To: The Editor of the Banga (Wave) newspaper
A statement from: The Rev. Antanas Šeškevičius,
Assistant Pastor of the Gargždai Parish, Residing in Gargždai, Tilto g . 1-2.
On March 31st of this year your newspaper Banga, an organ of the Lithuanian Communist Party rayon of Klaipėda committee and of the rayon Council of People's Deputies, printed an article "Who Is Muddying the Water" by V. Savičius in which I am variously reviled, slandered and denigrated. I therefore ask the opportunity to present my remarks and protest.
More than two thousand years ago the Romans guarded a man's honor and had the rule: "Let the other side also be heard." The accused had the right to express his opinion and defend himself. Since then, the civilization of mankind has improved markedly, and I therefore think that, in the 20th century, the Soviet press will be civilized enough to permit me, a reviled priest, to publicly express my opinion. Assuming this illusion, I respond to the charges made by V. Savičius.
Incident No. 1 — The Patient J. Karnauskas
Savičius charges that I arbitrarily entered the hospital and spoke oppressing words to the patient J. Karnauskas.
It is not true, things were completely different.
I go to the hospital only when I am summoned by a patient's relatives who clear everything with the hospital administration. I have visited the hospital for nearly four years and have never had any conflict because the administration arranges everything in a civilized manner. Please verify this.
And in this case, I was summoned last November to see a weak old man to whom I brought the sacraments. Another man lay next to the patient and I spoke to him out of courtesy. I asked both of them whether they knew a Mr. Karnauskas. The second patient replied that he was Karnauskas. I told him that one of his good friends had asked me to visit him. And I offered: "Perhaps you would also like to receive the sacraments? I could come another time. I offer not because you are weak but in order that you might gain strength and your suffering be blessed." He calmly explained: 'I will not receive the sacraments in the hospital because
I cannot properly collect my thoughts here. When I return home, I will go to church myself." I replied: "As you wish" and after conversing amicably, we parted amicably.
Savičius betrays himself when he attributes the following words to me: "You will soon die; I will save you . . ."
Can a priest speak so foolishly? We priests have a 2000-year-old experience and know quite well how carefully an ailing person must be approached so as to encourage and not oppress him. The godless should learn this also, for only they are capable of behaving so crudely with a patient.
Only someone unversed in religious matters could possibly say "I will save you . . ." For this is a statement against faith; this is heresy. A priest would never say this, but only: "Christ will save you . . ." So with this phrase Savičius proves not only that he invented the lie, but also that he knows nothing about religion.
The article's author wanted to illustrate that I crudely attempted to force Kamauskas to receive the sacraments. Priests cannot force, for the sacraments are then invalid, desecrated. Priests can only invite; if they are refused, they do not have the right to force. Savičius thinks that the sacraments can be treated like certain atheist teachers treat students: they forcibly enroll students in the Little Octobrists, Pioneers or Communist Youth League just to meet the plan. It is unimportant whether they wish or do not wish to join. The Catholic Church respectfully bows to man's free will: 'If you wish, I will minister to you, if not, I will not."
Savičius claims that I guaranteed in a sermon that Karnauskas will die and that he had rejected the preist. And (Mrs) A. Kvekštienė nearly fainted . . . "Then where is that love of neighbor that the church so propagates, where is common humanity?" writes Savičius.
1. On November 12th of this year, I explained the Gospels, urging that concern be shown the sick, that they not die without the sacraments, for many expect to recover and come to church themselves, but come only in a casket without having received the sacraments. I then said (I quote from a tape):"We see death as some kind of spectre approaching with a scythe. A terrible thing! We quake, we do not want to die. I know one patient. He has cancer. But the doctors will not tell him in order to keep up his spirit. His family reminds him to make his confession, but he replies he will go make his confession himself." How foolish people sometimes are? Of course, it is good to recover, to want to live, but one must be reasonable, realistic. Some day we will nevertheless certainly die. And we will die just one time. If one's life is ruined, it will not be possible to correct it. . .
I would not be a priest if I were indifferent to people dying without the sacraments, for I would display doubts about their eternal future. That would be not love of neighbor but a crime. If the chairman of a state farm has the duty to care for state farm workers, it is all the more the priest's duty to care for his parishioners.
At the time, there were several cancer patients at the hospital and I also knew of some who were at home. If I mentioned one, was he necessarily Kaniauskas? All cancer patients have similar symptoms. I did not even mention that he was in the hospital. Kaniauskas was buried on March 19th of this year while others are still ailing in the hospital or at home. Did I dishonor either Karnauskas or anyone else by saying this? What disgrace is it to have cancer? Should (Mrs) Kvekšienė have fainted because of this? Why be incensed at the sermon? Everyone naturally thought of his own ailing loved one. If strangers know that the doctors felt he would not recover, did she not also know? What news did I reveal? I merely did my duty as a priest: I encouraged the reception of the sacraments. Should that offend a good Catholic? On the contrary, a good Catholic would be grateful that a priest shows concern for the sick, wishing them a happy death. Should a Catholic fear death, as does an atheist for whom everything ends with death? A Catholic's real life begins after death.
If anyone had a negative influence on the ailing Karnauskas, it was only his mother-in-law Kvekšienė with her foolish behavior and talk.
Despite this, before her son-in-law died in the hospital, she personally tried to persuade him to see a priest. He consented and was buried with the Church. I rejoice that my efforts were not in vain, even though I was slandered in various ways. It was worth it.
Incident No. 2 — The Laugaliai Nursing Home
Savičius reports that I "come at all hours, go from room to room and nose around."
As with the hospital, so with the nursing home, I go only when the patients summon me and visit only those who have requested a priest. A double permission had been issued when I ministered to St. Milašius who died 30 minutes later and when director A. Strauka chased me out with the Blessed Sacrament.
Savičius writes that many of the home's residents do not want a priest to come nosing around.
Of course, there are non-believers at the nursing home, as well as people who along with director Stauka find a priest unwelcome. Savičius included such people in his list of objectors: Buzis, Selvenis, (Mrs) Enzėnienė, who is Lutheran . . . However, they do not represent believers, but atheists. The believers were precisely very outraged at such representatives and wrote a protest to the Banga editors. The faithful rejoice when a priests visits them: the faith remains their only comfort, and the atheists want to deprive them of that also.
Savičius claims that St. Milašius died in December 1977, that I did not meet the director at that time but only later did he drover me walking around .. .
Savičius deliberately distorts the facts: he has Milašius die before he actually did in order to cover up the director's shameful conduct toward me. I enclose a photocopy of Milašius' death certificate issued by the Gargždai Executive Committee clearly stating that he died not in December 1977, but on March 24, 1978. His sister (Mrs) Karkienė, residing at Klaipėdos g. 62 also testifies to this fact, as do all the residents of the Laugaliai Nursing Home present at that time.
This fallacy alone proves that his entire article is based on lies. No one believes anyone who has ever lied! Savičius even ignores Soviet documents. For him, the goal justifies the means. Such is anti-religious propaganda!
When I ministered to St. Milašius, other bedridden patients wanted to avail themselves of the opportunity; I ministered to them also. Still others wanted my services, but the director chased me out. He proved that the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of conscience is mere oratory. Even executioners fulfill their victim's last request—summon a priest—and he did not even do this much.
4. Savičius writes that (Miss) J. Riaukaitė provides the priest with most of the information on how things are. He even gives her money to distribute.
Fortunate are the old people whom their relatives still visit, summon a priest for them, hand out a ruble for their old-age expenses. But what about those whom no one any longer visits, for whom no one summons a priest or hands out a ruble? They then turn to their friends in common need who can still manage to go see the priest and summon him. Not everyone accepts this role for he knows that the director will persecute him. Those who summon the priest risk incurring the director's displeasure. And yet such kind-hearted people do exist. (Mrs) Liutkienė, who could barely walk and has since died, used to do this often. There are also others besides (Miss) Riaukaitė.
It is unimportant who does the summoning; what is important is that I am summoned to minister to the dying. And the director assails those who call me in order to completely isolate the old disabled people from the church and have those who believed all their lives at least die an atheist death. Isn't it cruel? And this is freedom of conscience! Yet they should provide the disabled with the opportunity to summon a priest by telephone, provide them with every possibility of receiving religious services.
They also attempt to slander (Miss) Riaukaitė because she defends the residents against the wrongs they are made to suffer. To hold her past against her is tantamount to blaming Sniečkus because his parents were large landowners.
He asks why the old people must be given money? They are under the state's care, a new nursing home has been built. . .
Savičius contradicts himself, for he claims that the nursing home residents so grasped at those rubles that a dispute nearly erupted. If that money were not needed, would there have been a dispute?
I fully agree that they are provided food. But can a common pot satisfy everyone's desires? Is that nursing home so well provisioned that it only lacks swan's milk? Suppose a patient wants an orange or an apple .. . That is why a store is even provided them. What will you use to buy things if you have nothing? When some eat tasty things, others will drool. The faithful understand this and send them an occasional ruble, ask them to pray for them, to say the litanies.
But Savičius would like to deprive these poor people of even this. Is this humane?
Incident No. 3 — The Thief Stasys Mažutavičius
Savičius accuses me of acting improperly when I gave aid to the petty thief, Stasys Mažutavičius who had burglarized the church of Gargždai.
Mažutavičius, a resident of the Kaltinėnai district, successfully robbed district churches: After the church of Endriejavas, that of Gargždai.
After his trial, I did take him something to smoke and eat, because he had apologized to the people for his crimes and had asked me for something to smoke through his defense attorney.
I served with him at the strict regime Alytai labor camp: he for robbery and I for teaching children catechism. At the time, we shared our last morsel. Aware of what the future held in store for him, I could not be so cruel as to refuse his request, as Savičius would wish, when he had helped me in time of need. I condemn his evil deeds, but love the man.
Soviet laws severely punish crimes, especially repeat crimes. But this severity usually does not reform them, only hardens them even more, for they feel rejected and condemned by society.
At times, even the Soviet government used good promises and freedom to encourage them to reform, and this is very beneficial. In fact even those condemned persons still have much good in them and can be good people. I personally saw this in labor camps. When I gave Mažutavičius food, I in fact addressed this vein of humanity which could shame him for this evil deeds and turn him toward good. St. John Bosco educated the city's hoodlums into exemplary young men. World famous educators—Ferster, Pestalozzi and others— advise such upbringing. When elected Pope, John XXIII visited the Regina Celi prison in Rome: "Because you could not come to me, I have come to you." One prisoner asked: "Are the words of hope you spoke meant for me also? I have gravely sinned." The Pope did not say anything, only embraced him. It is human to condemns, divine to forgive. Of course, the atheist Savičius cannot even comprehend this, for atheists spread hatred and vengeance agains the enemy..
Are not they more guilty who raised such as Mažutavičius with their godlessness?
Incident No. 4 — Teacher T. Papievienė
I am alleged to have assailed a teacher at the Gargždai Middle School because she actively works with her students.
1. On February 18th of this year, in a sermon on the obligations of parents toward their children, I mentioned teacher Teresė Papievienė not for her active work, but for terrorizing and slandering students. I stated that on February 14th of this year, Middle School No. 2 grade 2C teacher Papievienė gave six students D's for not wearing their Little Octobrist pins. Those children did not want to be Little Octobrists, but she enrolled all the children without consulting anyone and sent them to the official room to get their pins. Some children refused to wear the pins: L. Vainius, Dauskantas, Geraitė, Dumbraitė and others. She ordered them to bring their parents. However, they apparently did not come out of protest. On February 15th, she again gave D's to Kuprelis, Geraitė and others. She also threatened: T will hand you over to the children's room," in other words, had them over to the militia. Isn't this terror?
And the parents had to come and protest: "Why are you forcing my child? Why do you enroll him without first asking? Why those "educational" D's?"
Furthermore, this teacher also attacks priests. She has stated: "Let them stop ordering children not to wear the pin" and threatened them. This is slander in front of the entire class. There is no need for us to order and direct: good Catholicss know how they should view godless organizations whose aim is to eradicate the faith from children. They personally understand this.
Moreover, teacher Papievienė stated in front of all the children: "Pious religious fanatics leave spittle on the cross after kissing it, and then you go to church, also kiss the same cross and contact disease. Why do you go to church. There is no God there. You contract disease from the incense. Religious bigots donate filthy bedraggled money to God, then hand it to you; you will contract disease."
Why not ask that teacher when the faithful spit on the cross, when they spread disease, when incense spread disease. That is slander. Who allows her to slander the Church and the faithful? Are we believers slaves, do we have no rights? Do the godless have the right to sling mud at us whenever they please? Is this a teacher? Is this an intellectual?
The teacher reprimands and gives D's to girls because they keep vigil, she demands all sorts of questionnaires from little ones: "Do you go to church? Who takes you? Why do you go? Don't go to church!"
Why doesn't (Mrs) Papievienė warn the government which demands that the church make huge payments in those same bedraggled rubles, for instance, at 25 kopeks per kWh of electricity when others only pay 4 kopeks?
2. In April (Mrs) Papievienė read that slanderous article to the entire Grade 2C and then added her own slanderous comments about priests: "They stuck knives into people . . ." Who, when? It is astonishing that she was named to educate children when she herself is uneducated! Why does she violate the Constitution which forbids "fomenting discord and hatred in connection with religious beliefs?"
Incident No. 5 — Other charges made by Savičius
He reports that Šeškevičius is attempting to gain fame through slanderous Vatican Radio broadcasts. My response:
Every Lithuanian knows that to have secret contacts with the Vatican or foreign nations means to renounce one's freedom: to wind up behind bars. Who could possibly year for such "honor?"
Nonetheless, on November 13, 1978 the Vatican aired an accurate report on the Laugaliai Nursing Home and Savičius shamefully falsified this fact in order to camouflage the atheist's disgraceful actions. But is this not why the Banga editors reported the falsified date of S. Milašius' death in order to compromise Vatican Radio? In other words, the Vatican is broadcasting slander because the director of the Laugaliai Nursing Home, A. Strauka, confronted the priests at a later time and not on the date the Vatican reported?
I think that Vatican Radio will manage even in the future to report all the atheists' shameful attacks.
Not only the Vatican, but all foreign countries are outraged that the honorable country of Lithuania still has such as Savičius who disgrace Lithuania. How can good Lithuanians and the rest of the world keep silent!
Savičius remarks: "It is doubtful that the priest will manage to remedy Church matters, regardless of how he strains to draw more people to his side."
It must be considered a veritable miracle that the Lithuanian nation still believes as strongly as it does. For presently nine powers are directed against the faith, believers and priests: the press and television, radio and movies, atheist organizations, the real oppression of school children, young people and workers for the faith, onerous church taxes, trials and prison terms for defending rights, fines for religious processions honoring the dead, persecution for instructing children, restriction of the theological seminary and repression of the entire Catholic Church in Lithuania, refusal to grant either a religious press or any public religious instruction, as is done in other socialist states . . . And yet the Lithuanian Catholic Church survives, even grows stronger, while not a trace of atheism would remain after such repression. Such disgraceful atheist repression precisely shows the Lithuanian nation the true face of godlessness and compels it to value religion. Thus even after such efforts, only a mere handful of atheists exists in Lithuania.
Father A.(ntanas) Šeškevičius
Gargždai April 12, 1979