On April 17, 1979 all the deans of the diocese were summoned to the TelSiai RayonExecutive Committee to meet with the Commissioner for Religious Affairs. The following attended on the part of the government: Commissioner P. Anilionis, Deputy Commissioner for Catholic Affairs Juozėnas, Vice-Chairman Jankus of the Telšiai Executive Committee and his Deputy for Religious Affairs Upermanas. (No one in Telšiai knows of such a "deputy.").
An incident took place before the start of the "talks." A large delegation (some 15 persons) of Klaipėda believers awaited the Commissioner's arrival from early morning, but they were continually deceived that the Commissioner had not yet arrived. Just before the start of the meeting, the diocesan administrator very politely reminded the Commissioner that people were waiting for him and that he could perhaps go out to meet with them for a minute.
The Commissioner ordered the aged diocesan chancellor, Canon Beinoris, to tell the Klaipeda residents that no one would speak with them because there was not enough time, and they should present their demands in writing. Some deans were visibly upset: How should this behavior of a representative of the peoples government toward workers be understood? People who had worked the night shift, had left their small children, were forced to wait until 5:00 P.M. without eating (they could not go anywhere for fear that the Commissioner might unexpectedly run away—leave). At 5:00 P.M. the Commissioner informed them that he could not help them in any way, for the matter was being debated by the council of Ministers. But could he not have said so from the start, could he not have informed the faithful in writing? It is sometimes inaccurately stated that only at the master's gate must a man wait like a dog: it apparently also holds true for Soviet officials.
Father J.(uozas) Kauneckas, member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers, came to the meeting along with the deans. Afti*r everyone had filed into the meeting room and had sat down to a cup of coffee, the Commissioner ordered the diocesan administrator to expel Father Kauneckas. The administrator excitedly whispered something in Father Kauneckas' ear but the latter remained seated. The Commissioner then stood up and loudly demanded that Father Kauneckas leave .. .
These two ircidents obviously had an impact on the attitude of the deans and the deans of the Diocese of Telšiai rather boldly defended the affairs of the Church in their comments.
"Currently the situation is such that people often do not know what is permitted and what is not; many devise ways to circumvent the law to suit themselves. But in the USSR laws and principles regulate everything. The clergy may follow religious principles only insofar as the law and state regulations permit. Even the bourgeois Constitution mandated a procedure to prevent denominations contradicting state laws.
The basic laws are as follows:
1.The Constitution of the USSR, which was actively debated by the clergy, perhaps because they were offended at not being included in the commissions.
2. The Criminal Code, arts. 143-145.
3. The Commentary on the Criminal Code.
4. The decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR "On Administrative Responsibility for Violations by Religious Cults."
Furthermore, the Commissioner cited an entire list of decisions and orders without mentioning who had promulgated them:
Decision No. 361, dated May 10, 1966, under which the Religious Affairs Commissioner has the right to interpret the laws; No. 31, dated March 31, 1972; No. 639 dated December 28, 1977 on the participation of minors in choirs and processions.
"All Soviet employees follow these documents; even most priests observe them. There are some very abnormal things: foreign broadcasts, the Chronicle, other literature, even speeches at funerals not about the deceased, but on politics.
The main violations:
1. Priests are meddling in the conclusion of agreements: The clergy delayed, slandered, even forbade church committees to sign them. For instance, Father Paliukaitis, pastor of Žeimelis, disbanded the committee of twenty. Certain priests forbid executive organs to take an inventory of the church (Father Nykštas, pastor of Salos). Certain pastors in an attempt to relieve the committee from managing church finances, do not allow auditing committees to perform their work. The pastor of Pociūnėliai, A. Jokūbauskas, elected themselves chairperson. The pastor of Adutiškis, B. Laurinavičius, elected himself secretary. Why? Not enough work? Priests take matters into their own hands: Garjonis, Miškinis, Pudžemis, Budrikis, etc.
Article 19 of the July 28, 1975 Regulations for Religious Associations limits a priest's activity to his community area, neighboring priests may be invited for recollections after consulting with the local government. It happens that some refuse to ask out of principle. There are even some politicians who claim there is no such law. There is, and it must be observed.
Pastor Svarinskas goes everywhere and makes speeches, but it is the host who is held responsible. In the rayon of Šilalė, only pastor Miškinis does not clear his invitations. The pastor of Šiluva, Father Grauslys, forbade one priest to speak from the pulpit, but the latter spoke from the altar.
Article 143 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code forbids instructing children in the truths of faith, forbids adorations, choirs, serving at Mass, all types of honor guards (Father J. Zdebskis even organized camps with holy pictures in the tents). Why risk being prosecuted?
Only parents are allowed to teach, otherwise, under no guise even that of services, is it permitted. The following parishes instruct children: Šatės, Tverai, Alsėdžiai, Kuliai, Rietavas, Pajūralis, Teneniai, Lenkimai, Žem. Naumiestis, Švėkšna, Tauragė, Palanga.
Certain priests attempt to administer Confirmation themselves: in Adutiškis.
The Regulations permit religious articles to be made, but production is delayed intentionally in order to produce the situation that everything is forbidden here. But there is plenty of everything near Aušros Vartai (Gates of Dawn), does anyone disperse them or imprison them?
Kalėda (annual visit by priest to parishioners — Trans. Note) is forbidden; donations may be collected in church with the committee's assistance. Attempts are made to make "kalėda" visits in Pociūnėliai, Samogitia, etc.
Processions may be held outdoors only with the govenment's permission. It is permitted to pray at the cemetery on November 1st, but without processions. There were those who organized processions on November 1st. Trials were held, believers threw flowers. The patience of the authorities has certain limits. Let's not play games! When fines are imposed, they are announced from the pulpit, several times the sum is collected, but the fine is still not paid.
Some 10,000 sermons—most of them good—are preached in Lithuania every year. The ones preached at the funeral of Father Garuckas were very ugly. At the Cathedral of Telšiai there is talk of a dawn of freedom, of Lithuania's russification through the Russian Drama Theater in Vilnius, of the enemy's face, of the fact that writers are molded into a party framework. In addition, complaints are written, as are deceitful reports, so they can appear in the Chronicles.
A Group for the Defense of the Rights of Believers was formed in 1978. They lie that it is forbidden to help priests, while it is merely necessary to consult the government. So many churches have been repaired after the war: they charge that militant atheists are burning churches. They demand that the Regulations be repealed. Certain irresponsible or coerced priests sign the statements and then they try to justify their actions. The Central Committee has directed the Commissioner to make this reply: no changes will be made in the Regulations. Certain priests do not participate in elections and even write letters: we will not vote! Yet even Vatican Decisions (page 212) direct priests to live on good terms with the civil government.
Sixty percent of Lithuania's priests have been trained under the Soviet government, but most of them are disobedient, defient, hold their first Mass ceremonies all over Lithuania, especially at the parishes of priests who are contrarily disposed .. ."
The Rev. Dr. Puzaras: Laws are not kept with respect to believers. In Akmenė and Papilė, teachers lead children from church by the hand and justify their actions by claiming they were ordered to do so by the school principal.
Father Gaščiūnas stated:
1. Serving at the altar is purely a church matter and the government should not interfere.
2. The burglary of churches, with only the Blessed Sacrament taken, is purely an atheist phenomenon.
3. The utilities have agreed to install heat in the church of Mažeikiai, but the rayonexecutive committee has denied permission.
4. Believing children are discriminated in school. Atheist programs are insulting.
All this is material for the Chronicles. If believers were respected, Christmas could be celebrated by making up the work on other days.
In many instances the roaming bands of hoodlums consist of non-believing school-children, teenagers. Chancellor Beinoris:
Dances are held at the Cultural Center on Good Friday. Do they consider what they are doing? Canon Valaitis:
When a church is burglarized, the tabernacle is taken out through a window, the militia is notified, but the perpetrators have yet to be caught. Some 30 religious monuments were broken in Pajūralis. Dogs were used to catch ... a teenager.
The government permits the noisiest funeral processions with orchestras, but not religious processions! (The Commissioner stated that religious funerals disrupt traffic, upset the sick). In other words, civil processions are not noisy, even with drums!
The ringing of bells is forbidden in Skuodas, but it is not forbidden in the Regulations.
Four years ago Doctor Mažrimas forbade a dying child to be baptized at the Skuodas hospital. He claimed there were no facilities. But when will they be available.
The Regulations were passed without consulting the faithful. Now the government claims it is humane: the faithful should be consulted on this question.
A threatening note had sounded in the Commissioner's voice regarding the signatures of priests: everyone has the right to write statements!
It would appear that one may not instruct children, may not preach sermons. Apparently we priests should reject children. I cannot drive children out: a priest's conscience will not allow this. Children up to the age of 18 are under their parents' jurisdiction, if the parents permit them to go to church, then that is the parents' right. The state cannot deny this right.
The Commissioner was unable to give any substantive reply to the remarks of the priests-deans.
Immediately after returning home to Klaipėda, Father Baikaus-kas, the dean of Klaipėda, wrote to all the deaconate priests outlining the conference's topics of discussion. His presentation was rather tendentious, he clearly declared himself agains the priests who teach children and the like. He expressed his displeasure with young priests, writing that 60% of the priests trained during the Soviet era are disloyal to the government (although the Commissioner had not said this). However, he did not even allude in his letter to the fact that the priests had courageously raised various grievances.
The diocesan Chancery Office asked the dean to explain this misleading information.
At 12:00 noon on April 24, 1979 a meeting was held at the Kaunas city Executive Committee between Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis and the deans of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis. The Commissioner introduced his deputy for Catholic Affairs, Juozinas, who remained silent throughout the meeting.
The Commissioner feels that the majority of priests observe Soviet laws; there are few violators.
The priests of Šlavantai and Kapčiamiestis prevented the renewal of contracts with the executive committees.
The pastors of Kybartai, Pajevonis, Vištytis meddle excessively in the work of the parish committee.
The Revs. Dobrovolskis, Tamkevičius, Zdebskis and Kunevičius travel to other parishes without permission.
Father Zdebskis organized a youth outing to the lake. This is forbidden. Consistently catechetical sermons are fobidden because this amounts to teaching religion.
The pastors of Pajevonis, Vištytis, Alvitas and Kybartai are guilty of instructing children.
Children are allowed to serve at Mass in Viduklė, Paberžė, Grinkiškis, Kybartai, Seirijai, Šlavantai and other parishes, and that is a blatant violation of Soviet Law.
"Kalėda" visits are forbidden, but such visits were nonetheless made in Pociūnėliai and near Kazlų Rūda.
On November 1st, the pastors of Viduklė, Tabariškės and Kybartai went to the cemetery without permission from the government.
The pastors of Viduklė, Paberžė and Pociūnėliai are playing with fire in their sermons. Only religion may be discussed in sermons.
There are priests who like to address various statements to the government.
The Commissioner mentioned in particu'ar Document No. 5 of the Catholic Committee and the statements written by priests to the highest government offices. In the Commissioner's view, priests should consider what they are signing. No changes will be made in the Regulations for Religious Associations.
Certain priests do not vote in elections.
There are priests who oppose the Soviet government.
It is undesirable for young priests to hold their First Mass ceremonies in several parishes.
The Commissioner's office is not an enemy of the Church. We will deal fairly with obedient priests, but mercilessly with violators.
During the meeting, two waiters served the deans coffee, mineral water and oranges.
Anilionis regretted that the bishops did not attend the meeting.
After Anilionis' speech, the Revs. Buožius and Fabijanskas stated their views.
As the meeting was drawing to a close, the Commissioner asked whether anyone had anything to say. The deans replied: "The pastor of Jurbarkas has voiced all our thoughts."
Statement Made at the Meeting of Deans by the Rev. M. Buožius, Pastor of Jurbarkas
It has been stated and is still being stated everywhere and written in the press that some of us are so-called reactionaries, as though any reaction is already a crime against the government. Every living being, and especially the intelligent human being, reacts in one way or another according to his nature: he responds to the stimulus and influence to which someone subjects him, especially if that influence is disadvantageous or even detrimental to him. This is the natural instinct of self-preservation. And there is no way this reaction may be considered a crime. We are all alive, we all react, we are all reactors, according to our vitality and awareness. When the godless affect us with words or actions or by other means and measures, we all or only some of us react in one way or another. We must react because we are still alive and want to live. We fully understand the meaning and intent of the words and actions. Only the dead do not react. We are not yet dead.
We are rebuked that young priests hold their solemn first Mass ceremonies in several places. Perhaps this displeases some, but it is very good for us. We no longer have anything to rejoice over or take pride in. There are very few new young priests, it is a rarity. For instance, the Archdiocese of Kaunas does not have a single new priest this year. It's a hardship for the parishes, it's a hardship for the bishop. So at least let the new priests conduct such propaganda. Perhaps they will thereby touch someone's heart and will arouse the desire to be a priest. And we very badly need a new generation of young priests. We are all very concerned with having heirs to take our places. You can see that we are all gray, old and will soon begin dropping like flies. Even now there is a great shortage of priests, and what will happen later! Very few students—around 60—are stydying at the seminary. (Here the Commissioner interrupted Father Buožius and corrected him: "not 60, buy 72, and in two years there can be 100 or more because the renovated facilities will be able to accomodate this many.").
Thus the first Mass ceremonies of new priests are essential to us. For obvious reasons, a new priest here is already a rarity.
We priests are forbidden to teach children catechism and the truths of the faith even in church. We are told: let their parents teach them. But that is impossible. First of all, when can they teach when they are busy with all types of work, especially in the country on state farms, or with worries over daily existence? And second, how will they teach their children when they themselves have nothing to learn from? Atheist organizations are allowed to conduct their propaganda widely on radio, television and in the press, but we believers are not allowed anything: everything has been taken away or even forbidden. Thirty-five years have passed since the end of the war, but we believers still have nothing: no books, no newspapers, no magazines, except for the Ritual Book printed on ordinary paper, prayerbooks printed in extremely low numbers, and the Bible and the Second Vatican Council Decisions which are inaccessible to the people. Catechisms are printed only illegally. Our thanks for that to unknown printers. And so the poem written by Bishop A. Barauskas during the Czarist era comes to mind: "Neither written nor printed word are we allowed. Let Lithuania, they say, become backward and dark." Thus, we live in times of starvation.
I saw today an illustrated magazine published by the Patriarchate of Moscow on the desk of Chancellor Butkus. But we are forbidden to have not merely a magazine or newspaper, but even a bulletin or calendar. While shops, book stores and libraries overflow with all types of atheist literature. We are thus very obviously deprived.
Atheists have all sorts of organizations, courses, camps, schools. Believing children who attend church are scolded by their teachers, threatened, rebuked, and given lower deportment grades. Teachers even dare visit their homes, trying to persuade parents to keep their children from going to church. The disparity is therefore vast and very obvious. And yet this should and could be avoided.
Regarding the relationship between the pastor and the church committee, it should be noted that every priest, when he is named pastor, is appointed not only for liturgical matters but as administrator of all church property. He even takes an oath to carry out all these duties to the best of his abilities. Church canons, which we observe, provide for and require this. The church committee merely serves as an advisory body to the pastor.
In conclusion, I would also like to point out the following.
We have heard that you, Mr. Commissioner, were very sensitive to the needs of all your people in your former position. We are your people now. We therefore dare to expect that as Commissioner for Religious Affairs you will also be sensitive to us in eliminating mistakes, injuries and injustices.
Similar meetings of Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis and deans were held in April throughout the dioceses of Lithuania. The Commissioner also spoke on a similar theme to the students of the Theological Seminary, but was very displeased with this last meeting, because the seminarians stated their disagreement with Anilionis' instructions.