On April 20,1979, Daugailiai Parish Council Chairman Juozas Tarulis from Mikalajūnai Village died, having almost reached the age of eighty years.
On April 30, 1979, Township Chairwoman A. Stankevičienė telephoned the pastor, Father Petras Baltuška, to ask whether a new parish council chairman had been chosen. She was told "no" but that the question would be resolved soon. She then asked who was the candidate for the chairman's position.
The pastor replied, "I am."
"You cannot be chairman!" exclaimed the startled chairwoman.
"Why?" Fr. Baltuška asked calmly.
"You are a servant of a cult."
"No, I am not. I am a priest. That is considerably more than being the servant of a cult. Please, do not confuse concepts. Are you, as township chairwoman, ever called a servant of the township? Do people say, 'I went to township headquarters but didn't find the township servant'? Does anyone call a doctor a'servant of patients'? Is one who feeds the pigs called a 'servant of pigs'? Do we call the rayon chairman a rayon servant'? No."
"I don't know. Consult with Vice Chairman Labanauskas. If he approves you —"
"As long as he doesn't say anything to me, I won't say anything to him because this is an internal matter of the church," explained the pastor.
During the Sunday service of May 6,1979, the members of the parish council were asked to meet after mass to discuss certain Church matters. The meeting, at which all twenty-one members of the council were present, discussed the question of the chairmanship and the duties of the other members. The following minutes were drafted:
"At a general meeting held on May 6, 1979, we, the undersigned members of the Daugailiai Catholic Church Religious Community, elected as the executive committee of the parish council:
1. Chairman — Petras Baltuška, son of Rapolas
2. Secretary — Zenonas Lumbė, son of Juozas
3. Treasurer — Vincas Seibutis, son of Vincas
"In the presence of the council members, the pastor assumed his duties as chairman of the parish council pursuant to Canon Law 1183, Paragraph 1, which states: 'If any persons, be they clergy, or laity, are drawn into the administration of the church's property, they together with the pastor, whose role is outlined in Canon 1182, or the priest who is acting pastor, form the parish finance committee.'
"The Panevėžys Diocesan Synod states on page 111 in Paragraph 560: 'The Chairman of the parish finance committee shall always be the local pastor.' "
A copy of the minutes was sent by registered mail to Vice Chairman Labanauskas of the Utena Rayon Executive Committee.
On May 29, 1979, the township chairwoman informed the pastor by telephone that he was being summoned to Utena to see Vice Chairman Labanauskas at 9 a.m. of the following day.
Arriving at the vice chairman's office, Father Baltuska found not only the vice chairman but Rayon Chairman Talmantas and Rayon Prosecutor F. Levulis. The vice chairman introduced the pastor to the prosecutor. After they were all seated, the vice chairman began to speak in a raised tone:
"Why do you violate Soviet laws? You called a meeting without our permission and elected yourself chairman. The prosecutor is here; he will explain the law to you. Take his warning or you will be prosecuted for violating the law."
Then the vice chairman handed the pastor a typed sheet containing the reprimand and ordered him to sign it. The pastor read it but did not sign, saying he had not violated any law. He cited Paragraph 16 of the Regulations: "Meetings (sessions) of the executive and auditing committees of religious associations as well as of religious groups are held without notifying government organs and without their permission."
The vice chairman began to ridicule him, "Don't you have enough power?"
After this remark, the pastor requested that the meeting be adjourned until the following day because he had not brought with him a tape recorder to record this conversation.
The vice chairman became offended and jumped up shouting, "So, you've decided to blackmail us!"
"No one is going to let you record anything, even if you do bring a tape recorder," continued the chairman, his tone rising.
"But you are able to record what I say," the pastor remarked calmly.
"Why do you need a recording?" Labanauskas asked.
"So that I may share with the faithful on Sunday what was said here and how." The pastor explained: "I did not break any law because Article 52 of the USSR Constitution and Article 50 of the Lithuanian SSR Constitution clearly state: Church and State are separate."
Chairman Talmantas became enraged. "Don't you know what separate means?"
"What does it mean?" the priest asked.
"That you do not have a right to interfere in state matters."
"And who gave you the right to interfere in Church matters?" asked the pastor. "Where is it written in the Constitution that you can interfere in our affairs and we are forbidden to do so in yours? That article of the Constitution says it clearly: if they're separate, they're separate. A prosecutor, the representative of the law, is participating in this discussion with us. If he takes part in a case which separates a man from his wife, he doesn't give the husband the right to terrorize his wife or the wife the right to terrorize her husband. A separation is a separation." The pastor showed those gathered in the room the books of Canon Law and the Synod, the Constitutions of the USSR and the LSSR, the Regulations for Religious Associations and explained that once a priest has been appointed by the bishop and arrives at his assigned destination, he is obligated to bury the dead, to baptize infants, to visit the sick, to hear confessions; he is also obligated by Canon Law and the Synod to assume the duties of parish council chairman. Fr. Baltuška next indicated the Regulations Book. Glancing at everything briefly, the chairman pushed them away.
"They are old and have not been ratified by the Soviet government," he explained.
"Mr. Chairman, you reject the Canons and the Synod," Fr. Baltuška said. "Then, using your logic, I must reject the Constitution and the Regulations of the USSR since the Holy See has not ratified them either."
The chairman read Article 12 of the Regulations for Religious Associations: "General meetings of religious associations or groups of believers (excluding services) are held by permission of rayon or city (cities under republican jurisdiction) executive committes or Soviets of poeple's deputies."
The pastor explained: "That law applies only to meetings called for a special purpose, such as organizing a congress, building a new church, or planning a special trip; for example, if we were planning a trip to Moscow to participate with a religious program in next year's Olympics. Currently, the pope is visiting Poland; let's say that a thousand parishioners from Daugailiai wanted to see him. If they planned to call a meeting of all parishioners to discuss such a trip to Poland, maybe, in that case, your permission would be necessary. But the confirming of the council chairman is a local and purely internal Church matter.
"Furthermore, it is not a law but a decree. Mr. Chairman, please indicate where it is stated that it is the law. The difference is the same as between a soldier's order and a general's order. One must always obey the general but not a soldier when he issues orders on the same subject. The Constitution is the general. That is why the words 'Fundamental Law' are inscribed on its cover. A decree cannot contradict the Constitution. Our meeting was only called to designate a new chairman and replace those members who have died. The pastor did not dissolve the council, which has existed before, exists now, and will exist in the future."
The vice chairman picked up the copy of the minutes of the meeting he had been sent by the priest and said, "Please don't send us any more scraps like this. I have written here that this is invalid."
"But we did not seek your validation. We merely informed you that our council exists; your assessment of our minutes is not important. This is a parish council; we do not need atheists to confirm it."
"But the election has to be general."
"That is what it was. The entire council participated in it, and the entire congregation knew of it. Besides, the church is not a theatre, to be used for elections. We are not given a facility or the conditions for all the faithful to gather together at once. Cities such as Kaunas and Vilnius have parishes with fifty or sixty thousand members. Where are the facilities to accommodate them? Even if we had them, who would give us Catholics the permission to use them? Do you elect the rayon leadership during your May Day demonstrations? Of course not. Given these conditions, Canon Law and the Diocesan Synod obligate me to be chairman."
"That law comes from the Vatican," said the chairman.
"Yes, because we are believers, we follow the directions of the Holy See, and you follow those of the Kremlin. But, you stand outside the boundaries of our religious community and, therefore, have no right to pick our parish council. Where is the logic? Atheists determining who will be members in a believers' council? Do we believers select yourrayon or township committees? No! If the Church is separate from the State, let it be separate. There is no more to say."
The prosecutor, who had been silent until now, interrupted, "Religion contradicts communism."
"That is not a question of law but of ideology. Where does the law say that religion contradicts communism?"
"The pope blessed Hitler!" the vice chairman came to the aid of the prosecutor.
"The pope not only blessed Hitler but Chairman Podgorny of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet; Foreign Affairs Minister Gromyko; the wife of Pravda's editor-in-chief; and Khrushchev's daughter, Adzhubeyia, who was so moved by Pope John XXIII's goodness that she emerged from her papal audience in tears".
"Did you see him bless Krushchev's daughter?" cried Talmantas.
"And did you see the pope bless Hitler?" retorted the pastor adamantly. "If state leaders or their representatives call on the pope to discuss affairs of state, present their credentials, or pay a courtesy visit, it does not mean that they necessarily get a blessing from the pope. We are meeting here, but are you receiving a blessing from me? That Podgorny and Gromyko did meet with the pope, that I can prove to you with photos from the Communist press."
"You will obey Soviet laws and refrain from obstructing the elections we are holding next Sunday (June 3) in the Daugailiai religious community. You have obstructed us for two Sundays already by the strong, almost political, propaganda in your sermons," said Labanauskas.
"I don't involve myself in politics," replied the pastor. "If I were to say to the people, take your axes and chop up the rayon chairman, the vice chairman, or some other office holder, then it would be political."
"You may pray, hear confessions; no one will forbid you that. The Constitution guarantees both the freedom of religious practice and the freedom of atheistic propaganda," the chairman told the priest.
"But why are we allowed only religious freedom while you have the freedom of atheistic propaganda? Let's exchange places. Why are you discriminating and persecuting? We are not slaves," objected the pastor.
"No one is persecuting you. Show me one instance where someone has persecuted you in the USSR," said Talmantas justifying himself.
"Then where is the Catholic press, the Catholic radio? Why is it that you atheists appoint members to our parish councils? We can manage them ourselves."
"We are the government; we must know everything," the vice chairman answered furiously.
"Your authority comes from the fundamental law — the Constitution — where it is stated that the Church is separate from the State. We sent you the minutes of our meeting so that you would be informed.
"Your mind is still full of bourgeois ideas and concepts from the Smetona era," said the vice chairman.
"What does bourgeoisism have to do with this meeting? If that label fits me, it fits you also," answered the pastor, "for we are of the same age. The only thing we both have in common with the bourgeoisie is that under them we wore our first pair of long pants."
"We have the right to remove any unacceptable member from the parish council," interrupted Labanauskas boastfully.
"Of course, if you will object to one man's nose and another man's ears, you will not find one in a thousand who will suit you," answered Fr. Baltuška.
"Why are we talking about noses and ears?" asked the vice chairman, taking offense.
"And why are we talking about the bourgeoisie?" retorted the pastor.
"I would never want to live abroad," uttered the vice chairman.
"Neither would I," added the prosecutor, who hadn't spoken for a while.
"There's nothing but decay and garbage there," continued the chairman.
"Well, I think we've had a civilized conversation," concluded the vice chairman.
"Thank you," said the priest as he got up and left the office.
That same day at 3 o'clock two members of the parish council —Treasurer Vincas Seibutis and member Jonas Jočys — also received written summons through the township authorities to report to Vice Chairman Labanauskas in Utena. They were met by the vice chairman alone, who informed them that the Daugėliai pastor had been there but that they had been unable to come to an understanding. The issue was this: a new parish council chairman had to be elected. When Jonas Joeys tried to remark that they already had a suitable chairman, the vice chairman jumped up shouting: "How many school grades have you completed? You don't know the law!" The vice chairman ordered that upon returning they were to go immediately to the township headquarters to agree upon an election day and a suitable candidate. He added that they should elect a believer, for if they should choose a drunk or a murderer, the rayon wouldn't acknowledge him.
The men returned home.
On June 1,1979, Township Secretary [Mrs.] Indraišienė telephoned the pastor and told him that the chairwoman obligated her to inform him that on Sunday an election would be held either inside the church or in the churchyard. As pastor he was allowed to participate.
"When will the Church services end?" she asked.
"There'll be no elections in the church or in the churchyard. If anyone tries anything like that, hell be physically thrown out. As to when our services start and end, that's our business," answered the priest.
"Shall I then write an announcement and post it on the doors?" asked the secretary.
"There will be no announcements and no elections. We have a council, the chairman has been elected, the rayon has been notified, and that's all there is to it!" the pastor replied.
"You can't be chairman," the secretary twittered.
"I don't know, but you can't be."
At 8 a.m. on June 3, 1979, the following notice was posted on the churchyard gate and on the church door by the township chairwoman:
"On June 3 of this year immediately following the services, a general meeting of the congregation will be held at the Daugailiai Cultural Center to discuss matters pertaining to the property and finances of the Daugailiai religious community. All believers are invited to attend the meeting.
Executive Committee of the
Utena Rayon Soviet of People's Deputies"
In his sermon the pastor explained to the congregation that the Church possessed no real estate and that it always paid its taxes on time. Furthermore, all the materials needed for repairs had not been obtained on the "black market" but through regular stores with receipts. "We don't even buy a needle for the church without a receipt," the pastor explained, "because we are audited by the rayon every year."
During the church services the township chairwoman arrived at the church to check if the notice she had posted on the door was still there. When she found the door open in such a way that the notice was hidden against the wall, she closed it. The people opened it again. She then tore off the notice and pinned it to the inside of the door.
The people leaving the church and seeing the announcement smiled.
The meeting never took place. Only one woman showed up.
On June 4, 1979, township workers in the town of Daugailiai and mailmen in the countryside were made to deliver notices printed on official stationary marked with the coat of arms and round seal of the Utena Rayon Executive Committee inviting people to a general meeting of the religious community at the Daugailiai Cultural Center at 6 p.m. on June 7,1979. It was signed by the Utena Rayon Executive Committee of the Soviet of People's Deputies.
The meeting never took place; only three women showed up.
The pastor informed the faithful that any asaults on the church or its council would be announced to the congregation publicly from the pulpit on Sunday.