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..."
Since the court rejected his complaint, Father Šauklys then appealed on May 30 to the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the LSSR to have the decision of the People's Court of Jurbarkas Rayon nullified. We present some of the thoughts expressed in Father Šauklys' complaint to the Chairman of the Supreme Court:
"The administrative commission based its fine on the grounds that I had used underage students from the school in Girdžiai for carrying standards and strewing flowers in church.
"[Mrs.] E. Mockienė, and [Mrs.] Br. Bakšienė testified that they themselves had brought their own daughters to the procession. Others had acted similarly. The pastor had not pressured anyone to take part in the procession. The people had organized themselves spontaneously in accordance with an old custom.
"It was not proven in court that I had personally organized the procession or had instructed the girls. Easter processions have been held in all churches for ages. The parishioners know how they are conducted and take care of the arrangements themselves...
"The court indicated in its decision that 'underage children were involved in work which is not related to the practice of religious rites...'
a) Canon 1290 of Church law and the Book of Rituals for Lithuanian dioceses, Vol. II, 1966, consider the Easter procession a religious rite and decree it as compulsory. Therefore, not only is it related to the practice of religious rites, but it itself is a religious rite— the public worship of God.
b) That girls held the ribbons of the standards which were being carried, or that they strewed flowers—this is not work, but the participation in the rites of a cult, just as participating in an organized march is not considered work. The 'work' of those who carried a prayer book during the procession and of those who held the ribbons of the standards or a bouquet of flowers in their hands was identical. If one is not punished for holding a prayer book in one's hands during a procession, then why should one be punished for holding ribbons or scattering flowers?
c) The lawyers claimed that they did not know of any law forbidding underage girls to carry ribbons or strew flowers, all the more so I, who am not a jurist. Even if there were such a law, it would be difficult to enforce. Passports would have to be checked, since the girls who are so eager to participate in processions like to think of themselves as being of age. "Taking advantage of their privileged position, theatheists of Jurbarkas Rayon are exhibiting an unhealty zeal. And here is why:
"P. Misutis, the chief of the propaganda and agitation department of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party, has written in the atheists' organ Nauka i Religiya [Science and religion] no. 3, 1972, p. 34: 'At this time, the Party organizations are attentively observing that there would be no recourse to administrative measures, no restrictions of believers' rights, no rudeness or tactlessness in regard to them.'
"Then why is it that the officials of Jurbarkas Rayon resort to coercive means instead of fighting with ideological weapons? Perhaps they want to show thereby that the atheistic idea is inferior and that they cannot win solely through persuasion without the use of canes.
"The administrative measures and rudeness censured by the atheists' organ were resorted to in regard to the ministers of the cult in Girdžiai: the pastor and the woman organist were each fined fifty rubles. This produced great dissatisfaction among the faithful. To the surprise of the organist, they brought her a receipt, indicating that they had already paid the imposed fine to the bank. On this occasion one is reminded of the assertion to be found on page 119 of Marx and Engels' book Apie religija [Concerning religion]: 'Persecutions are the best means of strengthening undesirable convictions.'
"In the Soviet press one reads that the religious sensibilities of believers should not be offended. But is it not an offense that at the school in Girdžiai the newsletter posted on the bulletin board contained caricatures of those students who had participated in this year's Easter procession? Five exemplary female students from the upper classes were drawn kneeling with rosaries and underneath were their names and the caption: 'They are praying for the sins they committed during the year.' Is this not rude pressuring?
"We are used to seeing caricatures of hooligans and drunkards on street bulletin boards, but to ridicule sacred convictions in this manner—is this pedagogical and permissible?
"Decree no. 97 of May 20, 1966, by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR, regarding the application of Article 143 of the Criminal Code states that anyone interfering with the practice of religious rites is to be punished. And when the officials from JurbarkasRayon fined me and the organist, was that not interference with religious rites? Perhaps only God will apply the above-mentioned article?"
The verdict of the People's Court of Jurbarkas Rayon was left in force.
The Trial of Father Gustavas Gudanavičius
On May 19, 1972, the People's Court of Jurbarkas Rayon reviewed the complaint by Father Gudanavičius regarding the nullification of an administrative penalty, (see theChronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 2). The verdict of the People's Court reads as follows:
"The plaintiff, the Rev. G. Gudanavičius, indicates in his complaint that on March 23, 1972, he was unjustly penalized with a fifty-ruble fine by the administrative commission of the Jurbarkas Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee for a violation of the decree handed down on May 12, 1966, by the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR regarding the 'administrative responsibility for violating laws concerning religious cults,' because he had not violated this decree. From the plaintiff's statement and the data collected in this case, it is evident that underage children assisted in church, and for this, although not regularly, they nevertheless received compensation. Assistance in church by underage children is work and is not related to the practice of religious rites, therefore, the Administrative Commission of the Jurbarkas Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee penalized the plaintiff justifiably..."
The complaint of Father Gudanavičius was rejected. Prior to the hearing, Rugienis had summoned Father Gudanavičius and requested him not to take legal action against the administrative commission. Rugienis had promised not to create any obstacles if the bishop should want to transfer the priest to any other parish.
Father Gudanavičius appealed the court's decision to the chairman of the procedural review board of the Supreme Court. The priest's complaint reads as follows:
"The Administrative Commission of the Jurbarkas Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee in its decision handed down on March 23, 1972, penalized me with a fifty-ruble administrative fine. I consider that fine unlawful and therefore appealed to the People's Court to have it nullified; however, the court's verdict was to leave it in force.
"When I was penalized with this fine, my explanations were not heard because my bus was late, and I arrived fifteen minutes late. It was pointed out to me that everything had been decided already, that everything was self-evident, that such cases are decided in three minutes by an administrative commission...
"I have been punished because several children served mass, that is, dressed in their own surplices, they knelt behind the altar railing and rang the bell during mass. (These children do not yet know how to serve mass properly.) Praying in church at the same time were the parents of these children...
"I had never been warned previously and did not know that children sent by their parents may not serve mass. As far as I know, children do serve mass in other churches.
"The church is not mine, but belongs to the parish, and now the parishioners are reproaching me for chasing their children from the altar. They demand that I point out to them the law which forbids children to serve mass. But not only do I know nothing of such a law, but neither could the lawyers point it out to me.
"In its decision the court indicated that underage children had assisted in church, that is, they worked, and for this work they had received compensation, and therefore I had been justly penalized.
a) Serving mass is not work, but merely participation in the rites of worship. As the witnesses in the case demonstrated—the mothers of those very children— they themselves send their children to church to serve mass because they are religious, they themselves teach the children prayers and the servers' responses since some of their close relatives are clergymen.
I consider that participation at mass, just as at any other services, is not work,
b) If the parents are religious, it is natural that they themselves pray and teach their children to do so. It would be better if atheists fought with ideological weapons and not with administrative, coercive means. If they would succeed in convincing the parents, then not even children would go to church.
"It is not indicated in the decision what kind of work the children had performed in church. 'Assisted in church' can be understood variously; that could really be work if the children had been tidying up in church or performing other chores. But it has been established in this case that this assisting in the church was the serving of mass, which, as I have indicated, cannot be regarded as work. For this the children received no compensation, and this was proven by the testimony of witnesses. If I have sometimes given some child candy or a ruble, it was not as compensation for participating in the rites of worship, but as a gift on the occasion of his name day or some holyday. This is very fashionable today...
"Therefore, I request that you protest the unjust decision of the People's Court of Jurbarkas Rayon.
The Rev. G. Gudanavičius' appeal was rejected.
The Administrative Commission of the Jurbarkas Rayon Soviet of Working People's Executive Committee penalized Father Gudanavičius a second time for the same "offense" and declared that criminal prosecution would be initiated for a third such violation.