The Catholic Committee for the
Defense of Believers' Rights
August 30, 1980 no. 35
"The Second Vatican Council's decree 'Optatem totius' declared that'priests will consider the seminary the heart of the diocese and will willingly assist it to the best of their ability.' Therefore, the concern of all Lithuanian bishops and priests for their only theological seminary, in Kaunas, is understandable. Recent events at the seminary force everyone to become even more concerned about its future.
"Recently the news has reached Lithuania's priests that Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis has ordered the fourth-year seminarian Aloyzas Volskis expelled from the seminary. He is charged with associating with 'extremist priests' during his vacation. What is angering everyone the most in regard to this incident is the commissioner's determination to have the seminary administration itself expel the seminarian. Seminarians and zealous priests are being blackmailed by government atheists with seminarian Volskis's expulsion. Their behavior not only goes beyond the permissible bounds of Soviet law but also beyond humaneness. Lithuania's priests justly ask, 'Does the commissioner have the legal and moral right to so crudely interfere in the theological seminary's internal affairs? and What would be the worth of the seminary, if in submitting to unlawful force, it begins to expel those seminarians in whom the Church places the greatest hope?' If the seminarian actually violated Soviet laws there are prosecutors and courts to handle it. But we can never agree to have the prosecutor's work carried out, unofficially, by the Religious Affairs Commissioner, who because he fears to leave traces of his offenses, compels the seminary rector and the Ordinaries to become accomplices in his crimes.
"The Second Vatican Council's decree 'Presbyterorum ordinis' declares: 'The Shepherd of our souls and Bishop established his Church in such a way that God's nation, which he chose and acquired with his blood, will always have priests until the end of the world, in order that Christians never become like sheep without a shepherd.' During the summer of this year, the seminary administration sent the names of thirty-six new applicants to be confirmed by the Religious Affairs Commissioner. He rejected seventeen of them.
"Last year eleven candidates were prevented from enrolling at the seminary. This deplorable situation has existed for nearly four decades, and there seems no end in sight. The Council for Religious Affairs has prevented hundreds of the best candidates from attaining the priesthood. If not for the seminary quota, which atheistic fanaticism inspires and imposes on the seminary, Lithuania would now have several hundred more priests than it actually has.
"It is especially painful that when the applicants are admitted the decision does not come from the seminary administration or from the Ordinaries but from officials of the atheistic government with the Religious Affairs Commissioner in the lead. Those who are attempting to destroy the church endeavor to allow the enrollment of as many young men as possible into the seminary who have no religious calling, lack physical and mental health, or even those who have agreed to collaborate with state security agencies. Lithuania's priests have long said that a situation such as that at the theological seminary is very detrimental to the Church and that everyone must strive to remedy the situation. There is no excuse in allowing unsuitable seminarians to demoralize the seminary's spirit and, after they become priests, the entire clergy.
"We are firmly convinced that Lithuania's Ordinaries and the seminary administration should, despite the difficult conditions, vigorously defend all worthy candidates and seminary students and direct those sent by government agencies, or otherwise unsuitable candidates, to a layman's life. The Second Vatican Council's decree’ on training priests' categorically states that’ in selecting and reviewing candidates it is always necessary to be demanding, even if there exists a great shortage of priests, because God will not permit His Church to lack workers.'
"Lithuania's priests are convinced that as long as the seminary does not have its freedom, the Ordinaries themselves should, with the help of the priests, see to it that all worthy candidates rejected by the Council for Religious Affairs are given the opportunity to study, train, and receive Holy Orders at the appropriate time.
"In concluding this analysis of several of the theological seminary's problems, we wish to assure both the seminary administration and the Ordinaries that all of Lithuania's priests will support their holy efforts to keep the heart of Lithuania's Catholic Church — the seminary — sound and able to prepare zealous workers for Christ's vineyards.
Members of the Catholic Committee
for the Defense of Believers' Rights:
Rev. Jonas Kauneckas
Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas
Rev. Sigitas Tamkevičius
Rev. Vincas Vėlavičius
Rev. Juozas Zdebskis"
The faithful of Kaunas have sent the following petition to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR:
"We, the Catholics of Lithuania, are accustomed to religious discrimination at our every step. But even our patience has its limits.
"We have learned that at the end of August Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis arbitrarily struck seventeen names from the list of thirty-six candidates submitted by the administration of the theological seminary. Furthermore, on September 2 he ordered the Ordinaries themselves to expel fourth-year seminarian Aloyzas Volskis for allegedly associating with 'reactionary priests' during his summer vacation.
"First of all, classifications such as 'reactionary,' 'extremist,' and the like, are 'inventions' of the atheists. The Church knows its zealous, less zealous, and negligent priests. Therefore, it is both useful and necessary for a seminarian to meet with zealous priests and this cannot be considered an offense.
"Secondly, who gave the moral and legal right to Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis to run the chancery offices by indicating who can and cannot be assigned to parishes, or order large parishes assigned to government collaborators, or run the theological seminary? Only the Ordinaries and the seminary administration have the right to decide when to admit new seminarians and when to expel them. Petras Anilionis has grievously violated the Soviet Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the letter and spirit of the Helsinki Final Act more than once.
"We vigorously protest such crude attempts by the atheists to run the Church and request that the Religious Affairs Commissioner be forced to observe the law, and that the seminarian Aloyzas Volskis be permitted to return to the seminary."
October 20, 1980
Signed by 2,816 believers
In many parishes of Lithuania signatures are being gathered for petitions protesting the government's interference in the internal affairs of the theological seminary.