(Regarding the Situation of Roman Catholics and other believers in Lithuania)
In the Soviet Union the struggle against religion is an essential element in the program of the Communist Party. "Freedom of conscience" is understood here in a special way. A. Veshchikov in his brochure, "Soviet Law on Religious Cults", (Vilnius, 1963) describes freedom of conscience as follows: "In our understanding of freedom of conscience, there is a definitive liberation of all people from religious superstition." (p. 10). This same idea is expressed in the pamphlet "Soviet Laws on Religious Cults and the Freedom of Conscience" (Vilnius, 1970) by J. Anidas and Rimaitis: "True freedom of conscience is possible only . . . when all available scientific, cultural and ideological resources are employed to help man free himself of anti-scientific religious influences. So long as believers have not rid themselves of religious superstition, full freedom of conscience is not possible." (p. 54)
Such a view and explanation of freedom of conscience is self-contradictory: wherever there is force, restriction and struggle, freedom cannot exist. It also contradicts international pledges: The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, The Helsinki Final Act, The International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as The International Pact on Citizen Rights
The Soviet Union, as a member of the United Nations Organization, pledged to respect and safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms, but did not alter its declared policy toward religion within its own borders. Not only are old laws still in effect, but even after the Helsinki accords of July 28, 1976, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of Lithuania confirmed the Statutes on Religious Congregations, comprising 53 articles, which we already made public in 1976 in our document No. 2. We again call attention to the fact that these statutes are based entirely on various Soviet regulations and statutes, created before the Helsinki accords, and discriminate against believers; for instance, anti-religious propaganda is allowed, but religious propaganda is not, only religious services can be conducted and so forth.
Article 26 of the International Pact on Citizen and Political Rights states: "All men are equal before the law and have the right to have the law protect them equally without any discrimination. In this regard, all discrimination must be forbidden by law and the law must guarantee all individuals equal and effective protection against discrimination of any type, as for instance, regarding race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other belief, national or social background, wealth, birth or other circumstance."
International agreements state that basic human rights and freedoms have priority over international state regulations. By theoretically acknowledging the above, the Soviet Union should amend art. 124 of the USSR Constitution and art. 96 of the Lithuanian SSR Constitution, which state: "The church is separate from the state and the school from the church. The freedom of religious practice and anti-religious propaganda are guaranteed all citizens."
The Church is separate from the state. The term "separate" is used by government organs in different senses. When it is being applied to the Church, it is understood to mean that the Church does not have the right to interfere in internal state affairs—in practice it does not interfere—that is, it cannot indicate which individuals must be elected to the national Supreme Soviet or its presidium, which must be chairmen of Rayonexecutive committees, university professors or instructors and the like. But when that same term "separate" is applied to the state, it has a completely different meaning: Soviet government organs decide which bishops cannot carry our their duties (Bishops J. Steponavičius and V. Sladkevičius), which young men are allowed to enter the seminary—not leaving them in peace (M. Petrauskas, A. Čiuras and others)—they even indicate which priests can be invited to help in religious feasts and which cannot (A. Kleinas, K. Garuckas, V. Černiauskas and so on). Government organs told Father Bronius Laurinavičius that "without our knowledge" he may not drive a single nail into the church wall. That the term "separate" is used in different senses is acknowledged by the atheists themselves. J. Aničas and J. Rimaitis write: "In literature, when we examine the question of the separation of church and state, the state and the church are sometimes presented as equal partners, for example: 'State organs do not interfere in church activity; the church for her part does not interfere in state affairs.' Such an evaluation is of course not correct. The sovereignty of the Soviet state gives it the right to regulate the various aspects of society. The church, despite its specific role, cannot be an exception."
Logically, the separation of Church and State should mean that she is completely free, independent from the state, and manages her own affairs. However, in the prevailing situation and according to various laws and regulations enacted by the civil administration, it seems that the Church is not separate from the state, but only strictly controlled by that administration. Although the Soviet press, when it writes about state and Church relations, often affirms that the Soviet state and its government organs do not interfere in internal Church affairs, that is, in her canonical and dogmatic activity, actual experience proves something completely different: The state, with no regard to the principles of Church rights, determines what is allowed and what is not allowed. Atheists themselves acknowledge this. A. Veshchikov writes: "Soviet laws forbid religious centers to promulgate any regulations or rules for believers. The clergy are also forbidden to follow and even rely on former religious laws. (Underlined by the editors of the original Chronicle) p. 20.
The school is separate from the Church. Article 13 of the International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states: "The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to choose for their children schools other than those established by the public authorities which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions".
This is also repeated in art. 18 of the International Pact on Citizen and Political Rights and stressed by The Universal Declaration on Human Rights: "Parents have a priority right in determining how their children are to be educated." (art. 26)
Article 65 of the Basic Principles of the People's Education in the USSR and the Soviet Republics theoretically acknowledges: "If an international agreement or international pact, in which the USSR participates, establishes rules different from what is laid down in the statutes of the people's education in the USSR and the Soviet Republics, then the regulations of the international agreement or pact apply." But this is different in actual practice.
In the Soviet Union, where the school is separate from the Church, the entire educational apparatus is in state hands and there are no schools other than state schools. The goals and tasks of those schools are set by the basic statutes of the People's Education in the USSR and of the Soviet Republics which require "secular education without religion" (art. 12), that education and upbringing be steeped in Marxist-Leninist philosophy, socialist internationalism, Soviet patriotism and the spirit of Communism (art. 19, 31, 36, 41), that "parents and persons representing them are obligated to raise their children in the spirit of high Communist morals" (art. 57), that "upbringing" in the family be organically coordinated with the educational work of schools, pre-school agencies and the work of community organizations" (art. 57).
How the above-mentioned articles of the Basic Principles of the People's Educational Agencies are carried out in practice is related by Assistant Chairman P. Mišutis of the Republican Educational Atheistic Propaganda Coordinating Council in the book The Practice of Ideological Work and Its Development (Vilnius, 1974):
"The Fifth Plenary Meeting of the Lithuanian Communist Party Central Committee (1963) emphasized that educational-atheistic propaganda is a matter of concern throughout the Party." (p. 197) "Recently the discrepancies of atheist work have improved . . . Atheist work in the schools is becoming more intensive. The basic task of instilling materialistic ideology is being tranfered to the educational process, without however by-passing atheist groups and clubs whose activity in certain schools even goes beyond school boundaries. It is vitally important to provide better atheist education to parents of children who are still believers, which task many school organizations are attempting to accomplish.
"Great problems arise in educating youth, students . . . An important role is played here by the Chair of the History of Atheism and of Philosophy, established at the Vilnius V. Kap-sukas State University. This Chair plays an increasingly larger role in coordinating and organizing the atheist educational activity of students in the republic . . . Therefore, it is extremely important to work with them more closely, as well as with youth in general. To snatch from the Church's influence the still believing portion of youth." (p. 202)
Such are the goals of all schools. Then, perhaps, it is possible to teach religion to believer children and youth in private?
The January 23, 1918 Lenin's decree On the Separation of Church and State, and School and Church permits to teach and learn religion in private (art. 9) but art. 143 of the LSSR Criminal Code forbids it. A violation of this (143rd) article is seen as: "The organization and systematic practice of providing religious education to minors, in violation of regulations provided by law. The violation of regulations provided by law must be viewed as the religious education of minors in any form (for instance, the organization by religious groups and cult servants of any schools, clubs or groups; the systematic meeting of children for the purpose of religious education; the practice of religious education carried out by parents not merely with their own children, but also with other believer children, except for the religious education of children undertaken by parents."(Commentary on the LSSR Criminal Code, Vilnius, 1974, p. 226).
This same view is stated in articles 17 and 18 of the Statutes on Religious Congregations. Thus, the decrees of Lenin and current state laws are not consistent.
The freedom of religious worship. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights proclaims: "Everyone has the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right covers the freedom to change one's religion and beliefs and the freedom to practice one's religion and beliefs both individually and together with others, in public and in private, teaching, participating in services and conducting religious services.(Underlines by us). Thus, those laws do not conform to international conventions.
The freedom of religious worship is guaranteed by the USSR and LSSR Constitutions, but the faithful of Lithuania do not enjoy this right. A. Veshchikov openly acknowledges that religious congregations "have a strictly limited role under Soviet law" (p. 31). J. AniCas and J. Rimaitis reiterate the same idea: "Religious communities are formed only for the purposes of religious practice" (p. 38).
The term freedom of religious worship is understood to mean not only holding services and attendance at them, but everything that is connected with religious services. In order to conduct religious services in the Catholic Church, it is necessary to have priests, liturgical vessels, liturgical books, hymnals, music sheets, rosaries, organs and so forth.
The Catholics of Lithuania receive only as many new books as the civil authorities allow; they also determine the number of seminarians at the seminary. The bishops and church administrators of Lithuania cannot administer the Sacrament of Confirmation without permission from atheist government agencies; the activities of priests are limited to the residence of parish members whom they serve and to the parish church where the priest works (art. 19 of the Statutes on Religious Congregations); funeral processions to the cemetery on All Souls Day are forbidden, and priests are punished for this; for example, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and others in 1976; it is often forbidden to provide the last rites to the ill in hospitals; priests are forbidden to visit the faithful even though they request it (for example, Father K.(arolis) Garuckas and others).
Since Vatican Council II, nearly all believers throughout the world participate in church services in their native tongue, but Lithuanians do so in Latin because here there are no facilities to print in Lithuanian the missals and other books necessary for religious rites. Lithuanians can only dream about producing liturgical vessels and organs. Under theStatutes on Religious Congregations, religious centers—curias and religious communities—and parishes in Lithuania do not enjoy any legal individual rights, they are not allowed to set their own regulations, they cannot have rights, obligations or own property; they cannot enter into contracts, inherit wealth, be litigants in trials or parties in arbitration. Article 22 of the above-mentioned statutes states: "Property necessary for the practice of religion, whether transferred under contract for the use of believers who compose the religious community, or purchased or donated for use in worship, belongs to the state." Even "insurance payments for burned (damaged) houses of worship are assigned to the appropriate Executive Committee of the Council of Workers Representatives, to whom, in the final analysis, these buildings belong" (art. 29).
Most Lithuanian Catholics, especially intellectuals, cannot attend religious services, because they are then discharged from their jobs, for instance, teachers and the like.
During the years of Stalin's rule, Lithuanians exiled to the farthest reaches of Russia used to make rosary beads from bread, which they strung on a piece of thread and used to pray. Today, we see in many hands not bread rosaries, but rudimentary rosaries made by the underground, handwritten prayerbooks, Hymnals—many have been imprisoned for making prayerbooks in secret, for example, Povilas Petronis, Juozas Gražys and others— the apartments of believers are decorated with rough photocopied pictures or secretly manufactured metal Crucifixes.
Can this be called freedom of religious practice?
Freedom of anti-religious propaganda means that every Soviet individual has the right freely to express his atheist beliefs and proclaim them orally and in the press. This is guaranteed by art. 124 of the USSR Constitution and art. 96 of the Lithuanian SSR Constitution. In the Soviet Union, freedom of anti-religious propaganda means the struggle against religion—a virtually untouchable law. It is one of the program points of the Communist Party. A. Veshchikov writes: "The documents of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union contains directives on how to continue developing atheistic work. The meeting examined in depth the question of overcoming religious anachronisms" (p. 29).
Freedom of religious propaganda is nor granted believer citizens by the Constitution, thus making believers not equal with atheists before the law, and discriminating against them. As a result, the Catholics of Soviet Lithuania do not have any religious newspapers or magazines, Catholic books or even catechisms, while bookstores are piled high with atheist books, and newspapers and magazines literally abound with atheist articles which attempt to "uncrown" the Catholic Church, and to which Catholics cannot reply because they do not have their own press. Thus, the Catholics of Lithuania are not allowed to enjoy the rights and freedoms contained in international agreements, and which the Soviet Union pledged to respect and uphold.
Therefore, we appeal to the Belgrade Commission, empowered to monitor adherence to the international agreements on basic human rights and freedoms signed in Helsinki in 1975 and ask you to help us, so that the international commitments entered into not be on paper alone, but concretely carried out, that:
1) the term "freedom of conscience" be understood and explained as it is understood by all the peoples of the world;
2) people be granted the freedom of not only anti-religious, but also religious propaganda;
3) believers be granted the freedom of assembly, meeting, press and speech;
4) those articles of the basic educational statutes which restrict freedom of religion and conscience be eliminated;
5) all those who have contributed to the effort to have human rights and basic freedoms respected and protected everywhere be released prom prisons and labor camps (Nijolė Sadūnaitė, Petras Plumpa, Povilas Petronis, Šarūnas Žukauskas and others).
Vilnius, Lithuanian SSR April 10, 1977
Lithuanian Public Group Monitoring Adherence to the Helsinki Agreements:
Father Karolis Garuckas