STATEMENT OF FR. B. LAURINAVIČIUS
To Deputy for Religious Affairs, Kazimieras Tumėnas
On August 31, 1974, you told parishioners of Adutiškis: P. Burokas, V. Trečiokas, (Mrs.) C. Burokienė and (Mrs.) B. Steponienė: "Re-educate your pastor. In other words, influence him so that he will not obey the Church or his own conscience but only the atheists. If you advised average workers at the collective farm of Adutiškis to reeducate me, please let me ask you, can you be re-educated by the sweeper of your street or the cleaning woman of your office?
I was taught and educated by highly moral and cultured teachers and professors. In forming my viewpoint they allowed and sometimes even ordered me to get to know the ideas of the Marxists-Communists. My viewpoint was formed not by compulsion but freely.
I had the opportunity also to read the publications of freethinkers. However, is there an opportunity today to read the books of people of non-Communist thinking for those forming their viewpoints?
In 1966 I asked for a copy of the Bible at a bookstore in Moscow. The salesman told me frankly: "We never carried the Bible. If you wish to read the Bible you must go to the library, but even there you can get it only with special permission."
If the Holy Bible is available in the library only with special permission, there can be no thought of obtaining and reading the works by those thinking differently than the Communists. However, everyone forming his viewpoints must get to know those with differing ideas. Molotov stated truly: "The truth is found only between two opposite opinions."
In the distant past I liked the Communist idea and slogans, but life convinced me that all that they say and write is only a dead letter, while life itself takes the opposite direction.
In Belorussia, Neither the White Russian nor the Lithuanian Language May be Used in the Schools.
During the Polish occupation, when Lithuanian schools were being closed, when the periodical press was being confiscated, we looked with joy towards a nation in which national minorities had their own press, schools where the children were taught instheir native language. Times were hard, but we had our Lithuanian press. When the periodical press was liquidated, occasional publications were published. When we lost our Lithuanian schools, we were taught our native language privately; besides this, libraries were available.
And how are things now in my native village of Geliūnai (Rayon of Astravas, SSR of White Russia) which is populated solely by Lithuanians? There, children who have never heard either the White Russian or the Russian language, are forced to learn White Russian and Russian in the school. Even during the recesses they are forbidden to converse in Lithuanian.
Impossible to Pray Peacefully when Being Spied Upon
Article 124 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union guarantees the freedom to practice religious cults. But can priest and faithful pray freely if they are spied on by disguised spies and others who think they have the right to do so? On January 19 of this year, (1976) Laurinavičius, chairman of the district of Adutiškis, J. Navikas, principal of the Lithuanian middle school of Adutiškis, and A. Baužys, a teacher, came to church and classified believers into those who have the right to pray and those who do not. I, as the pastor of the parish, protest against such rude and insulting interference, and ask, that such a thing would not happen again.
Article 125 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press. If this freedom were real, then believers in Lithuania today would not offer 60 rubles for a prayerbook [" Maldynas"—Editor].
Religious centers left open only for the benefit of the tourists from abroad
Those who do not know the true condition of the Lithuanian Church were enchanted by your speech televised on Vilnius TV on August 28, 1974, and the thoughts contained in your article "Freedom of Conscience and Soviet Law" (Tiesa, No. 273). You write: "Religious centers, such as the chanceries of Catholic bishops, are active in Lithuania."
What will their fate be? They are vegetating only to the extent that they are necessary for the Soviet organs. It is known to all that the priests of the Chanceries were under your jurisdiction, that you delegated this authority to the assistant chairpersons of the district executive committees, and they did likewise to the chairpersons of the counties. On January 25, 1973, the Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the District of Švenčionys ordered Laurinavičius: "You must check on the activities of the pastor!"
The pastoral work of the priest, his peace, and church rennovations depend on the assistant chairmen of the districts and on the chairmen of the counties, while the so-called religious centers are left only to receive foreign tourists, to grant them interviews, to show off to them their villas... The religious centers pay substantial sums into the "peace" fund, send representatives, like actors, to conferences which have nothing to do with the Church, and, at the Commissioner's request, they remove priests from their duties without any reason whatsoever.
You write: "Every priest must work in the religious community where he is registered." According to what law do you narrow and deny the rights of the priests? If you acknowledge the religious center you must also acknowledge its directives. Article 390 of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Vilnius states that every priest has a right to offer Mass, preach sermons, and hear confessions throughout the diocese.
In your article you write: "The State does not interfere in the internal activities of religious communities..." But a little further on you state, "Every priest works in the religious community where he is registered . . ."
What a great contradiction! If the government does not interfere in internal activities, why are "coordinations with the local government organs" necessary? Life has proven that these organs only dictate. Today's believers watch with sorrow and sadness the rudest interference in the internal affairs of the Church by Soviet officials, while future generations will laugh at the tragi-comedies of these times, which are produced by the atheists, just as we laugh at King Joseph II of Austria, who dictated to pastors even the number of candles they should light during Mass.
Facts bear witness to the rude interference of the local government in the internal affairs of the Church. On October 3, 1974, the chairman of the county of Adutiškis wrote out a summons against me because on September 28 to 29 there were other priests at the parish to hear confessions.
The greatest disaster is that he delegated "the care and coordination" to the local organs of the government, who conduct themselves according to the dictum "I like it that way", and are not responsible for even their most foolish coordinations.
Only Very Steadfast Youths Enter the Seminary
On October 30, 1974 you said to Mrs. Skyrelienė: "The pastor pushed it." [that her son enter the Seminary—Editor].
Skyrelis understands very well that to be a priest today is not a "bed of roses". It is well known to all, including youngsters, that the priest is downgraded in many ways by the atheists: "churchmouse", his passport is marked "servant of cult". Fanatical atheists dare to mock the defenseless priest; they write complaints and statements against him because they know that for this they will be praised and rise on the ladder of their career.
If a youth, seeing the unpleasantness perpetrated on priests, is trying since 1970 to enter the seminary, he does not need any kind of agitation. At the youth's request, I wrote the required statement, but you found "impediments" and did not let him enter the seminary. In 1973 you promised the youth's mother to accept him in 1974, but you did not fulfill the promise.
The parishioners of Adutiškis asked me why this young man is not accepted. They have the right to inquire, because each year they send their offerings for the maintenance of the seminary. Not knowing what to answer the people, I advised them to go to you and ask for themselves.
If There Were No Interference, the Seminary Would be Full
We hear that some are rejoicing that there are no more candidates for the Seminary. That is not true. There would be enough to assist the old pastors and fill the openings available, but you stand in the way of many of those. The decision concerning a young man's vocation is made not by those who should make it, but by the atheists. Just as we priests have no right to recommend candidates to the Communist Youth, or to the Communist Party, you have no right to decide whether a young man is fit to become a priest. It is unknown in the history of the Church that atheists should make the decisions about the candidates' fitness to be priests.
You replied to the people of Adutiškis, "The young man knows why he is not accepted." You are not giving a clear answer, therefore, it is understood that you are hiding something.
On November 27,1974, a representative of the seminary explained to the people of Adutiškis that the young man is not accepted into the seminary because after finishing the agricultural school of technology he did not work the required two years for the government, he fought with the agricultural directors, quarreled with his superiors, and besides this, he demanded to be allowed to travel abroad.
The seminary administrator cannot make a fair judgment without checking out the slander, and hearing the other side of the story. Christian morality obliges me to defend the injured party.
The young man was willing and able to work those two years, but he was fired from work because he attended church. When he was discharged as an agronomist, he young man went to the collective farm "Liudas Gira" and was determined to repay his debt to the government by working as an ordinary laborer. However, some official came from the district office and ordered that he be fired.
Released from Work Because he Attended Church
The directors of the collective farm were constantly angry; they mocked him and reproached him: "What kind of an example do you give to the school children, if being an agronomist you go to church?" J. Aničas and J. Rimaitis in their article "Soviet Laws Regarding Religious Cults" (V.1970, p. 31) write, "Everyone is responsible for refusing to hire citizens for work ... for firing from work ... in connection with his religious views."
The young man was discharged solely because he attended church. But the young man was faulted, and not the directors of the collective farm for his illegal firing. Then why are these beautiful laws written? They are written not to protect those unjustly injured, but for propaganda purposes: "See how beautiful our laws are— even the rights of the believers are protected by law!" This is only a mockery of the believers.
The youth is accused of quarreling with his superiors. Wanting the young man to lose his vocation, they determined to make him a group leader. The young man refused because he was convinced that he would be admitted to the seminary in 1974. His refusal to attend the leadership course was not an avoidance of civic duty, because everyone may freely choose his field of work.
The young man is accused that "he demanded to be allowed to go abroad". This is slander—he never even mentioned going abroad. The representative of the seminary advised him to go away somewhere, maybe to Latvia, and wait there at least three years. He has been waiting since 1970, and it is still unknown how long he must wait! What will remain for the young man after waiting so many years? The slander will not fade! The young man is out of favor and has felt the anger even of those who believe in forgiveness, but kick their enemy until he is destroyed—they are bent on destruction. The aim of the enemies of the Church is clearly understood—they want only the old and the sickly to complete the seminary.
You said: "The pastor has agitated!" And how is one to understand your suggestion to the youth's mother that the young man should enter medical studies? You are not concerned with those wishing to enter the field of medicine, but only with a young man who is determined to be a priest. By not accepting him for such a long time, you want to cool his vocation and to win his "obedience". What are these demands for? They have nothing to do with the calling to be a priest and are not even compatible with the conscience of a decent man.
It is not Possible Freely to Renovate Churches
It is said and written that churches can be restored freely. That is false. Only Tarasov, who came from Moscow, dared to tell the truth: On July 16, 1973, he stated: "You do not have the right even to drive in a nail in church without permission from the government."
In 1973, the people of Adutiškis bought discarded heating components consigned to scrap metal, and repaired them. On September 16, 1973, the parish council of Adutiškis asked the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Švenčioniai for permission to install heating in the church; however, they received no reply. On November 1, 1973, the people of Adutiškis turned to you. On
November 21, your representative came to Adutiškis and said, "Only those churches are heated which contain valuable works of art".
All were angered by this answer: There is more concern with works of art than with the people, even though the radio and press constantly repeat that "all is for the good of man" in the Soviet Union. By your answer you insulted the collective farmers who have heard that in some places even the barns are heated. They see that the house of culture is heated day and night.
On December 9, 1973, the people of Adutiškis approached the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR. On February 3, 1974, they wrote again but did not receive a reply. On March 14, 1974, they approached the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, and the first secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee of the LSSR, but the people of Adutiškis did not receive a reply from any of them
Interrogation Concerning the Heating of the Church
The people of Adutiškis, concluded that neither the Soviet Ministry, nor the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet nor the Central Committee, fully understanding the decree separating the Church from the state, wish to have anything to do with believers,and therefore did not reply to their requests. The people started the work of heating the church with a clear conscience.
As the work drew to an end, an audit was begun. In July, some official from the fire Inspector checked what was bought where. On July 23, P. Burokas and V. Trečiokas, members of the parish council, were called for interrogation. The interrogator demanded to be told where everything was bought. He carefully wrote everything down and demanded that they sign the memorandum, but the parish council members refused because they could not remember the facts clearly. They were placed under guard until they signed.
Did the interrogator have to act this way? Do the auditors demand that bookkeepers and directors recite facts from memory? Later, P. Avinas, the treasurer of the parish council, was called for interrogation. After him, A. Bučelis, ex-secretary of the parish council, was also interrogated. Lastly, the chairman of the County of Adutiškis and representatives of the militia questioned me where we got the kerosene tanks.
When the interrogator did not find any cause to incriminate the people of Adutiškis, therayon demanded that the parish council bring them the heating plan blueprints.
Representatives of the parish council, P. Burokas and V. Trečiokas asked RayonArchitect Jakučionis to draw up the necessary blueprints. The architect absolutely refused to do it, and sent the people to the Collective Farm Designing Institute of Kaunas. On August 11 the people of Adutiškis sought out the Kaunas address. The officials of the institute in Kaunas were very much surprised that Architect Jakučionis, knowing very well that the District of Švenčionys belongs to the zone of Vilnius, sent the people to Kaunas instead. In Vilnius the people were told that without the consent of the Deputy for Religious Affairs, the churches may not undertake any kind of project.
On August 28, the people of Adutiškis heard your speech on television that the believers may freely and without any kind of harassment renovate the churches. On August 30, they went to see you, and you, after advising them to reeducate their pastor, sent people to the rayon requesting that they be allowed to draw up the project. On September 24, the rayon sent us the following statement: "Until documentation is completed, no further work must be done." The rayon demands that a blueprint be presented to it, but refuses permission to have it made.
An episode from the times of the Polish occupation comes to mind. There was a Lithuanian high school in Vilnius. The Polish nobility determined to liquidate it and demanded that those entering the high school present an affidavit that their parents are Lithuanian. The high school had no right to admit students without such an affidavit; however, such affidavits were not issued by anybody. . .Now we are returning to the trail blazed by the nobility.
On October 23, the architect-inspector of the Rayon of Švenčionys, Jakštas, and Land Administration Engineer V. Graužinis told P. Burokas and V. Trečiokas, "Go to the Project Institute and it will make you a project blueprint. The district is already in agreement with the institute. The representatives of the rayon wanted to get from them the promise that the work would not be continued without the documentation.
The people of Adutiškis went to the Institute, and became convinced that no one from the rayon office discussed the heating of the Adutiškis church. Did the rayon officials have the right to deceive the representatives of the parish council in this way?
It is said that the law forbids the priests to belong to the "twenty" of the parish, and that priests may not be elected as members of the parish council. I am convinced that not only priests but also more intelligent parishioners may not belong to the "twenty". For instance, the following persons were removed from the list of the "twenty" sent for confirmation to the rayon: Mykolas Raginis, Edmundas Vaitekėnas and (Mrs.) Ciprijona Burokienė.
Civil Rights of Priests Restricted
If Article 135 of the Constitution of the USSR states, "Every citizen of the Soviet Union may be elected a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the SSRL...," then why cannot a priest be elected a member of the parish council?
Vilnius Radio has explained: "Priests may not belong to the parish council so that they would not use material goods belonging to the parish council." Why such disgusting suspicions? — To turn the public against priests. Why are the chairmen of collective farms and farm administrators not suspected? They all belong to farm administrations. The priests and more clever parishioners may not belong to the "twenty" nor to the parish council, not because they would use the material goods (after all there is an auditing commission in every parish council!) but so that it would be easier to deceive the parish council. For instance, the rayon officials said: "Go to Vilnius and you will get the project blueprint!" The priest and more educated members of the parish council would have refused on the grounds that a project is not made sight unseen, but after the inspection of the site. After they went to the institute, members of the parish council became convinced that they are being deceived. You, Deputy, agreed that the institute prepare the church heating project; however, this was not a cause of rejoicing for long. The engineer of the institute, Rozentalis, referred the people of Adutiškis to the district surveyor so that he would make a plan of the churchyard: however Architect Jakučionis stated proudly: "We son't do it even if we get paid for it. . ."
In your article (Tiesa 11/22/74) you write: "The materialistic viewpoint has been established in a large segment of the population."
Only a Minority has Adopted the Materialistic Viewpoint
It must be noted that the materialistic viewpoint has established itself only in a minority of the population; and this, only for certain reasons. Those who praise it and advertise it often speak contrary to their conscience. You are watching the establishment of the materialistic viewpoint from afar, while we see it from close up. You base your conclusions on fictitious statistics, while we base ours on reality. If someone out of fear says that he does not believe in God, that does not mean that he is godless. If he were godless, he would not receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, baptize his children and go to confession. So, there is no cause to rejoice in the number of the godless. Who can count the families, which, not wishing to go to church, pray at home?
Neither the family nor society is pleased with fanatical materialists. Some time ago, J. Galvydis was employed at the collective farm of Jakeliai. As administrator, he cared little for the affairs of the farm, but wasted all his energy on the war against religion. He was determined to turn the whole population godless. He mocked the believers on the honor roll, and did not pay premiums to the workers who earned them, for example to P. Burokas.
On July 20, 1971 Albinas Bučelis, born in 1894, died while working in the potato field of the collective farm. The administrator would not even issue a vehicle to bring the coffin from the store. Galvydis came to the collective farm with few belongings like an orphan. After a few years, he left Jakeliai with a dowry, like that of a prince going to his wedding. Farm workers who labored at the collective farm and Soviet farm for many years did not earn anywhere close to the amount earned by Administrator Galvydis in only four years.
Only the Praying and Bandits speak Lithuanian
It is often said and written that the Church was the cause of the disputes of the nationalists, but now the young generation is educated in the spirit of internationalism and nationalistic hatred is foreign to it. This year, while walking on Diržinskis street in Vilnius, I asked a teenager where Giedraičių Street was located.
He answered in Russian: "I don't understand."
"What does that mean? After all, you live in Lithuania. Doesn't your school teach the Lithuanian language?"—I asked.
"Only the praying ones and bandits speak Lithuanian", replied the teenager. Such are the fruits of materialistic education! Who turned the teenager against the Lithuanian language?
On December 4, 1974 Vilnius Radio discussed the case of some family which asked, before the war, that its children would be released from religious instruction by the Minister of Education. The commentator angrily underlined that the request was not granted. What would the Minister of Education reply today if some family would dare to request that its children would not be crippled by the atheistic spirit? If someone condemns the faults of the past, he should make sure that he is not committing them himself.
Atheism Now Forced on Everyone
It is true, religion was taught in the past, but it was not taught by force as is today's atheism. Religious truths were taught only during religion lessons, while today, every teacher must foster atheistic ideas in his lessons. Previously, religion was taught only in grammar schools and high schools, but today atheism begins to be instilled even in kindergarten, while it is forcibly inflicted in the high schools, technical schools, universities and workplaces. Not even the retired are left in peace.
What kind of freedom is it, if only atheism is drilled, and one must listen only to atheistic ideas? Is that the freedom described by article 124 of the Constitution of the USSR? Rosa Luxemburg spoke about freedom correctly when she said: "Freedom only for yourself is not freedom. True freedom includes also the freedom of those who think differently."
Like every decent citizen, you, should be concerned that all live decently. Therefore, please recommend not the reeducation of the priests but of those who trample underfoot all that is decent and beautiful. Since you hold the position of a minister, you can bring up many beautiful ideas, only you must have a citizen's courage to say what you see and hear to those who do not see and hear because all their energy is expended in the meaningless fight against God and the Church.
Adutiškis, 1975.1.25 Rev. B. Laurinavičius
(The statement is condensed—Editor)