To The Editors of the Molėtai Rayon newspaper, Pirmyn:
In the February 5 issue of your newspaper (Nr. 16) an article by Kęstutis Deksnys was printed, entitled, "Atheism, Morality and Religion". Even though the editors are lavish in their praise of the article's author, saying that he, "is impressive in his research and his ability to hold the readers' interest", nevertheless, the more astute reader will notice immediately that he lacks the most elementary facts, especially historical.
Here are a few facts: (1) The author accuses the Church of teaching that "all government is from God". If the Church did teach this, there would be no Christians, since the Caesars forbade them to worship Christ as God, and the Christians would have obeyed them and reverted to idol worship, but they did not do so, and preferred rather to go to their death... they believed THAT ONLY JUST GOVERNMENT AND ITS JUST REQUIREMENTS COME FROM GOD. If the government or its requirements are unjust, then there is no duty to obey; on the contrary, THERE IS A DUTY TO DISOBEY. The Christians of all ages know that: "Better to obey God, rather than men." (Acts 5, 29)
Deksnys alleges that the popes organized the Crusades desiring "to seize new lands and force the inhabitants of several more lands to pay tribute and to amass new wealth." Is this how it really was?
After all, Palestine, Asia Minor and North Africa were once Christian lands, and lived for several centuries in peace. Later, the Muslims began to attack those lands. They killed Christians, forced them to abjure their religion, forced those who would not obey into slavery, and distroyed everything that was dear and sacred to the Christians, such as their churches and the places which had figured in the life and death of Christ. The Crusades were organized to defend those places revered by the Christians, and to defend themselves. This is completely contrary to what Deksnys alleges. IT WAS NOT TO CONQUER FOREIGN LANDS, BUT TO DEFEND THEIR OWN, THAT CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS MARCHED TO PALESTINE. Did the Soviet Union not act similarly? Why did it fight the Nazis when they began to covet foreign lands?
Finally, the Arabs and Turks were not satisfied with Palestine and Asia Minor, but crossed into Europe, taking Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Yugoslavia; they poured into Hungary, and even surrounded Vienna, the capital of Austria, and tried to reach Italy...
Many actions of the Inquisition are not defended by anyone today, but were there not greater and more terrible inquisitions in the Twentieth Century? How many millions of completely innocent people perished during the Stalin era in prisons, camps, exile and during artificial famine? What horror stories one can hear from Ukrainians, Caucasians and Germans from the Volga and from Odessa... Before these tens of millions of victims, the numbers of Inquisition victims pale.
Many more of our fellow countrymen perished during the sixteen years of the Stalin terror (up to the XX Party Congress), than died under the Knights of the Cross in two hundred years. Why do you not write anything about those matters, even though they are still alive in the memory of the majority of residents in our country, instead of writing with relish about those which took place several centuries ago, and were much less significant?
How many scientists perished in Soviet prisons and camps? (Here are just a few names of specialists in the science of genetics: Vavilov, Chetverikov, Feri, Efroimsov, Agoli, Levicky, Karpeshenko, Kolsov, Serebrovsk...) Their places were taken by such as Lysenko, Lepesinskaya and others. In Lithuania, too, the renowned Professor Sivickis was furloughed from work for a long time while Professors Dovydaitis, Karsavin, Bishop Reinys and many others perished in prisons and camps. So it is not iust in the Middle Ages that there was an Inquisition...
Deksnys writes in a most uninformed manner about the work of the Jesuits: "The activity of the Jesuits was bad news." Four years ago, we celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the University of Vilnius. Who founded that university? It was the very Jesuits whom Deksnys despises. Apparently, he never read the first volume of the definitive History of the University of Vilnius, where he would have found in the very introduction the following:
"The founding of a university, even in our times, is a great and significant event in the life of a city, a country and a state. It was all the more significant in the Middle Ages. The unusual, actually exceptional significance of a university for education, science and cultural in general, found its expression in the traditional... term of endearment'alma mater', nourishing mother.
"Founded in 1579 as the Academy and University of Vilnius, it was, for several centuries, the only institution for higher learning in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and had a great influence on the intellectual life of Lithuania... Characteristic of the University of Vilnius is the tradition of cooperation between people of various nations. Studying there were Lithuanians and Russians, Poles and Ukrainians, Byelorussians and Latvians, and there were professors from almost all the countries of Europe. So the merits of the university were great for the culture and learning, not only of Lithuania, but also of neighboring countries, above all, Poland and Byelorussia.
"Famous professors and alumni of the university were authorities in the world of science and influenced the scientific thought
Professor Pranas Dovydaitis, deported in 1941 to Siberia where he later died. He was a signer of the Lithuanian Declaration of Independence in 1918, and a founder of the Lithuanian Catholic Youth movement, "Ateitis" ("Future").
of the world." (History of the University of Vilnius, 1579 — 1803. Introduction pp. 7,8)
So you see, my dear Kęstutis, the editors of the History of the University of Vilnius have an opinion different from yours, and every thinking person, unblinded by fanaticism, will believe them and not you.
Until the arrival of the Jesuits, Lithuania lacked not only an institution of higher learning, but even an intermediate school.
The first year they arrived, the Jesuits opened a middle school, and ten years later, an institution of higher learning. It is the oldest university within the borders of the Soviet Union.
The university produced a whole list of renowned scientists known even abroad such as: the mathematician Simanavičius, the astronomer Počobutas and the poet Sarbievius (Sarbiewski). Kojalavičius wrote the first history of Lithuania; Sirvydas, the first dictionary of the Lithuanian language. The university developed a whole line of jurists who prepared the Statute of Lithuania, acknowledged by all as a juridical work of high quality. Besides the colleges of Vilnius, middle schools were established in Kaunas, Kražiai, Ilukšta and elsewhere. So those who speak of "Jesuit activity of unhappy memory" are very poorly acquainted with the history of Lithuania.
Even more baseless is Deksnys' accusation against the Jesuits, that they taught "the end justifies the means". This is a calumny made up out of thin air, often repeated by enemies of the Jesuits, but never proven to this day.
In the middle of the last century (1852), in Frankfort, the Jesuit missionary Roh publicly proclaimed:
"1. If anyone shows the law faculty of the University of Heidelberg or of Bonn any work by a Jesuit, in which, in the judgement of the faculty, this shameful expression 'the end justifies the means' is taught in these or similar words, then following the decision of the faculty, I will pay the denouncer of that book 1000 guilders.
"2. And whoever accuses the Jesuit order of that shameless doctrine without proving it by word or in writing is a dishonorable slanderer." (Ehrloser verleumder)
For twenty years after this announcement (Roh died in 1872), no one could be found to claim this handsome prize.
In 1890, the offer was renewed by Richter Dūsburg, and in 1903, Dasbach, a member of the Reichstag, publicly stated, "I will pay 2000 guilders to the one who proves that Jesuit writings teach that the end justifies the means."
No one claimed that reward, either.
In Lithuania, I believe in 1924, Professor Antanas Maliauskas also offered a reward of 5000 litas to anyone who would prove the allegation that the Jesuits taught that "the end justifies the means", but no one at that time tried to claim the reward either, and the accusation diminished greatly in the atheistic press. It was revived again in 1940, when the religious press was completely suppressed. Anyone who is the least bit better acquainted with the teaching of the Catholic Church knows well and understands that the Jesuits not only did not but could not teach such a rule. Who, after all, are the Jesuits? They are a religious order of the Catholic Church which has no separate Jesuit morality of its own, but keeps the general rules of Catholic morality.
Between 1925 and 1939, I myself went through the entire ten-year Jesuit education and course of studies, and after four years of practicum, teaching secondary school, I attended Jesuit houses of higher study in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, but never did I hear from my professors nor did I read in any books written by Jesuits (and I read several hundred of them), nor have I ever heard from my friends, that anyone had taught such a principle or disseminated it; i.e., that the end justifies any means, as understood by enemies of the Jesuits. In reality, Jesuits hold the same principles as the whole Catholic Church and the civil law of all civilized states.
Moreover, we must not forget one more thing: Every book written by a Jesuit must, before it is published, receive a bishop's approval that there is nothing in it contrary to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. No bishop will give such approval if it contains the above-mentioned rule — "the end justifies the means".
At the beginning of 1930, when I was studying at Valkenburg (in the Netherlands), in the School of Theology and Philosophy, I heard the Jesuit archives director, Kleiser, give a report on the recently published wirk of the Austrian, Fillop-Miller, Macht unci Geheimnis der Jezuiten (The Power and Secret of the Jesuits).
That same author had earlier written a work on Bolshevism in which he states that the Bolsheviks hold the "Jesuit principle" that "the end justifies the means". At that time, Kleiser denied that accusation against the Jesuits, and advised Fillop-Miller to study the history of the Jesuit order and its teaching. Fillop-Miller devoted four whole years to this task, and the fruit of this was a new work, Macht und Geheimnis der Jezuiten. In it Miller retracted his earlier thesis and emphasized that JESUIT TEACHING ON MORAL QUESTIONS DOES NOT DIFFER IN ANY WAY FROM THAT OF OTHER CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS, and that the alleged principle is without foundation.
Today, I would like to repeat to you, Kęstutis Deksnys, the same advice given by Kleiser to Fillop-Miller: "Study, investigate, and I am sure that if you sincerely seek the truth, you will soon become convinced like all seekers for the truth that the aforesaid teaching attributed to the Jesuits is just a mistake and a calumny.
Perhaps the best and most exhaustive article on this question in the Lithuanian langauge was published in 1911, by the magazine Ateitis (The Future) on pp 105, 154, 295.
In the last section of his article, Deksnys equates religion with fear: "Fear forces a person to his knees." First of all, it is not just fear which forces a person to his knees, but much more often, respect and gratitude or repentance for wrong-doing. More than once, I have seen in the Soviet press a photograph in which a high-ranking Soviet general or major is kneeling to kiss a unit's flag. What brought them to their knees? Surely not fear, but more likely respect and gratitude to those who accompanied this flag into battle and sacrificed their lives for their country.
We the faithful also kneel before the cross or the tabernacle, not from fear, but from respect and love and gratitude to Our Lord and Redeemer.
A child who has seriously offended his parents or benefactors, and has come to understand his own ingratitude and offense, apologizes to them, and sometimes even gets down on his knees to request forgiveness. By kneeling, he expresses regret for his bad behavior and his desire to make amends for his misbehavior. Does this demean a person? Far from it. It demonstrates his conscientiousness and desire to repair the wrong. At the same time, he wishes to honor those against whom he offended.
In the desire to prevent crime, governments often take stern measures against criminals. Is this bad? No. More than one person refrains out of fear from doing wrong. Is punishment therefore an evil means? It can often be the only means to prevent crime.
Strangely enough, Deksnys blames religion, saying that in Italy, belief in God has not prevented the Mafia. In Italy, only a part of the population are believers — about half of them. After all, the Communists alone (and they are most likely atheists), garner about 30% of the vote. Besides that, there are Social Democrats, Socialists, Liberals and members of other parties, many of whom are atheists.
In western democracies, along with good and positive signs, there are the negative. One of them is excessive freedom, which is a good excuse for disorderly elements to manifest themselves. But is it not even worse when there is too little freedom, when religion is repressed and cannot do the positive work which it otherwise could do? Then public morals decline, you need increasingly more militia, prisons and labor camps. SO, THE WAR AGAINST RELIGION IS A REAL ANOMALY, which cannot be justified in any way. Life has often confirmed the fact that where people pray more, they curse less; where there are many people in church, there are fewer of them in prison. Here is one example: During the summer of 1969, in Molėtai, the pastor of the parish of Dubingiai, Father Antanas Šeškevičius, was on trial for two days because he explained to a few children in church the truths of the catechism whose basis is the Decalogue: Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not curse. Do not overindidge in drink. Honor your father and mother. Do not ignore prayer. Be sober. Do your duty conscien-ciously...
Father Šeškevičius carried out his sentence in the labor camp of Alytus, where there were about 1500 inmates, most of them young people. Yes, young people, and already criminals. Christmas came and then Easter — barely three or four celebrated these holidays, while none of the others had any idea about religion, but lived according to their "own conscience", more likely according to their untrammeled passions. Atheism, after undermining their religion, undercut their morals, too. All people who think a bit more deeply acknowledge that in human beings there are many baser instincts which, without religion, that is, without the help of God's grace, they cannot overcome; and this is the most important reason why, where there are fewer people in church there are more in prison.
A good confession and Holy Communion form barriers to control the passions of our baser nature. Mairionis has beautifully expressed that truth in his poem:
"Thank you, Lord because by loving me You protected the morning of my life. Did I not more than once, Succombing to temptation, Run for the net Cleverly set out for me?
I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO PERISH BY MY HOLY FAITH, AND YOUR VIGILANT, PATERNAL PROVIDENCE."
At the end, Deksnys praises the atheistic world-view which "requires a conscientious, selfless moral life, as required by conscience..." It is exactly this which religion requires in the first place. But what are the fruits of that atheistic worldview? What does life say? Why, among us, in spite of the army, controllers, auxiliary police, militia and secret militia, are there so many crimes, and so much wrongdoing? Why in the schools, especially professional and technical schools, do the teachers complain of the unusually difficult work? Why is there so much moral decline, scheming, thievery, hooliganism, drunkenness and sexual depravity? Why are there so few who "live as required by conscience"?
In the last sentence of his article, the author directly contradicts the sad truth, by saying that "Communist morality stands higher than religious morality which demands blind obedience and fear". Actually, religion requires not blind, but INFORMED obedience; not fear, but JUSTICE, RESPECT AND LOVE. Fear stands in the last place here. This truth is best demonstrated by family life. Before the war, in Lithuania, divorce was a rarety, and most often, a sensation. With the growth of atheistic education, the families began more and more to disintegrate. With the disintegration of families, the morality of the whole nation declined. In 1950, 2.7% of marriages ended in divorce, and these were, for the most part, not the people of Lithuania but arrivals from other "more progressive" republics.
· After ten years, the divorce rate had risen to 9% (I960),
· in another ten years (1970) 23%,
· by 1980, 33%,
· This year, we are approaching 36%.
The year before last, in Molėtai Rayon, as reported in the newspaper Pirmyn, 178 couples celebrated marriages... and there were 60 petitions for divorce. So, a good third of the families are breaking up.
Today, ten times as much alcohol is consumed as before the war in independent Lithuania, and several score times the wine.
Atheistic education creates a vacuum in young people's souls, which is the source of many evils. This is admitted today even by the more convinced atheists. I heard from a reliable person about one journalist's lecture to teachers in which he spoke about contemporary youth. After the lecture, he was asked how to explain the cruelty of today's youth, and its refusal to adhere to the norms of morality. The journalist answered, "Formerly, the mind of youth was formed by religion. After the latter was done away with, a vacuum appeared which nothing else can fill; there is nothing to take the place of religion."
Last spring, twelve members of the Balninkai Communist Youth went on trial in Molėtai, to answer for their "actions": petty thievery and robbery. Those young people had everything at home: The body and its inclinations were taken care of in every way, but the most important thing was lacking, that which makes a human being human — a feeling of responsibility for one's own actions. They had no idea of God, Whom they knew about only from atheistic propaganda, and so they did not worry their heads about His commandments.
If you do not have an immortal soul, grab from life what you can, because after death, everything will be finished. That's what they did. Their conscience never spoke to them of duty or responsibility. They feared only the militia, but they thought they were smarter than the guardians of the law. This time, it did not work. However, will they not try in the future to be smarter? God grant that they learn their lesson.
So in spite of all the schools, press, radio and television, morality today is much lower than in Christian Lithuania before the war. These are the catastrophicly sad facts today, which we cannot ignore; otherwise we will be deceiving ourselves.
Bijutiškis, December 7, 1983 Father Jonas Danyla