The Moscow French-language weekly Les Nouvelies de Moscou (7131176, No. 31) and the English-language Moscow News (6112176) published the interview with Kaunas Seminary Rector Dr. V. Rutkus on "The Roman Catholic Church in the Soviet Union."
This is not the first such interview with Dr. Butkus in the atheist press. In America, Laisvė (Freedom) (12/31/65) printed a rather modest version with appropriate omissions. The Moscow-based newspapers are bolder, containing many pearls of "truth." We feel that (as is usual here) this is ca collaboration of two authors: the statements of Dr. V. Butkus were, probably, somewhat "amended" by the newspaper editor. In the interest of truth the article should be added to and clarified.
1. We read: "Every citizen can freely attend church . . ." He can, but afterwards will he not be "re-educated" in appropriate agencies? If he holds a responsible position, will this not affect his employment, will he not be labeled "anti-Soviet?" Why do most people ask for religious ministrations secretly, at night? Why do they ask that their marriages or baptisms not be recorded in church record books? Why were some priests ordered (in the Vaėena"Rayon", Vice-Chairman J. Visockas ordered all priests) to bring church record books to the Executive Committee. Even prosecutors have demanded this (in Varena).
2. We read: " . . .can decorate his home with crosses and other religious pictures." He can decorate his home thus, but this can have unpleasant consequences. Why do most keep their prayerbooks, religious books and crosses hidden from outside view? During searches of lay persons' apartments, why do security agents hurl insults after finding religious articles? Why is religious literature confiscated during searches? Why are questions asked regarding where religious pictures were acquired?
On September 30, 1974 (Miss) V. Vertelkaitė, head teacher of the Vilnius 32nd Nursery School, was summoned to the Education Department. The purpose was to discharge her for active religious practice: she was urged to write a statement that she was resigning of her own will. She refused to do this, saying: "If my work is not satisfactory, please prove it; it it is satisfactory, why are you forcing me to leave?"
"We have no complaints about your work," affirmed J. Kazlauskas, head of the Education Department. One of the officials noted, "She has set up an altar in her room." Three women (Čakatauskienė, Kepalienė and V. Nugarienė) were named to go without her consent to Miss Vertelkaitė's apartment and "investigate". They confirmed that there were religious symbols there.
3. We read: "... can purchase prayerbooks, Bibles and other religious works." Let Dr. Butkus state where, in over thirty years of the Soviet system, the believer in Lithuania has been able to purchase a prayerbook, Bible or other religious work, for instance, a catechism? In what bookstores are they sold? Some people have them, it is true, but they acquire them illegally. Most prayerbooks are printed illegally and those who print them are punished. Though the New Testament was published in Lithuania—a great rarity—under Soviet rule, it was shown believers only on television . . . Only Dr. Butkus knows what "other religious works" can be purchased. Why are vendors of religious articles arrested in churchyards and driven away in militia vehicles, as recently occurred in Nemenčinė, when the administrator of Vilnius was administering the Sacrament of Confirmation(7/18/78)?
4. We read: "Soviet laws guarantee believers respect of all their rights." Do religiously believing parents have the right to protect their children when they are forcibly turned into atheists, when the religious practice of their children is ridiculed? Does a believer have the right to place on the grave of a loved one a headstone with a religious symbol? Workshops are forbidden to make such headstones, nor can architects give permission for such headstones to be erected. Do believers have the right to defend themselves against slanderous articles which distort the facts and Church teaching? In what newspaper can the faithful explain and defend themselves?
Does a believer artist have the right to create a religious work of art? Why do artists create religious works of art and not sign them? Why are those who attempt to create something religious ousted from the Artists' Union, as happened to the talented artist A. Chmie-liauskas, who received honorable mention at the 1975 International Ex Libris Exhibit in Italy?
Does a singer who is a believer have the right to sing in church? Why are music students as well as professionals forbidden to play in church? Why are students who try to sing in church expelled from the conservatory, as happened to J. Matulionis?
Does a teacher have the right to go to church? Countless teachers have had to write explanations for such daring! Why was (Miss) A. Kezytė, an instructor at the Tallat-Kelpša Music School in Vilnius and holder of a commendation, discharged from her position in 1975? She could not plead the protection of the law which forbids dismissing an individual from work for his religious beliefs. But such dismissals are numerous today.
5. To the question, "Has the number of priests in Lithuania declined under the Soviet government?" we read the reply: "Today, there are slightly fewer, especially since a certain number of cult servants left Lithuania during the war. After over thirty dears, there remain very few priests who left Lithuania. Actually, there are other reasons, which Dr. V. Butkus failed to mention. Among them: a) A sizeable portion of priests along with the entire nation, contributed to the "Gulag Archipelago". b) The atheist government does not allow the necessary number of priests to be trained, by limiting the number of applicants and making it difficult for those who wish to enter the seminary. Despite "the guarantee of Soviet law", believers do not have the right to a sufficient number of priests, just as young men who feel the call to the priesthood do not have the right to freely enter the seminary: They are forced to wait several years, if they are not rejected outright.
Why did Dr. Butkus not mention the way of sorrow which must be traveled by those who enter the seminary? They are all forced by state security police officials to pledge to work for the security police, that is, to build the Church with one hand, and to destroy it with the other. Is the rector of the seminary unaware of this? Does he, a teacher of moral theology, not know that he is consciously misleading the world by telling only part of an essential truth and concealing painful facts?
6. We read: "The Soviet government does not hinder diocesan administrators in the performance of their duties."
What are Bishops Julijus Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius allowed to do? They have been exiled. And can the active administrators freely visit parishes (this right has been forbidden them for 32 years), can they use their judgment in appointing priests and seminary instructors, can they freely administer the sacrament of Confirmation? But those are their duties, under Canon Law. It is true that they receive permission several times a year to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation in parishes, but that is not enough; the crowds are huge, people are exhausted.
7. We read: "Missals, then a Psalm Book and the New Testament were published."
There is a slight error here: not a "Missal" but a prayerbook. They were published, but did many people see those published books?
8.Dr. Butkus mentioned "many rebuilt and repaired churches," but did not mention how many have not been rebuilt, have been closed down, desecrated. The parishioners of Kučiūnai (Lazdijai Rayon) wanted to finish their church; they were not granted permission. The faithful of Ignalina wanted the return of their church, which had been converted into a club; they were not successful. And those which were rebuilt, were rebuilt with the hindrance rather than the cooperation of government officials.
9.To the question "Can the Catholic Church train priests," we find the reply that the Seminary administration and faculty are appointed by the country's Ordinaries, but there is no mention that the atheists confirm them. It is not explained that the seminary rector does not have the right freely to accept applicants—that depends on the good graces ot the atheists (security police officials, Religious Affairs Commision and others). It is not mentioned either that seminary instructors are appointed not at the discretion of the Ordinaries, but at the discretion of the security police. Why are instructors at the seminary changed so often? Why are seminary instructors who fulfill the requirements stated by Dr. Butkus in his letter to "Laisvė" (Freedom) (12/31/65), "noted for their high moral and educational standards," fired? Apparently Ordinaries do not have any rights, and also the Catholic Church in Lithuania does not have the possibility to train priests in the quantity and of the quality it wishes.
Many Lithuanian priests who were sent in 1966 to the Berlin Peace Conference clearly remember Dr. Butkus' reply to a Leipzig church rector. To the question, "How manv theology students do you have"? — Twenty six". "If there are six dioceses, why so few?" "We have enough." When the German heard this, he turned away and thus ended his conversation with the Lithuanian priests.
There arises a serious doubt whether Dr. Butkus fits the requirements according to which, in his own words, seminary officials are chosen for "high moral and educational standards." Lying is not a sign of high moral standard. It would not appear that Dr. Butkus was chosen by the Ordinaries.
10. We read: "Our Catholic Church representatives . . . travel as pilgrims, visit the Catholic churches of various countries."
It is not mentioned, that only those who are approved by the atheists travel . . . Why are the faithful not permitted to freely visit churches in Lithuania itself, are not allowed to use public transport to Šiluva and Žemaičių Kalvariją? [Two popular pilgrimage shrines.— Translation Editor] Why are drivers warned not to take pilgrims to such places? Why was a driver detained on June 15, 1976, after bringing people to the Vidiškiai Church (Ignalina"Rayon") for the celebration of a priest's first Mass? Why do priests not have the right to a normal funeral, as do other Soviet citizens: vehicles are not allocated to take their remains to the cemetery? This is what happened with Rev. E. Basys in Dūkštas in 1975 and Rev. Z. Neciunskas in Kalviai in 1976.
In concluding these remarks it is fitting to quote the "masterpiece of truth" at the end of the interview, which former students of Dr. Butkus and believers in general cannot read without feeling heartsick:
"In concluding, I would like to stress that everything discussed here shatters the fabrications of the reactionary press abroad which pictures the situation of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and other Soviet republics in the wrong light.
"As you can see, the situation of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and other Soviet republics is completely different from that portrayed in some Western press."