OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
No. 3 August 20, 1972
• The role of the KGB in the theological seminary
• Teacher is dismissed because of her faith
• Permission is denied to complete construction of a brick church; parishioners are told to repair rotting pre-World War I temporary structure
• Petition demanding freedom for the Catholic Church in Lithuania signed by 1,100 believers is sent to Moscow
• The faithful from Klaipėda petition Leonid Brezhnev
• Father Dumbliauskas is transferred for catechizing children
• Exiled Bishop Sladkevičius is harassed for catechizing children
• Priests fined unjustly lose appeals (Father Šauklys and Father Gudanavičius)
• Father Tamkevičius, who was not allowed to explain charges made against him, sends written declaration to the LSSR Procurator's Office
• Father Zubrus, charged with organizing a petition to the USSR Council of Ministers, is transferred from parish to parish
• Copy of the memorandum that is read to "offending'' priests by the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs
• Continued harassment of priests
On April 14, 1970, an interview of Rugienis, the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, by the journalist E. Baleišis was published in the newspaper Vilnis [Wave]. Here is what he had to say about the theological seminary in Kaunas:
"An interdiocesan theological seminary functions in Kaunas. Its administrators and instructors are appointed by the Lithuanian Ordinaries. A candidate to this school must obtain a recommendation from the pastor of his parish. The seminary administration decides whether to accept the youth into the seminary, taking into account this note of recommendation, the diploma the candidate submits, and the youth's personality. The candidates who have been chosen to be admitted are then reviewed by Dr. Viktoras Butkus, rector of the seminary, in conjunction with the sponsor of the seminary, H.E. Bishop Juozapas Labukas, the Apostolic administrator of the Kaunas Archdiocese. The curriculum of the seminary, like that of all Catholic universities, is determined by the Congregation of Seminaries and Universities in Rome. The course of studies here lasts five years. All living expenses of the seminarians are gratis and nonrefundable and are covered by contributions from the faithful..."
Since Rugienis failed to mention the role he himself and the KGB play in the seminary's affairs, his interview must be supplemented.
THE PERSECUTION OF O. BRILIENE, A TEACHER
In October, 1969, photographs of the First Communion of teacher [Mrs.] O. Brilienė's children fell by chance into the hands of [Mrs.] Kerušauskienė, a teacher at the secondary school in Vilkaviškis. Kerušauskienė handed them over to Cekanavičius, the principal of the school. Immediately, a closed meeting of the school's Party members was called, after which teacher Brilienė was ordered to present a written explanation. The teacher confirmed that these were her family photographs; and basing her stand on Lenin's ideas, she suggested that they should not interfere in internal familial matters. Harassment began: daily cleanliness inspections of Brilienė's classroom and of how she conducted her classes. It all made a bad impression on the inspectors, although until then Brilienė had not once been reprimanded.
One day a hearing was organized.
"Well then, Briliene, do you believe in God, or don't you?" asked the principal.
"Yes, I do believe," she calmly answered.
The members of the commission began to explain that it was not fitting for a college graduate to believe in God, that one should resign from school if one is unwilling to renounce his faith, etc. They threatened the teacher with a review by the education department in front of all the teachers of the rayon, and so on.
Permission is denied to complete construction of a brick church; parishioners are told to repair rotting pre-World War I temporary structure
Right by the Polish border is the small parish of Kučiūnai. A small, temporary wooden church was built here already before World War I. In 1939, the faithful of Kučiūnai began to build a brick church, but a new war interfered—the roof and the interior were not finished.
In 1951 workers sent by the rayon administration began to tear down the brick walls, but the faithful chased them away using canes. Then soldiers were sent from the garrison, but they too were compelled to retreat by the people.
During 1957-59, tne Kučiūnai Parochial Committee applied a total of three times to various agencies of the Republic requesting permission to complete the brick church. In 1959 a commission headed by [Miss] Dziržinskaitė inspected the small wooden church and sent back their reply: "Repair the old church!"
In May, 1970, eight hundred believers from Kučiūnai sent a petition to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR once more requesting permission to construct a roof over the brick church. Rugienis replied: "There is no sense in building a new church in Kučiūnai. Repair the old one!"
Petition demanding freedom for the Catholic Church in Lithuania signed by 1,100 believers is sent to Moscow
On July 16 of this year, the Catholics of Lithuania again sent a petition to Moscow demanding freedom for the Catholic Church in Lithuania:
"To: The Central Committee of the CPSU
A Petition from the Catholics of the LSSR
"We, the faithful of the LSSR, appeal to the highest authority of the USSR asking to set right certain irregularities in our lives.
"The Constitution of our land guarantees the freedom of religion and of conscience, but our children find it impossible to study religion. We have no religious textbooks, and we ourselves know little about religion, but when we ask that our children be taught by those who do know about it, they are punished, for example, the court recently sentenced priests from Prienai and Girkalnis to prison for teaching religion to children. Recently the priest from Valkininkai was on trial for this, and somewhat earlier, the priest of Dubingiai.
"The Constitution assures freedom of worship, but we are not allowed enough priests: candidates who wish to enter the seminary are hampered, while many parishes are served by old, invalid priests. There are quite a few parishes without any priests. Our children are forbidden to go near an altar—to serve Mass.
In July the faithful of Klaipeda again appealed to Leonid Brezhnev, the General-Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU. In the petition of the people from Klaipėda is written:
"On March 19, 1972, the Catholics of Klaipėda sent a request to Leonid Brezhnev, General-Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which was signed by 3,023 believers. After some time, the sender of this appeal, Jonas Saunorius, residing in Klaipėda, Soviet Army Street 41-5, received a notification from the post office that the appeal had been presented to the addressee. After a few days, however, a KGB official visited J. Saunorius and took from him the postal notification. Afterward, no official response was received from Moscow.
On June 19, 1972, several individuals from the Kapsukas Rayon office arrived at the church in Šunskai, where children had gathered for catechization, and listened to what the pastor was telling the parents and children.
On June 22, four officials from the rayon administration arrived: Markevičius, the vice-chairman of the rayon; Karkockas, the head of the financial department; the secretary of the Šunskai Young Communist League; and apparently, a KGB official. Father Petras Dumbliauskas, the pastor, met the officials at the door of the church, but their purpose was not to chat with the pastor, but to check on how the children were being catechized.
The officials counted fifty-eight children and eighteen parents in the church. They draw up a report on the spot, which the pastor signed.
On the following day, the pastor was summond by the Executive Committee and Vice-Chairman Markevičius ordered him to provide a written explanation. Father Dumbliauskas wrote that he had been performing his priestly duties by teaching the tenets of the faith to the fathers, mothers, and to the children which these parents had brought along. Now that he had been warned by representatives of the government, he would remind the parents to prepare their children for First Communion themselves.
For more than ten years, H.E. Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius has been living in exile within the parish in N. Radviliškis, which is by the Latvian border. At present he is performing the duties of pastor of the parish in N. Radviliškis since Rugienis does not allow the appointment of a pastor for this parish.
On July 21 of this year (1972), about thirty children who wanted to receive their First Communion assembled in church. As the bishop was testing the children, three women entered the church and observed everything that was taking place there.
One teacher and a policeman were standing guard by the church, waiting for the children to leave. They asked every one of them for his name and surname. Some of the children attempted to run away, but the policeman caught up to them and draged them back to the teacher, who wrote down the child's name.
After Bishop Sladkevičius had calmly concluded the testing of the children, one of the women who had arrived presented herself at the sacristy:
"We are from the Procurator's Office of Biržai."
The Trial of Father Viktoras Šauklys, MIC
On May 16, 1972, the People's Court of Jurbarkas Rayon considered the complaint by the Rev. V. Šauklys concerning an unjust fine imposed by the administrative commission of Jurbarkas Rayon.
The court's decision reads as follows:
"The plaintiff, V. Šauklys, indicates in his complaint that in the decision handed down on April 20, 1972, by the administrative commission of the Jurbarkas Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee he was unjustly fined fifty rubles because on April 2, 1972, he had not indicated to underage citizens that they should participate in a procession and he had not seen that the participants in the procession were underage. Participation in the bearing of church standards and the strewing of flowers is the practice of religious rites—the public worship of God. From the explanation by the plaintiff V. Šauklys and the testimony of the witnesses [Mrs.] E. Mockienė, and [Mrs.] Br. Bakšienė, it is evident that underage children participated in the procession conducted on April 2, 1972. Thus, the regulations stipulated by law were violated by organizing a procession and also involving them in work which is not related to the practice of religious rites. In the presence of such circumstances, the decision handed down on April 20, 1972, by the administrative commission of the Jurbarkas Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee to fine V. Šauklys fifty rubles is lawful..."
Father Tamkevičius, who was not allowed to explain charges made against him, sends written declaration to the LSSR Procurator's Office
We present the declaration of the Rev. Sigitas Tamkevičius, the curate of the parish in Simnas, to the Procurator's Office of the LSSR:
"On April 29, 1972, I was summoned by the Alytus Rayon Executive Committee. The members of the commission had gathered in the office of the rayon chairman: the rayonchairman, two deputies, the chief of the propaganda and agitation department, and a correspondent from the Council for Religious Affairs. Summoned as witnesses were Father Matulevičius, the pastor of the parish in Simnas; Father J. Grigaitis, the dean of Alytus; and Father Turčinskas, the dean of Daugai.
"For about an hour, Comrade Jančauskas, the vice-chairman of the rayon, sternly accused me of things I had not even dreamed of. I was not allowed to explain at all. When I attempted to speak, Comrade Jančauskas declared: 'We haven't gathered here for discussions!' And when I tried to explain myself in regard to a certain slander, the representative from the Council for Religious Affairs snapped at me: 'You can explain yourself at the Procurator's Office!' Thus, while listening to the gravest accusations, I had to remain silent. Murderers and robbers have the right to speak in defending themselves, but I, being a priest, was not permitted to do so. As if that were not enough, Comrade Jančauskas called this performance a 'high-level warning,' asserting that 'we're very humane' and 'in the postwar years, nobody would have bothered to speak to you like this...'
Father Zubrus, charged with organizing a petition to the USSR Council of Ministers, is transferred from parish to parish
On June 8, 1972, the faithful from the parish in Stirniai, located in Molėtai Rayon, sent a petition to the Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers concerning discrimination against believers (see the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 2).
In May, Rugienis summoned the pastor of the church in Molėtai, the Rev. Jonas Zubrus, and reprimanded him, charging that he had organized this petition from the faithful. Shortly thereafter, Rugienis ordered Father Zubrus to be appointed pastor of the parish in Dubingiai.
In the middle of May, a reply from Moscow concerning the complaint by the faithful arrived at the address of [Miss] V. Šapkauskaitė:
"Your petition addressed to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR was reviewed by the Council for Religious Affairs.
Copy of the memorandum that is read to "offending'' priests by the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs
In recent times Rugienis has been explaining what is permissible in the sphere of religion and what is not. Rugienis has been trying very hard to prevent minors from serving mass. When he calls in an "offending" priest, he reads to him this memorandum:
"In connection with your inquiry as to whether it is an offense when priests invite minors to assist at mass, during religious rites, processions, and other ceremonies of the cult, the juridical department of the Council for Religious Affairs has determined that these actions must be regarded as a violation of the laws because the church may not engage in special work with children.
"The Council for Religious Affairs has already made it clear that for violating the regulations established by the decrees of the Presidiums of the Supreme Soviets of Union Republics, concerning religious assemblies, processions, and the performance of other rites of the cult, and also for violations in connection with special church activities, the ministers of the cult draw upon themselves administrative responsibility.
The Rev. A. Šeškevičius continues to be subjected to discrimination. He is not permitted to test children who are preparing for their First Communion; he does not have the right to travel alone outside the boundaries of his parish; he was not allowed to conduct a retreat for the clergy at the church in Šilalė. When Father Šeškevičius appealed to the Council for Religious Affairs in Moscow, he was told that he was not being discriminated against.
A motorcyclist slightly grazed the car of the Rev. A. Keina, the pastor of Valkininkai. There was no crash, and no one was hurt. The local atheists called in the Varėna auto-inspectors, who revoked the pastor's driver's license for three years.
In 1970, when Father Keina had started to put a new roof on his church, he was called to serve in the army for twenty days. When he started to lay down a new floor in the church this year—they revoked his driver's license for three years.
Because Father Montvila, the pastor of Lukšiai, did not banish from the altar the children who served mass (see the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 2), he was transferred, by order of Rugienis, to the parish in Vištytis, which is located near the border.