To: Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman of the USSR Constitutional Commission A statement from: Father St. Valiukėnas
Kretingos 7, apt. 3, Vilnius
I am proposing that the words "carry out atheist propaganda" be deleted from article 52 of the Constitution draft, or that after
"carry out" the words "religious and" be inserted so the sentence will read as follows: "carry out religious and atheist propaganda."
By legalizing only atheist propaganda and making it state policy (as up to now), freedom of conscience is abolished, the first portion of article 52 of the Constitution is voided and articles 34 and 35 of the draft Constitution are contradicted, because atheists become full-fledged care-takers of the state while believers merely have the right to "profess any religion whatsoever and practice religious rites," of course only if atheists, as full-fledged citizens and care-takers of the state, do not wish to invade the conscience of the faithful, if they do not attempt to reeducate them by drastic means and torment them by firing them from work, giving bad references, preventing them from seeking higher education, using the funds of believers for atheist propaganda, appropriating "property necessary for the practice of religion" (art. 22 of the July 28, 1976 order issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR), forcibly demanding that atheism be studied (There are university chairs of atheism, but none of religion.) and the like. In other words, atheists are privileged, while believers are made into the obedient servants of their will.
The draft Constitution groups citizens into sons and stepsons. Practice confirms this.
Atheists have the right to propagate their ideas, while believers do not. Atheists have the right to squander funds collected from citizens (from believers) on atheist propaganda: on atheist press, lectures, atheist radio and television shows (for example, Akiratis (Horizon), Argumentai (Arguments), on movies, plays and so on.
Atheists have the right to invade a citizen's conscience from cradle to the grave: the nursery school child is already bombarded with the allegation that there is no God; later in school the believer student is pressured with full force (even with threats and bad references); many places do not provide the means to transport a deceased believer to church and the cemetery.
Atheists have the right to offend believers with full immunity, by calling them reterded, ignorant, backward, holders of superstition and obsolete beliefs and the like. (See The Current Lithuanian Language Dictionary, Vilnius, 1954, p. 70: "Church — 1. a building in which persons who hold religious superstitions assemble to pray.")
Atheist teachers and other officials who have uprooted the foundations of faith from the hearts of young persons and have not instilled in them any other moral standards, have the right to demand believer parents to take responsibility for the pranks of morally crippled children. Atheists have the right to set the number of seminarians in seminaries and tell seminary officials which candidates are to be accepted or rejected by the Seminary.
Atheists had the right to confiscate the property of Seminaries in Vilnius, Kaunas, Telšiai and Vilkaviškis. Presently, the only Lithuanian Seminary is in Kaunas with 50-60 seminarians in very cramped quarters.
Atheists dare to interfere with the appointment of priests and the administration of sacraments, prevent the preparation of youth for sacraments, even apply point "e" of the May 12, 1966 decision of the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the LSSR. It appears that based on the right of atheist propaganda, the LSSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, in article 19 of its July 28, 1976 Decree, limits the priest's activity "to the place of residence of the religious community they serve . . ." This is how attempts are made to interfere with the jurisdiction of church authorities.
In that same decree, the Supreme Soviet Presidium does not recognize a legal person status to the Catholic Church, although Catholic Church representatives sign international agreements alongside the Soviet Union and other states, while at the same time, even unimportant organizations have legal person status in the Soviet Union.
Such is the curious state of affairs when atheists are granted special rights.
The church is separate from the state. The church does not interfere in state affairs, although many believers work in state agencies. Atheist state officials should not interfere in church activities or affairs. All statutes which discriminate against believers must be eliminated, but first of all it is necessary to delete from the draft Constitution the privilege of atheists to "carry out atheist propaganda."
Father St. Valiukėnas
Report to: His Excellency Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis, Apostolic Administrator of the Kaunas Archdiocese and the Vilkaviškis Diocese
Copies to: The Lithuanian Public Group Monitoring Adherence to the Helsinki Accords, and to LSSR Comissioner for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas.
On July 26th of this year, in the Viduklė Roman Catholic Church, I was examining, as required by church law and under instruction from the bishop, children preparing for First Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation.
At the time, there were about twenty five children and ten fathers and mothers in the church. Because ir was harvest time, one father or mother, brought all the children of a particular house, street or town. During harvest time, state farms require seven days of work a week. No one excuses parents from work, especially on weekdays.
Around 5 P.M. a group of persons forced its way into the church: Chairman A. Zigmantas of the Viduklė District, a militiaman from Raseiniai (whose name I do not know) and four teachers: (Mrs) Menkeliunienė, (Mrs) Lukminienė, (Mrs) Plišauskienė, and a fourth whose name I do not know, standing in the vestibule. They quickly looked over the children and without saying a word to either me (although I did not stop my questioning) or to the parents, they left the church and went to the firehouse where they compiled a report. It later became clear that this operation was organized by Chairman A. Skeiveris of the Raseiniai Rayon (or perhaps he is simply carrying out orders). He personally brought the militiaman in his car and picked up the members of the punitive expedition. But as is typical, he personally did not enter the church, but stayed in his car. Later he will be able to say: "We had nothing to do with this, the community' itself accomplished this."
The next day, this same Rayon chairman sent from Raseiniai a militia Major (or maybe a security agent) with two witnesses, (Director of the Cultural Center Germanavičius and District Secretary (Mrs) A. Morkuvienė) and wrote in a report that a tourist from Tbilisi with three small children (one still in diapers!) spent twenty days here.
I would like to mention certain details from the past, which will clarify what the officials of the Raseiniai Rayon were seeking to achieve and how the ideological "struggle" is being conducted in Lithuania.
I came to Viduklė on August 17, 1976. A group of parishioners from Igliauka accompanied me. All attended Mass at the church, ate sandwiches in the churchyard and left for home after singing several Lithuanian songs. Several days later District Chairman A. Zigmantas went from person to person asking whether the new pastor and the people had not sung the Lithuanian anthem in church. Of course, no one had sung the anthem and he found no witnesses. The district chairman probably did not know that, until 1948, this anthem was sung daily over Vilnius Radio, that this anthem is printed in the book The Poetry of Lithuania, (Vilnius, 1967, Vol. 1, p. 222) and is entitled "A National Hymn." After the sadly infamous All Souls Day procession to the Viduklė cemetery, District Chairman A. Zigmantas wrote a complaint that "Pastor Alf. Svarinskas offended the town atheists and disrupted traffic with religious procession." The Raseiniai authorities edited this accusation to read: "offended town residents and disrupted traffic." It would be interesting to know what percentage of Lithuanian Communists are offended by religious services? After the fine imposed by the administrative committee, Zigmantas again sought witnesses in the town. Zigmantas was called as witness at the Raseiniai People's Court. So, as the need arose, he acted as either accuser or witness. In this case, he even succeeded in finding one fictional witness, J. Zdanis, who works at the Miškai Farm, but who was introduced at the trial as a community motor vehicle inspector.
Even in the fall of last year, the Raseiniai Rayon Chairman A. Skeiveris threatened me in his office in the presence of his assistant Z. Butkus: "We will not tolerate such a priest in our Rayon. Here, all state farm chairmen obey." I had occasion to state that I am not a state farm chairman and am not subject to the 1961 godless regulations which both officials used at the time to illuminate me, but to church law and instructions from the bishop.
It should be noted that a few years ago the same Rayon officials concocted a shemeful trial, which resounded throughout Lithuania and the civilized world, of Rev. P. Bubnys, pastor of Girkalnis.
Over the years, Rayon officials have become accustomed to administer the Church. And no one dares oppose them because everyone knows that Soviet law does not protect the priest, that they will not find justice anywhere. Šiluva is a classic example. Every year (as this year) Vice-Chairman Z. Butkus indicates which priest will be allowed to preach to the people and conduct services. Last year, on the last Sunday, only four Rayon-approved priests were allowed to walk in the procession, while the others had to watch from the sacristy window.
Today, as I conclude this statement, a new event surprised the residents of Viduklė. A representative of the Viduklė militia and two teachers (one of them (Miss) Petraitytė) searched for children in the streets and apartments and took them for interrogation to the middle school. Some managed to lock themselves at home, so they caught only five. The parents were at work. Therefore, the children were left at the mercy of the punishers. People were shocked by such behavior from militiamen and teachers. I wonder how the prosecutor's office will view such entrapment of minors, such interrogations without the knowledge of parents and the compelling of the children to sign dictated statements. One thing is clear: this is a clear physical and moral damaging of children.
What a terrible paradox! When on Saturdays and Sundays, at the Cultural Center, teenagers swear, fight, throw cigarette butts, rocks and firewood into the pastor's well, when people are afraid to walk the streets of Viduklė at night, there are no militiamen or teachers around. Very soon they themselves will suffer at the hands of this youth. I have spoken of this to Vice-Chairman Z. Butkus and to Security policemen.
Freedom for hoodlums, but entrapment and interrogations for decent children . ..
But these sad facts (and not the only instances in Lithuania) are the best indications of the "full freedom of conscience" in Lithuania and the methods used by the godless in their struggle against religion—not with scientific proof, but with force and discrimination. But these methods have an opposite effect. After learning of the punitive expedition, people express their sympathy by telephone and children personally prayed for their pastor. The parishioners' religious activity and religious practice became stronger. This year I have already consecrated over 26,000 communion wafers.
The above-mentioned events are the most vicious violations of the Soviet Constitution, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Helsinki agreements. I therefore ask Your Excellency to voice the strongest protest to the appropriate agencies regarding the discrimination against priests and the faithful.
Viduklė, August 9, 1977
Father A. Svarinskas Pastor of Viduklė