The June 28, 1978 issue of Tiesa (Truth) printed a long article entitled "Slander from the Pulpit." It accuses the Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, pastor of Viduklė, of slandering schools, the current way of life and harming youth by presenting former "criminals" as heroes.
After this article appeared in print, Fr. Svarinskas preached a sermon at the Viduklė church explaining to the faithful who the real slanderers and criminals are.
Fr. Svarinskas has received many letters written by both KGB collaborators and decent Catholics. It is interesting to note that not a single KGB collaborator had the courage to sign his name to his letter.
We are reprinting below a letter of protest from the faithful of Viduklė:
To: First Secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party,
Petras Griškevičius, in Vilnius. A Protest from: The Believers of the Viduklė Roman Catholic parish.
Issue No. 149 of Tiesa dated June 28, 1978 contained an article entitled "Slander from the Pulpit" by special correspondent Vytautas Žeimantas. This slander against our pastor, the Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, was reprinted by the Raseiniai and Šiauliai Rayon newspapers.
We, the Catholics of Lithuania, are accustomed to discrimination and various insults. In the press, on radio and television and by word of mouth we are called backward, ignorant, fanatics, etc., while in the meantime preparations are being made to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the University of Vilnius. This university was founded by the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church. Streets and middle schools have been named for bishops, priests and believers —authors of classics—and their works have been published. It is doubtful that the godless press and propaganda will ever reach such an intellectual level!
It is more difficult for us to become accustomed to the obstacles we meet in fulfilling our religious obligations. We are forced to work on one of the greatest Church holidays—Christmas. Bus routes are changed to prevent us from going to church, and very few people have their own means of transportation. For instance, since June 1, 1977 most buses no longer stop at Viduklė, although the town has about 2,000 inhabitants and there are always many passengers. All our complaints and those of school children have thus far produced no results. This year even the routes of local buses to state farms have been changed. It would appear that the atheists consider us believers to be mere second-class citizens!
We will never accept the new atheist attacks against the Catholic Church in Lithuania—discrimination against priests in the eyes of the faithful.
At present, the godless have chosen our pastor the Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas as their target; we therefore feel the obligation to defend our spiritual leader, and will defend him now and in the future.
The above-named article is no credit to the Soviet journalist Vytautas Žeimantas or toTiesa. They will not succeed in denigrating a man respected by all, either in the eyes of the Fatherland or those of our countrymen living abroad. On the contrary, this will merely increase the priest's prestige. Most people believe that if the godless attack a priest it means he is good.
From the article, it would appear that the journalist has never been to Viduklė, to say nothing of visiting our pastor, whom he is attempting to destroy in the eyes of the faithful. Vytautas Žeimantas praises Viduklė, while we are convinced that it is the most neglected town. You need only glance at the square by the church.
The article's author relies on the anonymous Norkus who at one time attacked the Soviet scholar Doctor Radavičius. It is time for, the "lovers of truth" to show their true faces and not "shoot" from behind bushes . . . We are quite aware what the testimony of the other three atheists is worth: They do not attend church, and others have never even met the pastor personally.
By clumsily tossing about the word "many", the reporter ties to persuade that the people of Viduklė are astonished and outraged at the pastor's work. But this assertion is absurd from beginning to end.
Why does the author not present a single fact of how, when and whom the pastor slandered. It is quite clear to all of us that the author slandered the pastor by writing without any supporting facts. On the other hand, school displays constantly ridicule the pastor and the faithful. The pastor has informed Religious Affairs Commissioner K. Tumėnas of this.
Only an unscrupulous individual can maintain that the pastor, Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, praised the Chilean junta against which Chile's bishops and priests are fighting. Atheists want to eliminate their opponents quickly by labeling them anti-Soviet. We feel this is an old and overused tactic.
Rev. Svarinskas buries our dead without any compensation, and whenever necessary personally accords financial assistance. At the, request and demand of our pastor we have achieved an important victory—we bury and remember our dead without alcohol! This is currently a mere dream for Soviet organizations. The pastor has earned the deep respect of believers by his diligent and unselfish work. The pastor greets every visitor with a handshake and inquires after his health. Many could only learn from him! The parishioners see how the pastor daily performs physical work around the church so the faithful will have better conditions to come to church to pray and receive the necessary ministry. And those who have heard the pastor's sermons can say, with their hand over their heart, that Rev. Svarinskas never encouraged students not to study or disobey their teachers. On the contrary, the priest on every occasion stresses their obligation to study diligently, respect their parents, love their country, be decent persons and patriots.
Atheists may not like the fact that our children attend church and respect God. But that is our business as parents! And we guarantee that all the parents whose children hurry to church in the evening are certain that Father Svarinskas will not teach our childrn evil—on the contrary, he constantly encourages them toward good. Those children who pray today in church with pure voices and consciences will not attack passers-by, will not assault old women, will not steal and will not vandalize churches! And there are many such children in Viduklė. The reporter should rather investigate their actions. Perhaps then we would not have to fear to walk at night down the main street of Viduklė. Unfortunately, even the militia is powerless against these children raised by the atheists! And here we have a paradox: The priest advocates good and is called a slanderer, and meanwhile the hoodlums who constantly terrorize peaceful people are left untouched. They are today's heroes. The priest fights against drunkedness, while the government maintains in the center of town a filthy establishment for drunks, a tavern, which is daily full of people (and young people!) soaked in "ink", who no longer attend church.
It is also a lie that Rev. Algirdas Mocius was ever a pastor of Viduklė. Thirty-three years ago he was assistant pastor of Viduklė. It is also a lie that "even today many people of Viduklė shudder upon hearing the name of A. Mocius." Give us the name of at least one person who suffered at the hands of Fr. Mocius. We assure you that even today we still love and respect this devoted priest. We also wish to state that a priest's worthiness will be determined by the bishop and the faithful. We do not need the assistance of atheists. They have enough work in dealing with their own.
We, the faithful of Viduklė, have personally been offended by the slanders aimed at our pastor Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas by correspondent Vytautas Žeimantas. We therefore ask that this new atheist attack against our priest and the Church stop. It is time for the godless to cease insulting the faithful, and to see to it that believers have at least as much freedom of conscience as is provided by Soviet law.
Viduklė, July 16, 1978.
This letter of protest was signed by 1,064 believers of the Viduklė parish.
To: Special Tiesa Correspondent V. Žeimantas
Many people have read your article "Slander from the Pulpit" in the June 28, 1978 issue of Tiesa. I have also read it. And after reading it, I, like many others, did not pause to reflect on it, but became outraged because I live in Viduklė, I attend church and hear the sermons of the pastor Rev. Svarinskas. In fact, Father Svarinskas speaks in his sermons quite the opposite to what you have written in your article. He speaks of a peaceful dialogue between believers and non-believers, he urges atheists to hear the voice of believers without dangling the sword of Damocles over them and to defend their ideology with sincere and convincing words, justice, decent living, good attractive examples. Not only I, but no one else either has ever happened to hear of any agitation and slander. Unless some dolt were to view as agitation such sermons by the priest in which he speaks of resisting anyone who were to order to commit sins. But Fr. Svarinskas is not alone in saying this; it is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible states that whoever loves his father and mother more than Christ will not be worthy of Him. This means that anyone who, loving the person dearest to himself, follows his will in doing evil, is unworthy of God.
It is the duty of a believing person to fight against sin—against evil. And the duty of the clergy is to arouse, "agitate" them to this fight. To the gratification of our believers, Father Svarinskas is performing this duty with great zeal and dedication.
Undoubtedly, as people say, the word of truth stabs the ears of many. It is therefore quite understandable that, upon hearing their vices made public, people feel "slandered," "insulted" and driven by blind hatred, hiding behind pseudonyms such as "Norkus" or "A Woman from Viduklė", sound the alarm to the press and elsewhere about the so-called unrest produced by the priest's actions. You hear that the pastor is slandering us, the pastor is denigrating our way of life, the pastor is attracting the young generation, etc. etc.; in other words, let's run, the sky is falling.
But neither the sky nor anything else is falling because of the priest's actions. If something is falling it is merely due to the slipping morality of many people—sin. And morality, as we all know, is uplifted not by violence and the sword, but only by the voice of truth. This voice is spread throughtou the world by all people of good will and especially by those who belong to the Church. Among them the Rev. Svarinskas, pastor of Viduklė.
It would thus appear from your article, my dear Mr. Žeimantas, that you needlessly walked all kinds of Ways of the Cross in Viduklė and elsewhere seeking advisers to confirm the bad behavior of Fr. Svarinskas toward believers and non-believers. For if you had found such individuals, you would have "dared" visit that same so-called terrible slanderer and investigate the matter openly with both sides participating. For if people are slandered, it is essential to know how they are being slandered. And you should have done all this (of course, if you were interested in justice) when preparing material for the press. Perhaps then readers would not have considered that article to be a mere collage of fabricated slanders.
Your purpose is not clear. What was your aim in reminding all the republic's inhabitants not only of Father Svarinskas' present, but of his past also, painted in the blackest colors. Could you possibly hope that the believers of Lithuania will blindly believe the printed words about the priest's alleged immorality and stone him? But you yourself write that the laws of our country forbid stirring up discord among the citizens. Then do not these laws apply to those who sit in the government?
And to condemn people because they once opposed the Stalinist regime would, I think, not only be shameful, but forbidden by law. If Stalin, the dictator of evil, was condemned not only by all the world's people of good will but also by the officials of that selfsame Communist country, then why condemn and denigrate those who opposed his tyranny? And in general, is there a nation, which being an independent state, does not have its heroes, its patriots, its loyal citizens? If a nation does not have all this, it is condemned to decay and disappear. But if a nation is a healthy organism it cannot remain indifferent to the invasion of foreign bodies.
You can say what you will, but this is a fact of life and nothing can change it! Lithuania was a healthy nation if it succeeded in heroically opposing the power of the giants Stalin and Hitler. It is therefore very painful that today, after so much past bitterness, our nation's body contains, figuratively speaking, cancer cells which while seeking to extend the existence of the malignant growth, destroy the healthy cells. This is something which is truly worthy of concern, for everyone knows where this leads.
So, you also, fellow Lithuanian V. Žeimantas, will you and your fellow-thinkers not reflect some day on what you have become and what you contribute to your nation and humanity in general with your goals and actions?
Wishing you success, Stasė Navardauskaitė