out of their minds trying by all means to attract teen-agers to church. Juozas Vaicekauskas, the pastor of the parishes of Grinkiškis and of Pašušvis, is no exception. The only difference is that Father Vaicekauskas goes around sadly moaning and complaining that the youth are God-fearing and want to go to church, but unfortunately, you see, the teachers won't allow them . . .
Somehow or other these complaints of the priest were overheard by the so-called "daily of the Lithuanians of the free world", the Draugas, which comes out of Chicago. This reactionary little paper in its issue of September 8, 1976, devoted much of the article, "When the School Falls into the Hands of Satan" to the relationship between the Rev. J. Vaicekauskas and the teachers of the eight-grade school of Pašušvis. From the article it is clear that the authors of the article, who call themselves Catholics, care not one iota for the eighth commandment of God, "Thou shalt not bear false witness". In place of rational arguments, they use pure fantasy:
"On October 24, 1975, during a funeral," writes Draugas, "the children were driven out of the church in Pašušvis. They were driven out of church by the principal of the Pašušvis eight-grade school, (Mrs.) Jadvyga Baltraitienė."
Tell us, why drive children from church, when they don't go to church anyway. The great majority of our high-school students do not believe in religious dogmas, nor do they attribute any significance to religious ceremonies. As for the behavior of the Principal, Mrs. Baltrušaitienė, the scribes at Draugas fabricated this out of thin air, to put it mildly, because that day, at the time of the aforesaid funeral, the principal, as a deputy from the District of Pašušvis, was participating in a session of the Committee. (...).
Father Vaicekauskas, obviously wants children educated not by the Soviet School system, but by the church, so that instead of trained pedagogues instilling the materialistic world-view, he, a priest, would tell them bible stories. This is why the article would have readers believe that "children come home from the school in Pašušvis, their eyes swollen from weeping, because the school principal and other teachers are constantly terrorizing the children, forbidding them to participate in church services." This figment of imagination is supported by the "fact" that on November 23, 1975, (Mrs.) Ona Vedeckienė, from the Village of Balandiškiai, allegedly complained to Vaicekauskas that she had been summoned by the principal of the school in Pašušvis and warned that if her son Sigitas continued going to church to serve at Mass, his conduct mark would be lowered, he would receive a poor evaluation, and that he allegedly would not be accepted by any school. "The school principal intimidated her so much that the woman was ill for two days afterwards," theDraugas concludes.
"Were you really ill, Mrs. Vedeckiene?" we ask the "injured" party.
"I was not ill at all. First of all, I never spoke with Father Vaicekauskas . . ."
Vaicekauskas understands very well the powerlessness of religion, and so he tries to lure people to church with attractive promises and gifts. He feels a special sympathy for young girls, on whom he does not hesitate to spend more. One of them boasts of having received from the priest the gift of a watch, while another received expensive clothing. With notes and sweet-sounding words the priest gathered a small group of children to the rectory on the eve of Easter. Secretly, he was rejoicing to think how beautiful it would be when these children, like little white angels, would serve him at the altar during Easter Mass, touching to tears the hearts of the devout parishioners. However, Vaicekauskas, like a true realist, also knew that if he were to let the children go home at that point, then he would probably not see them in the rectory the next morning. So he put them up for the night right there on scattered straw, leaving the children without supervision throughout the night.
Needless to say, this was a source of serious concern for the school and for the parents, scandalized by the priest's actions. This would be the behavior not only of every atheist, but also of every self-respecting father, and mother, who are concerned where their children spend the night Such a strict stand on the part of the school was very displeasing to Father Vaicekauskas. Hence, in his sermons he more than once publicly vituperated the teachers, in all sorts of ways undermining their authority. He gets in the way of some parents, who are unwilling to join the flock of Christ's sheep. . . .
Such aggressiveness and clear interference of a minister of the church in matters not of his concern forced Aleksandras Kirtiklis, principal of the middle school of Grinkiškis to write to the rayon Executive Committee to have government organs stop Father Vaicekauskas.
This were the statement by Adomas Večkis, principal of the Elementary School of Kaniūkai, in the Rayon of Šalčininkai. In it he writes that his eleven-year old daughter Rimantė began school in Grinkiškis because this is the home of her 83-year old grandmother, Domicėlė Turčinskienė, who needs care.
The little old lady is extremely devout. Rimantė takes her to church and helps her come home. It was this that Father Vaicekauskas took advantage of. . .
"If the local pastor keeps trying to ensnare my daughter in the web of religion, I will take the strongest measures to prevent it and I will at the same time request the Executive Committee to make use of Soviet law to prevent the corruption of the youth. My wife and I want Rimantė to grow up a patriot of her nation, without religious superstitions overshadowing her life," Večkys writes.
It has recently become known that in the control commission of the observance of laws regarding cult, Vaicekauskas was discussed and warned about breaking the law concerning the separation of church from school. So this is not the first time Vaicekauskas has had a run-in with government organs. A few years ago, when he was working in the Parish of Pajieslis, Rayon of Kėdainiai, conflict between the priest and local educators simmered.
At that time, Vaicekauskas went ot the Commissioner of the Council on Religious Affairs complaining that religiously believing school-children were being persecuted by their teachers and the like. As is fitting, this complaint was carefully investigated by responsible officials. The allegations were not confirmed, and shortly thereafter they showed up in a libelous publication [Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania—Editor] passing from hand to hand among reactionary church people, purporting to be true facts.
We recall that the national press a few years ago reported widely the trial which took place in Vilnius. [Tiesa (Truth) carried a very brief article.—Editor.] Here a group of the disseminators and supporters of this little publication [See Chronicle No. 13 —Editor] The court abundantly proved the nature of their anti-state disruptive action, and those who were guilty received the sentences they deserved. We just recalled the none too distant past not because we are surprised by the statement of the priest to the Deputy of the Committee on Religious Affairs. This is a state office deciding and guarding the interests of various religion.
Nevertheless, it is strange to us how the second copy of the petition, somehow wound up in the worthless little publication mentioned above. Imperceptibly entwining itself with this is its publication in the newspaper of the "liberators" overseas, Draugas. From them the true face of the inimical Father Vaicekauskas becomes clearer....
Here it must be said that Father Vaicekauskas is not some old man "of former times", but as may be seen, the readers themselves, were becoming more aware from the earlier account, this was a young man abounding with energy. Several years ago, he completed the middle school in Radvyliškis, and afterwards enrolled in the seminary of Kaunas.
The little old biddies of Radviliškis recall that Juozukas l"Joey' — Transl.] was a devout little pupil and a zealous church-goer. So no one crucified him, like Christ, and no one dragged him by his coat-tails to an atheistic group. He freely chose the way of the clergyman; and he became what he wished to be.
Well, it has been an old hymn of the church-goers: to call "black", white and vice-versa. Such is their moral code!
To: Antanas Mikelis, Editor of Komunizmo Aušra Jadvyga Batraitienė, Principal of the eight-grade School of Pašuvis, and to A. Kirtiklius, Principal of the Middle School of Grinkiškis:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have read in the Radviliškis Rayon newspaper the article by Antanas Mielis, entitled, "Imaginings of the Liberators Overseas". Maybe newspapermen overseas can make mistakes writing about the activities of atheists in Grinkiškis or Pašušvis, but the faithful and the priests know well what the situation of the Church in Lithuania is, and specifically in the parishes of Pašušvis and Grinkiškis. No less well do the local atheists know the situation. It is known that some of the more timid faithful of Grinkiškis and Pašušvis, to avoid persecution by the atheists, take their children to other churches. It is known that on October 24, 1975, during a funeral the children were driven out of church. I remember that funeral well: With the atheists chasing the children from church, the solemnity of the services was disturbed.
The very next day I took the matter up with A. Krikštanas, vice-chairman of the Executive Committe of the Rayon of Radviliškis. After some time received a verbal reply from Krikštanas himself, saying that Mrs. Batraitienė had acted correctly, that children were not allowed to go to church.
I informed the faithful of the Church of Pašušvis of this matter. I am amazed that after more then a year, that same Krikštanas and Baltraitienė are saying something entirely different.
Jadvyga Baltraitienė and Antanas Mikelis, do you realize what those children thought about you, when they were truly driven out of church? What do those children, who have suffered one way or another for going to church think of you? In Pašušvis I have heard talk that the atheists are performing miracles: Jadvyga Baltraitienė, simultaneously participates in a funeral and in the session of deputies of the District Committee. I think, Antanas Mikelis, that you performed that miracle with the help of your pen, of course, at the instigation of someone else.
Both believers and non-believers are surprised that in the rayon newspaper I am being attacked because I zealously perform my priestly duties. That is my "crime". I receive quite a bit of mail in which both acquaintances and strangers encourage me not to be afraid. They say, that the atheists wish to silence not only the faithful, but also the priests. They say, Mikelis, that your article will survive as a historical document confirming the persecution of priests and faithful.
On April 10, 1977, after Mass in the church at Pašuš-vis, (Mrs.) Ona Vedeckienė came into the sacristy with her husband. They apologized to me, saying that they never thought I would be written up in the newspaper. They complained that their son, a music teacher, had been discharged from his position. The Vedeckis' feared still greater unpleasantness. These are the means, Mr. Mikelis, by which you prove your truth.
At the Rayon Executive Committee I told you, and now I repeat, that the wife of Adomas Večkis visited me and told me that Security agents visited them and demanded that I write an explanation. Could Adomas Večys have written an explanation different in content? He could have, but he would not have taught after that.
The school is separate from the Church, but the children, the youth crowd to church; they want to be with the priests. Those who force their way past the barricades receive more than one blow of the atheistic whip. Those children, those youth who bear the scars of the atheistic whip in their souls become active fighters for the Faith and for the Church!
The rude tactics of the atheists do not attain their purpose. For instance, on Easter night, 1977, my confessional in the church at Pašušvis swarmed with little children and youth. When I emerged from services in the church at Pašušvis, a little group of youth came up to me and presented me with a bouquet of real flowers. Among them were not only girls (for whom, as you say, I feel "an especially great sympathy") but also young men, recently returned from military service in the army.
I am deeply convinced, Antanas, Jadvyga, Aleksandras, that you and other atheists will sooner or later have to lay aside those painful whips which you now brandish, and use more gentle weapons of war.
During sixteen years in the priesthood I have experienced many injuries from the atheists. All the priests I know in Lithuania have suffered from them more or less. Nevertheless, I have never heard that even one atheist was ever punished for persecution of the priests or faithful! Perhaps you atheists are the infallible, untouchable caste of our nation, the chosen?
An ideological war is going on. I sincerely invite you: Let us fight honorably, as people fight, and not as beasts. After all, you are convinced that you will overcome. In your hands are all the media of social communication: press, radio and television! After all, you conduct the atheistic war as you wish. We priests and faithful do not make use of such means. You are most probably impatient, wishing to do the atheists' victory dance on the ruins of the Church and the graves of the believers . . . You will have to wait— it's not our fault that we are alive!
At the end of your article, Antanas Mikelis, you threaten me indirectly with imprisonment, for "the face of the contrarily disposed Father J. Vaicekauskas" does not suit you. Contrarily disposed towards the atheists—is this not too great a wish?
This letter and the article from the newspaper of the Rayon of Radviliškis I am sending not only to you, but also to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs.
April 12, 1977 Grinkiškis
The Rev. J. Vaicekauskas Administrator of the Churches of Grinkiškis and of Pašušvis
To: The Chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas From the Rev. Juozas Vaicekauskas, residing in Grinkiškis. Rayon of Radviliškis
On March 17, 1977,1 was summoned before Vice Chairman Alfredas Krikštanas, of the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Radviliškis. He took me to Room 22, where a special commission had gathered, consisting of A. Krikštanas, Chairman of the commission, and members: Antanas Mikelis, Editor of Komunizmo Aušra, Vašutis, director of the financial section, Petras Vaičiūnas and Valentinas Paliūnas, and accused me of organizing a meeting of children on Easter night, 1976, in the church in Pašušvis, of writing invitations to the children, and that high school boys and girls visit me at home.
On Holy Saturday, 1976, after evening services had finished in church at Grinkiškis. I went to Pašušvis. About 10 p.m., when I had entered the church at Pašušvis, I found it full of adults, children and youth.
As you know, the Church at Pašušvis does not have a priest of its own. The people had been waiting for me for several hours. Until midnight I heard confessions. After that, the Holy Saturday devotions began and lasted until 2 a.m. When services were over, the people did not disperse, but waited for the Resurrection Services. At midnight there there was no bus, either. Mothers began asking me to allow at least the small children to sleep on the floor of a house belonging to the Parish Council of Pašušvis. The mothers themselves brought the hay, put their children to bed, and returning to church, kept vigil and prayed until morning.
This did not please the atheists of Pašušvis at all. All the children who had been in church that night were forced by School Principal Jadvyga Baltraitienė to write explanations. Some of the explanations by the children were read to me by Chairman Krikšta-nas of the Committee.
The Committee Chairman tried to convince me that I had broken the Soviet law, that I was supposed to drive all the children out of church. The members of the Committee agreed with him. When I tried to explain that I, as priest, was not supposed to explain Soviet law to people, and that I had no right to chase children out of church, members of the Committee began to insult me in various ways.
Antanas Mikelis showed his hatred in a specially public manner. He tried to show that priests do not observe the vow of celibacy, and that I am the same as anyone else.
"How do you know, since I do not go to you for confession?" I asked him. My question was followed by laughter from members of the Committee and sarcasm. Moreover, Mikelis demanded to know why I had discharged the organist at the church in Pašušvis, and why my laundress comes from Kaunas. They intruded in Church affairs in the most rude way, making fun of me after every answer. Petras Vaičiūnas shouted at me that I had opened a house of prostitution. The Chairman of the Committee tried to quiet down his colleagues while they were poking fun, but the latter would not listen. When I tried to explain myself, Commission Member Vaišutis shouted "Silence!"
Mikelis continued to interrogate me, asking how the article about the persecution of the faithful of Pašušvis had appeared in the overseas press. He threatened to write me up in the paper and to turn me over to the prosecution.
I reminded the commission that I had written more than once how the atheists are persecuting the faithful of Pašušvis and of Grinkiškis, threatening the priest, but I received no reaction. I reminded them that on March 13, 1977, as we left the church at Pašuš-vis, the faithful complained that Baltraitienė had not ceased persecuting children, that in school during a meeting of the parents' they forbade me from taking the children to church, and said that they would straighten me, the priest, out. Committee member Antanas Mikelis shouted, "I will take care of the matter, you shall be transferred."
It is impossible to write about everything. For a rather long time he lectured and scolded me, poking fun at me just as it pleased them. Finally they announced their verdict: a warning.
They warned me that if I did not cease breaking Soviet laws, I would be severely punisherl. Thev recalled the "offenses" I had committed in the parisches of Balninkai and Pajieslis.
If the cream of the atheists, the top echelon, acts like this, then you can imagine how the ordinary atheist treat the priest and faithful in Grinkiškis and in Pašušvis. I told my priest friends about it. We will not keep quiet!
To appeal to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R. means nothing, for I believe that the aforesaid commission was acting according to the recommendation of Tumėnas. [Kazimieras Tumėnas, Commissioner for Religious Affairs of the Lithuanian S.S.R—Translator's Note]. When I reminded him that I would appeal to the Commissioner for Religioius Affairs, since I had committed no crime, the members of the commission simply laughed.
I am informing the chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas, that I, as priest, cannot perform my duties fully or freely in the churches at Grinkiškis and Pašušvis, because of the constant interference of the atheists in the affairs of the Church.
The Rev. J. Vaicekauskas