On April 14, 1970, an interview of Rugienis, the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, by the journalist E. Baleišis was published in the newspaper Vilnis [Wave]. Here is what he had to say about the theological seminary in Kaunas:
"An interdiocesan theological seminary functions in Kaunas. Its administrators and instructors are appointed by the Lithuanian Ordinaries. A candidate to this school must obtain a recommendation from the pastor of his parish. The seminary administration decides whether to accept the youth into the seminary, taking into account this note of recommendation, the diploma the candidate submits, and the youth's personality. The candidates who have been chosen to be admitted are then reviewed by Dr. Viktoras Butkus, rector of the seminary, in conjunction with the sponsor of the seminary, H.E. Bishop Juozapas Labukas, the Apostolic administrator of the Kaunas Archdiocese. The curriculum of the seminary, like that of all Catholic universities, is determined by the Congregation of Seminaries and Universities in Rome. The course of studies here lasts five years. All living expenses of the seminarians are gratis and nonrefundable and are covered by contributions from the faithful..."
Since Rugienis failed to mention the role he himself and the KGB play in the seminary's affairs, his interview must be supplemented.
Already at the secondary-school level attempts are made to influence youths whose intention to enter the theological seminary becomes apparent, to choose another profession. The school administrators and sometimes officials of rayon executive committees advise him to enter another institution of higher learning. They even promise to help. If agitation does not work, sometimes attempts are made to cause difficulties with the pregraduation examinations, so that the future candidate would have to retake the exam, and he would be delayed at least one year. At times the school administrators do not want to hand over the diploma, volunteering to forward it with a recommendation to some institution of higher learning. When the administrators fail to dissuade the youth, they sometimes ask him to enter the seminary from some other institution after a few years have passed, hoping in this way to vindicate themselves before the agencies of therayon and the Republic because of their "poor educational work."
In order that the enrollment of youths into the seminary be delayed for several years, since 1954 seminarians have been required to complete military service first. It has happened that the military commissariat postpones a candidate's induction into the army for several years, and the candidate does not have the right to enter the seminary.
By order of the KGB the seminary administration must report to the organs of state security as soon as a candidate crosses the seminary's threshold. There has been more than one instance of government agencies beginning to harass candidates right after a visit to the seminary, although they had not even filled out an application for admittance.
Rugienis has indicated to the seminary administration which candidates' applications are not to be accepted. To this category belong the so-called anti-Soviet elements, that is, persons who for one reason or another have fallen into disfavor with the KGB, for instance, if their parents were exiled to Siberia, if one of their relatives had been a freedom fighter in the postwar years, etc. This means that the first screening of candidates must be performed by the seminary administration itself.
KGB agencies become especially active when the seminary administration sends out its list of candidates to Rugienis for his approval. Using all possible means, the KGB gathers information about the candidate: in school, in his place of employment, in the community. The security organs are particularly interested in finding out whether this youth, once ordained, would harm the cause of atheism and thereby the Soviet regime, or whether he would be only an innocuous opponent.
While the seminarian pursues his studies at the seminary, KGB officials sometimes visit his parents; pretending to be good friends of their son, they discuss religion and inquire about the books he reads and the priests he knows, etc.
The summer before the candidate enters the seminary, he receives a visit from the KGB, sometimes many visits. So that the security workers would have enough time, the seminary administration must present its list of candidates to Rugienis very early in the year, for example, this year (1972) the deadline was June 26.
In their desire to meet with a candidate, KGB officials sometimes travel secretly to his homestead, or they summon him to the military commissariat, or to the personnel department at his place of work. It is strictly forbidden to tell family members, or the pastor, or anyone else about these discussions with the secret police. During these meetings KGB officials first try to talk the youth out of entering the seminary; they offer to help him enroll in some other school of higher education. When dissuasion fails, the KGB officials try to recruit the candidate to become an agent of the security organs. Their arguments run as follows: "If we were to become friends, there would be no obstacles to your entering the seminary. We won't interfere with your clerical duties; we'll only meet once in a while and talk. Should the need arise, we'll provide material assistance or help in some other way, and no one will know about our meetings."
If it happens that the candidate, sensing the duplicity of the KGB officials, declares he is unwilling to work as an agent of the state security organs, then the threats begin: "You're a fanatic! You won't be able to enter the seminary. It's all in our hands. You probably don't like the Soviet government. Think it over, so you won't have to regret it!"
As they conclude this discussion, the security officials sometimes even make the candidate sign a statement that he will not reveal to anyone what had been discussed, under threat of criminal prosecution.
If in his discussion with KGB officials the candidate appears strongly principled, his candidacy is rejected at once; the secret police draw the conclusion that such a person cannot be allowed to study at the seminary, for once he becomes a priest, he will be completely intractable.
For the sake of truth it must be admitted that KGB officials succeed in recruiting certain youths. This occurs because of imprudence or due to some priest's unwise advice: "Don't be afraid to sign, everyone does so. Afterward you don't have to work for the secret police." Unfortunately, the organs of state security have sufficient means to force service on their behalf, and only men with a strong spirit of self-sacrifice are capable of resisting.
What does the KGB hope to accomplish by recruiting seminarians as security agents?
State security organs require accurate information about seminary instructors, the administration, the seminarians, and about events in the life of the Church. A. Barkauskas, the secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party, stated at the Sixth Plenum of the CC of the LCP on July 6, 1972: "The intensification of the ideological struggle compels us to be especially alert and to act deliberately and purposefully, so as to securely bolt the door against any sort of enemy influence. We must react appropriately to every diversion our enemies organize, perceiving and foiling them in time."
No doubt the KGB is aware that no conscientious priest will work wholeheartedly for the security organs. But even in this case, the recruiting of security agents serves a purpose. Mutual distrust is sown among the seminary students; the recruited seminarian is afraid to appear devout and avoids any serious discussions, etc. Sensing his duplicity, the recruited youth inevitably becomes morally corrupted. Thus these efforts by the KGB to recruit seminarians and priests as security workers are a flagrant violation of human rights.
Within the seminary as well as beyond its boundaries, it is clear to everyone who is a serious candidate and who "has a Party ticket."
The recruited seminarians differ. Many of them are men of good will and do not want to harm the Church. They avoid meeting with KGB officials, avoid priests' gatherings so that they would not have to relate to security officials what had been spoken there. Having lost their priestly and human dignity as well as their conscience, a few of the recruited agents carry out everything that the KGB officials demand of them.
Rugienis, the Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, usually deletes several youths from the candidate list sent to him by the seminary administration, often declaring that these can never become priests. So that Rugienis would not cross out too many candidates, the seminary administration is forced to send in for approval only as many candidates as do not exceed the limit set by the government. (At the present time ten candidates may be admitted annually. A few years ago, barely five were allowed to be admitted.)
For the seminarians, Christmas, Easter, and summer vacations are especially worrisome. Seminarians must report beforehand where they intend to vacation, so that KGB officials could find them in case of need, and a need always turns up: to urge the unrecruited ones to become agents, and to get the recruited ones accustomed to working for the KGB, for example by telling about their friends, which of them are devout, and which are not; about what is happening in the seminary; about the seminarians' attitudes, their topics of conversation, the books they read; about what they bring back from the city on Wednesdays, etc.
Upon returning to his homestead, many a seminarian, finds a letter from the state security organs. In it are holiday greetings and a reminder to come to a meeting, for instance, to a certain bus stop, or the post office, or to call a designated Kaunas telephone number. In order to avoid having to meet with security officials, during vacations the seminarians try to travel more, but for this they are rebuked.
The security officials' meetings with the seminarians are carried out in a most conspiratorial manner, for if it became evident to the populace that this or that seminarian was meeting with KGB officials, then he would be unsuitable as a security agent since everyone would be on his guard against him.
The seminarians are advised not to vacation with "reactionary" priests. (All who sincerely labor in the Lord's vineyard are considered such, especially those who do not adhere to the Soviet government's secret instructions restricting the religious life.) It is very desirable that seminarians vacation with "loyal" priests, who are either recruited security agents or who, toadying to the government, neglect their clerical duties and live a secular way of life. In this way the KGB seeks to destroy the idealism of seminarians so that, seeing inappropriate priestly models, they themselves would become accustomed to such a way of life.
Because of the intrusion of the KGB into the internal affairs of the seminary, an atmosphere of fear and suspicion prevails there. To intensify it Rugienis visits the seminary from time to time and threatens that one or another seminarian should be removed.
These difficult conditions created by the KGB tend to depress the seminarians' spirits and undermine the health of many. During the past several years, a disappointing phenomenon has been noted: the health of the majority of seminarians has been very poor.
If the secret police fail to break a seminarian's spirit, then once ordained, the young priest is assigned to a "loyal" pastor, in order that while taking the first steps of his clerical life he would be without the example of an ideal priest.
The KGB strives to recruit both young priests and those of the older generation; however, they have been winning over only certain ones, those who have compromised themselves morally before the faithful.
These efforts by the KGB to involve the clergy directly in the attempts to destroy the Church are a crime against human rights and the freedom of conscience. This crime has been perpetrated throughout the entire postwar period and with particular intensity recently.
N.B. This information concerning the role the KGB plays in the seminary has been collected from those whom the state security organs attempted to recruit as their agents.