CASE NO. 345
The morning of July 4, 1974, security forces searched the apartment of J. Gražis, of Kaunas, who had been arrested. After lunch, the search was repeated. The following day, the search was carried out for the third time.
Even though nine months have passed since the wholesale searches and mass arrests, nevertheless, the State Security Committee, it seems, is not ready to complete its investigation, since the Chronicle continues to be published.
Various individuals whose places have been searched are being called in for interrogation. Those being interrogated are presented face-to-face wtih those arrested.
Conditions of those under arrest are unknown.
The Catholics of Lithuania regret that the free world is reacting so little to the arbitrariness of the security police—innocent people are suffering in prison!
ARCHDIOCESE OF VILNIUS
To: The Attorney General
The Chairman of the State Security Committee with the Council of Ministers of the USSR in Moscow, A PETITION BY VLADAS LAPIENIS, resident of Vilnius, Dauguviečio 5-11.
On November 20, 1973, security agents under the command of Senior Lieutenant Gudas, made a search of my apartment and seized a typewriter and many old religious books. Some of them had been reproduced by typewriter.
Not all the books were listed in the record of the search, nor in the list of books seized, but just piled into a car and taken away. The bags were not sealed. I would like to remind you that the books are of cultural value and should be treated as such.
Therefore on January 4, 1974, I appealed to the Office of the Attorney General of the Lithuanian SSR, requesting that in accordance with Paragraph 24 of the Criminal Codoe (BPK), to make amends and to return the books to me or at least to add in a supplementary list the books which had not been listed. In this way the blatant transgression of Soviet law by the security agents would be atoned for.
However, it was all in vain. On January 14 of this year (1974), I received from the Office of the Attorney General the following letter:
"In reply to your petition of January 4, 1974, I wish to inform you that on November 20, in your apartment a search sanctioned by the Attorney General took place in connection with an interrogation being carried out in a criminal case. The question of returning literature seized at your place during the search, we will decide in the course of the interrogation."
Such a reply from the Attorney General is unsatisfactory, since it was clear even during the search that all this was being done with the agreement of the Attorney General.
I did not request this, but I declared that the security police had blatantly transgressed Paragraph 192 of the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR (BKP).
Such a reply suggests that the Attorney General himself is subservient to the security people, or together with them, wishes once more to deride a citizen.
If the Attorney General had the least good faith, he would have seen that the books were returned to me, or that they were included in a new list, and that I was informed.
If the Office of the Attorney General itself ignores Soviet law, how can we expect that ordinary citizens obey them? Or can it be that we have one set of legal standards on paper and another for propaganda abroad?
Paragraph No. 12 of the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR affirms that all citizens are equal before the law, but in daily life we see something quite different. Believers—in this case Catholics—have typewriters, books and manuscripts of a religious nature confiscated, while their apartments are subjected to search.
The atheists, meanwhile, experience none of this, have opportunity to spread their views, and have at their service the mass media of the state: the press, radio, television, film and the theater.
For old religious books, or for new ones reproduced by typewriter, Catholics are summoned before the Security Committee, interrogated, threatened or imprisoned.
For thirty years of Soviet rule in Lithuania, Catholics have not had and still do not have a single newspaper or magazine, nor may they print even one catechism.
If in the eyes of the law all are equal, as the sources of Soviet law state, then why do we Catholics have applied to us not the norm of law, but the opinions, views and verbal instructions of atheists— security officials and other government functionaries?
In the press and over radio it is constantly argued that all Soviet citizens are granted the greatest rights and freedoms. We Catholics affirm without hesitation that we dont only have no freedom of speech or press, but on the contrary, we lack the most fundamental human rights.
Our priests: Antanas Šeškevičius, Juozas Zdebskis and Prosperas Bubnys, have been sent to prison just because they dared, in the course of their direct duties, to explain to children the basics of the Catholic Faith—the catechism, while Jonas Stašaitis, Petras Plumpa, Paulius Petronis and V. Jaugelis have been arrested and are held in jail simply because they dared to reproduce prayer books.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the Soviet Union signed, has no practical effect on our lives. Catholics constantly meet with transgressions against the Soviet Constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience, and experience constant discrimination at work, in school and other aspects of life.
I think you will agree that just as air and food are necessary for the life of a normal human being—believer or atheist—so are freedom and equality before the law, equal rights and duties necessary for all citizens.
"Without freedom of association, of the press, and of speech," taught Lenin, "all discussions about religion are lies." Lenino Rasšai (Lenin: Works Vol. VI, 1951, Art.Patvaldystė svyruoja).
If representatives of government discriminate against citizens for their religious convictions, then by that very fact they harm the entire nation. For this turns the believers—and they are the majority— against the prevailing system.
Whoever thinks it is possible to destroy the Church and the Faithful by persecuting is sadly mistaken. Even Lenin affirmed that the dissemination of atheism in "a country where the revolution of the proletariat has triumphed" is possible not by forbidding religion (this would only evoke religious fanaticism), but by carefully demonstrating to believers the truth, and involving them in active societal life" (Article: Mokslinė pasaulėžiūra ir ateistinis auklėjimas — "Educational Philosophy and Atheistic Education", Tiesa, March, 1974.)
Life shows that the atheists, paying no attention to the instructions of Lenin, use brute force; there are indications that the number of believers, rather than decline, is growing.
The world is full of variety, and so are people. It would be wrong and inhuman to make everyone an atheist by force. Such a policy, striving to standardize human thought, to automate human behavior, is injurious to the state and to its citizens.
Increasing drunkenness, hooliganism, the break-down of families, thievery, adolescent labor camps, prisons and stockades: is not all this the result of compulsory atheism?
"Respect for the rule of law," Brezhnev told the 24th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR, "must become the conviction of every individual. This is especially true of the work of officials. Any attempts to swerve from the law, or to circumvent it, no matter how they are motivated, cannot be allowed. Nor can infringement of human rights be tolerated, nor the abridgement of civil rights. For us Communists, proponents of the most humane ideals, this is a matter of principle."
I therefore request you to instruct the law enforcement agencies of the Lithuanian SSR to remedy their transgressions against Soviet law (LTSR BPK 192 str.: Paragraph 192 ofthe Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR.), to stop discrimination against believers, and to avoid offending the most elementary rights of humans, guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
July 12, 1974. Vladas Lapienis
Ign al in a
On March 28, 1974, the Executive Committee of the Region of Ignalina summoned the parish council chairpersons of all Catholic parishes in the entire region, and the chairpersons of the boards of trustees of these councils.
Those summoned were lectured for about three hours by Vice Chairman Vaitonis, of the Executive Committee, and A. Žiukas, Director of the Department of Finance.
In the beginning Vaitonis spoke of the most democratic state in the world—the Soviet Union, where all have equal rights to work, rest, freedom of conscience, of religion, the press, etc.
Having "demonstrated" to those invited that in Lithuania religion has complete freedom, Vaitonis proceeded to enumerate what is forbidden:
1. It is forbidden to prepare children for First Communion in groups. Priests have the right to examine children only singly.
2. Children may not serve at Holy Mass, sing in the church choir, or participate in processions. If children serve Mass, sing, or participate in processions, the parents shall be punished. They must remember that the children belong to the state more than to them.
"Once the child is born, he no longer yours," Vaitonis parroted.
3. Priests may be invited to religious festivals not by the pastor, but only by the parish council. Before inviting them, the vice chairperson of the Regional Executive Committee must be informed in writing; he or she will know who may be invited and who may not. Only the ecclesiastical dean of the area may attend such festivals without permission of the regional government. Priests from other regions may not be invited.
4. Undertaking even the smallest repairs to the church or other parish buildings, it is essential to obtain permission from regional headquarters. Repairs must be discussed with the Region, and not with the pastor.
5. In church, money may be collected only by a representative of the parish council. The money collected must be kept in a savings bank. A portion of the money must be given to the peace fund.
6. If someone commits suicide in a family of believers, the priest does not have the right to refuse Catholic burial.
7. Priests may not speak in their sermons of the low morale state of the people, but only about God.
8. Priests may not officiate at marriages or baptize, unless civil documents of marriage or of birth have been issued. Without such a document, even an infant in danger of death may not be baptized.
9. Believers do not have the right to collect any kind of signatures, or to complain that freedom of religion is constrained.
Executive Committee Vice Chairman Vaitonis would not allow anyone to speak. He pounded the table in anger.
The chairman of the parish council of Vosiūnai pleaded with Vaitonis, that he could not leave his children at home on Sundays, since, if they burned the house down, who would be responsible?
Vaitonis threatened that if the father took his children to church, he would be deprived of his parental rights.
"You shall not take them away, since the children are mine! First start keeping your own laws," the father replied.
The Director of the Department of Finance checked parish accounts.
In some rural areas it has become customary to issue civil birth certificates for the newly born only a few times a year. On the appointed day, the sponsors must bring the child to the district headquarters, where a name-imparting ceremony is carried out—otherwise no certificate is issued. Are Catholics going to keep their children unbaptized for several months, when their Faith obliges them to baptize a sick infant as soon as possible?
To: Minister of Justice of the Lithuanian SSR Arankevičius Commissioner for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas The Bishops and Administrators of Lithuanian Dioceses,
The Constitution of the USSR acknowledges for all citizens the freedom of carrying out religious cults (Paragraph 124), and guarantees by law freedom of speech, of press, of association and of processions in the street (125), while the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR even provides a penalty for those who would interfere with the carrying out of religious ceremonies. Practice, however, shows something quite different.
On March 15-17, 1974, in the church at Adutiškiai, a Lenten retreat was held. These used to take place quietly even in the days of Stalin.
Immediately after the retreat, on March 20, the chairman of the Adutiškiai District summoned me to District Headquarters, wrote out a warrant for an "administrative offense", in which he accused me of transgressing on March 15-17 the second sub-paragraph of the order of May 12, 1966, by the ATP of the Lithuanian SSR.
Shortly thereafter they sent me two notifications that the Administrative Committee of the Executive Committee of the Region of Švenčionys would take up my case on March 25, and that my presence was mandatory.
Participating in the meeting were: Vice Chairman Mačionis of the Executive Committee of the Region of Švenčionys, Chief of Militia Archipov and other members of the Administrative Committee.
Mačionis accused me of transgressing sub-paragraph No. 2 of the order from the ATP of the Lithuanian SSR, dated May 12, 1955, by inviting priests to the devotions without permission of the Region. However, in his decision he wrote: "He broke the law by organizing and carrying out religious meetings." An ordinary parish retreat is seen as a meeting!
The second sub-paragraph of the order of May 12, 1966, of the ATP of the Lithuanian SSR says: "For offenses against rules set by law, organizing and carrying out religious meetings, processions and other rituals of cult..."
This sub-paragraph clearly contradicts Paragraph 125 of the Constitution of the USSR, which guarantees citizens freedom of association. In the church of Adutiškiai there were no meetings, but ordinary Lenten devotions.
In the ATP order of May 12, 1966, there is no mention of inviting priests to festivals or devotions, or of permission from the Region for priests to come. Where and by whom was the law promulgated forbidding the invitation of priests to religious festivals without permission of regional headquarters, no one ever told me.
In the meeting, having heard the accusation, I wanted to explain that it was groundless, but a militiaman taking part began to shout, "Be quiet! This is no church!"
Vice Chairman Mačionis, of the Regional Executive Committee demanded, "Tell us, did you invite some priests?" I confirmed that I had.
Then Macionis said, "Thats enough for us," while Chief of Militia Archipov threatened, "We'll take care of you!"
It is most painful that the chief of the militia does not take care of hoodlums who go about knocking over crosses and monuments in cemeteries. In our parish in 1959 they wrecked the cemetery of the Village of Davaisiai, in 1972 they knocked down an artistic wayside shrine in the cemetery of the Village of Jakeliai, which had ornamented the cemetery for centuries
One evening in October, 1973, a gang of hoodlums tore up crosses in the cemetery of Adutiškiai and caused a disturbance in the city streets with them. How many drunks and other trouble-makers there are; and yet the Chief of Militia does not worry about them, but wastes all his energy in a fight against the Church.
"We will take care of you!" It is easy to "take care" of a priest without rights who has done no wrong. Anyone has the right to calumniate and accuse him of anything, and they do not hesitate. However, no one has the right to defend the priest—this would be considered a crime.
They summoned me to the meeting, but they did not let me explain myself. What did they call me for, since they did not let me speak? This is why I am forced to write to organs of the Soviet government.
1.My priestly rights or duties I will not renounce in favor of a parish council or of the civil government.
2.I invited the priests to the retreat, since Church law and the decrees of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Vilnius oblige the pastor:
a. "Let the pastors be responsible each year for arranging a retreat of at least three days, so that the Faithful might prepare themselves for the sacraments (Par. 22:)
b. "Let the pastors see that the faithful entrusted to them prepare themselves as well as possible for Easter Communion by a retreat or by special preaching, and let them invite enough priests to hear confessions." (Par. 331)
The synodal decrees state: "Let the pastors see that,"—not the parish council or the civil government.
3- I invited only the kind of priests mentioned in the agreement of 1948, which the parish council of Adutiškiai signed with the Executive Committee of the Švenčioniai Region.
It is clearly stated there: "... and not to allow such ministers of cult to carry out religious ceremonies, who are not registered with the Commissioner for Religious Affairs of the Lithuanian SSR."
I invited only such as are registered. The above mentioned agreement remains in force, since the same state exists, and the same Church. The agreement cannot be unilaterally abolished or changed.
4. I invited the priests without permission, since Vice Chairman Mačionis of the Executive Committee of the Region of Švenčionys told me on July 10, 1973, "Ask, and we will give permission for two or three priests."
Could three priests take care of all the confessions we had during this year's retreat?—3105 people?
Moreover, Mačionis on November 21, 1973 said to me, "In the future the parish council shall request permission for priests to come in for religious festivals. We will grant it, but not always as many as are requested, and not always those for whom it is requested—we will send some of our own also."
Throughout the history of the Church it has been unheard that the civil authorities—and atheistic at that—should send "its own priests" to confer the sacraments on the faithful. This is the most uncouth and intolerable interference in the affairs of the Church.
In the Soviet press it is often said that the state does not interfere in the internal life of the Church. For example, see J. Aničas and J. Rimaitis: "Tarybiniai įstatymai apie religinius kultus ir sąžinės laisvę" ("Soviet Law Concerning Religious Cults and Freedom of Conscience") 1970, p. 21.
5. Bishop Motiejus Valančius in his book Maskoliams katalikus persekiojant (Persecution of Catholics by the Muscovites) (Kaunas, 1929, p. 39), and A. Alekna, in hisBažnyčios Istorija (Church History) (Tilžė, 1920, p. 223) write that the Czar had issued a ukase forbidding priests to attend religious festivals without government permission. I am sure that Lenin, in annuling the Czarist ukases did away also with this one, which is ridiculous, forbidding priests to travel to religious festivals and retreats.
During the Soviet era no one has promulgated such a law. Therefore, in inviting priests I broke no law. The whims of individual Soviet officials are not law. A law takes effect and is binding only when it has been publicly promulgated, and when it does not contravene the Constitution. Therefore, the Administrative Committee harassed me and warned me without any grounds.
In the decision of the Administrative Committee it is written that I can take this decision to the people's court. I did not. I became convinced in the past that the people's court pays no heed to any documents, not even to those which Soviet jurists have acknowledged as very serious—enough to annul the illegal confiscation of a house, which I erected next to the church in Švenčionys.
The court gave in to the whims of Soviet government organs just because I refused to become their flunky.
I respectfully request the Commissioner for Religious Affairs to annul the warning given me without any grounds, and to explain to Vice Chairman Mačionis of the Region of Švenčionys that he had no right to judge me or to warn me on the basis of the order of May 12, 1966 from the ATP of the Lithuanian SSR, since I did not transgress it.
Rev. b. Laurinavičius
Adutiškis, April 30, 1974. Varėna
On April 13, 1974, during services, hoodlums threw brickbats at the church in Varėna. The militia refused to intervene, since there "was no bloodshed".
On April 20, 1974, during an atheistic evening for students, a figure of the Crucified, probably torn from a cemetery crucifix, was derided. The correspondent for the regional newspaper, Red Flag (May 28, 1974) rejoiced that the youth are being properly educated to ridicule religious ritual. By such "education" a child's respect for everything that is good and holy is destroyed. Will such children not become Jhmates of penal colonies?
* * *
D u b i č i a i
Chairman J. Vaicekauskas of the Executive Committee of the Dubičiai District sent Chairman Švedas, of the parish council, a communication as follows:
"On December 4, 1971, about 2 p.m. the minister of cult of your religious community, Mykolas Petravičius, without permission of the Executive Committee, accompanied to church with funeral banners through the main street of the village Jeva Raginienė, a resident of the village.
In accordance with instructions regarding application of Sub-point 6 of Point 9 of the law regulating cult, religious processions and religious ceremonies in the open air are forbidden, except for burial services in a cemetery. We therefore ask you to warn the minister of cult, Mykolas Petravičius, not to transgress the order set by law.