On March 9 and 19, 1980, the Vilnius television broadcast of the atheistic program "Argumentai" (Arguments) among other things strongly attacked the assistant pastor of the Telšiai cathedral, Father Jonas Kauneckas. He is charged with inciting believers through his sermons to violate Soviet laws by turning them against the Soviet government and by being an "apostle of hatred" in Telšiai. The producers of the program failed to present a single fact, however; they even failed to specify against which laws the people were being incited. Although the program's organizer, Stuina, a journalist, asserted that the editorial staff had received many complaints from believers, it failed to find a single believer who would speak otrtDii television and did not mention a single complainant's name.
Communist Youth League member [Miss] Nijolė Gedvilaitė, who appeared on the program, was filmed at the Saulutė Nursery School. She had been prepared in advance as to what to say. She had to be filmed several times because she failed to say things according to the producers' tastes. Such are the "fair" methods by which these programs are produced. In addition her statements were about religious services which had been held three years previously. The producers hoped that after all this time the faithful would have forgotten everything and would be unable to protest.
Finance Inspector Vendzinskas, who constantly angrily attacks believers (vendors of religious articles and salaried church employees), stated on the program that Father Kauneckas slandered Soviet officials, but he did not name a single victim. The program is always made up of such unsubstantiated fantasized facts although it calls itself "scholarly."
Puplauskas, an engineer, who almost daily receives Holy Communion, was filmed while discussing the future plans of the city of Telliai, but ended up being shown on the atheistic program. Journalist Algimantas Stuina showed all of Lithuania by this act that he has not a whit of conscience. Puplauskas, deeply insulted, sent a letter of protest to the station's editors. In March alone the editorial office received some twenty group and individual letters of protest from Telšiai. Even nonbelievers were incensed at the deception, stating that no one has ever heard Father Kauneckas in his sermons instigating people against the laws. The faithful asserted that, on the contrary, the priest always stressed that even atheists are obligated to observe Soviet laws and not persecute believers.
The following are several excerpts from letters sent to the producers of the atheistic program "Argumentai":
"We, religious believers of Telšiai, taking advantage of the freedom of expression, respond to the atheistic program you showed on television.
"Following this broadcast we firmly state: 'Atheism is nothing but lies!' You are maligning today's bearers of decency and light: the priests . . ..The name of Father Jonas Kauneckas, which you have sullied, his goals, his nobility and sacrifice are held above everything else in our hearts. We respect him for speaking the truth, for his kind words, for his love of Lithuania."
Signed by 1,453 believers of Telšiai
Other Telšiai believers wrote: "We, the undersigned believers, are indignant at the March 9,1980, "Argumentai" television program in which the assistant pastor of the Telšiai cathedral, Father Jonas Kauneckas, was slandered. It was stated on the program that Father Kauneckas instigates people against the Soviet government, reviles the dead, and is an apostle of hatred. Only three persons spoke out against him, and they themselves are nonbelievers. We have never heard such instigation against the government although we often attend church. We have never heard the dead reviled. Father Kauneckas tells us to be decent, conscientious, industrious, sober, and to study well. He tells nonbelievers to obey Soviet laws. If he points out atheistic errors and urges us to resist godlessness, that is his holy priestly duty.
"Please caution the slanderers!"
A third protest letter stated: "The vice chairman of the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee called our assistant pastor an apostle of hatred. We, believers, strongly protest Jankus's attacks and are determined to defend our assistant pastor. How can you believe Vendzinskas, who, for a glass of alcohol, would sell himself and others? We are outraged at the hatred uttered by Vendzinskas, [Miss] Gedvilaite, and the principal of the Vieivienai Primary School. You are accusing Father Kauneckas of being an instigator against the Soviet government. That is not true! We and thousands of believers respect and love our assistant pastor, Father Jonas Kauneckas . . ..
"How can a few nonbelievers, who are not intimately acquainted with the priest, unjustly slander him on television?
"Do not dare to slander the assistant pastor of the Telšiai cathedral, Father Jonas Kauneckas, any more!
"We, thousands of believers, will stand up publicly to defend our assistant pastor, whom we all respect!"
A resident of Telšiai, [Mrs.] Elena Rackauskienė, wrote: "It is both painful and pitiful that it fell on Father Kauneckas to drink this bitter cup of lies. Would these slanderers dare to open their mouths before the people? Everyone who hears his sermons, and they are in the thousands, would say to the slanderers: No!"
[Mrs.] Irena Želvienė, a nurse, expressed indignation in her letter: "Your program deeply wounded believers' hearts. Father Kauneckas . . . [is] a bright sun in the sky of Telšiai and all of Samogitia!"
As though in reply to the people's letters, in the beginning of April 1980 A. Stuina was given the Mickevi&us Kapsukas Award for his atheistic television broadcasts.
Šaukotas (Radviliškis Rayon)
On February 24,1980, Father Bronius Gimžauskas, as a sign of protest, refused to participate in the elections because: he had been twice denied permission to go to Poland; he was not allowed to preach in Šiluva; furthermore, believing children are discriminated against in schools. Township Chairman Bronius Baltaragis tried to intimidate the priest, charging him with being an enemy of the government and promising to hand him over to the KGB.
Gadūnavas (Telšiai Rayon)
On the night of January 30,1980, vandals broke into the Gadūnavas church and burglarized it. They took the ciborium with consecrated Hosts, two empty ciboria, two mass chalices, a valuable cross, etc. On February 3 atonement services because of the desecration were held at the Gadūnavas church.
Pociūneliai (Radviliškis Rayon)
Father Antanas Jokubauskas, defamed in the rayon newspaper Komunizmo Aušra(Dawn of communism), appealed to the Šiauliai Rayon People's Court to have the slander retracted. The court session occurred on March 4 and 5, 1980. The newspaper editors did not have a single witness to substantiate the item printed in the newspaper: that Father Jokubauskas allegedly urged believers to pray that the school principal would become ill. Despite this, and to everyone's great outrage, the newspaper administration was cleared and the priest found guilty.
On March 19,1980, a routine theory seminar was held in the conference room of the Republican Library. Vladas Balkevičius, an instructor at the Vilnius Pedagogical Institute, spoke on "Religion and the Present." During the seminar the library's director asked the speaker why there were still so many believers today despite all of the atheists' efforts. He asked him to speak about the extremist priests who were written up in the press. Balkevičius stated that in rural areas 70 percent of the people still consider themselves believers and 35 percent of these attend church. Lately there has been an increased interest in religion even among the intelligentsia, and the number of believers among intellectuals is constantly growing.
The speaker condemned atheistic attacks and uncultured methods of battling against religion. For example, the atheists of Byelorussia posted guards at church doors, who, realizing their powerlessness, fearfully and angrily asked: "What are we to do with these cursed hags? They go to the cemetery and pray!" In Central Asia, atheists have established a snake pit near a mosque . . .
The speaker told his audience that a Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights has been formed, which, among other things, urges believers to ignore the Commissioner for Religious Affairs. That is why certain priests do not submit information on baptisms, marriages, and so forth to rayon officials, claiming they will pass this information on to the atheists. Bishop J. Steponavičius has contributed much to this work. In Lithuania there continually appear unruly priests disloyal to the government, who interfere in things which do not concern them. For instance, in Varduva, Kybartai Pastor S. Tamkevičius in his sermon urged the people to throw off the Russian yoke (that was not said — Ed.). Another priest supposedly stated that he yearned to die in a Bolshevik labor camp with a martyr's crown and wanted the Vatican and the entire world to talk about him. But no one is hurrying to grant him a martyr's name. Such priests are in the minority, however. A majority of the priests are loyal to the Soviet government. "We are pleased with them. For example, former administrator Father C. Krivaitis or Theological Seminary Rector Dr. V. Butkus. God grant us more priests such as these!"
According to Balkevičius, Baptists, various sects, and believers in general have become more numerous because of inappropriate action taken by atheists. Administrative means were used to close Orthodox churches and, as a result, Baptists and other sects have appeared everywhere.
But the government is happy with them. The speaker prasied them so highly and related their customs in such detail, that it seemed he wanted everyone to become a Baptist rather than a Catholic. He even gave the address of their house of worship.
Speaking about young people, the lecturer claimed that today's youth had higher moral standards than before. A murmuring arose in the hall at this point, and when Balkevičius asserted that today's youth were not as greedy and selfish as before, the audience began to clamor. The speaker seemed very surprised that they did not agree with him.
As they left the hall following the lecture, the library employees were thoroughly confused as to where the lecturer on atheism had told the truth and where he had lied, and if there were any truth in his words at all!