To the editors of the newspaper, Tiesa: Esteemed Editors,
Making use of the freedom of press and of speech guaranteed by the Constitution, Par. 50, I come to you, asking that you publish in Tiesa, this petition of mine:
Open Letter to Vytautas Grinius
Esteemed Vytautas Grinius,
Having read your article, "Whom Do They Serve?" published in Tiesa, February 6, 1983, I would like to ask you: And whom do you serve? Your nation, or its enemies? The truth, or a lie. The article is long. In it you touch on many problems, and all the questions raised. I do not dare touch upon at this time. Let us try to look together at least at some points in the article.
You rejoice, for instance, "that fewer and fewer people are enthralled by religion, that the process of secularization is taking place according to plan, that changes are taking place in the believer himself, and in his relationships with religion and the Church." In brief, you are pleased with the victory of atheism in our nation. Yes, in part, you are right. In the past forty-three years, no small part of our nation, especially the younger generación, has become secularized.
But let me ask you, at what price? Perhaps by the peoples' free self-determination? Alas, no. The entire secularization is taking place after making atheism the state religion, forcing atheism on children, all the way from the kindergarten and practicing discrimination against believing pupils in the schools. By punishing schoolchildren for participating in religious ceremonies, lowering their conduct mark, giving poor recommendations to graduates, threatening that they will not get into institutions of higher learning and ridiculing believing schoolchildren — in this way, the right to educate children according to their own beliefs is taken away from believing parents, and teachers are ordered to graduate the children of believing parents as convinced atheists. And if we add the press, radio and television of which the faithful may not avail themselves, then it will be clear at what price the secularization and atheiza-tion of a part of our nation has taken place. It has taken place by discriminating against believers, and by violating Par. 50-52 of the Soviet Constitution.
Furthermore, you mention the old saw from the apostles of atheism: "Under conditions of socialism, the faithful of every denomination have the opportunity of satisfying completely their religious requirements. Do you not know that no Soviet teacher or other high-ranking official can publicly practice his religion? Those who are to do so are penalized, even relieved of their duties. In this way, the followingwere relieved of their duties as teachers: In Kulautuva, the teacher Stasė Jasiūnaitė; in Vilkaviškis, Teacher Ona Brilienė and in Šiauliai, Teacher (Mrs.) Kaušienė. Chairman Gražulis of the Alytus Rayon Communal Farm was relieved from his duties as Chairman because his son entered the seminary.
Believers do not have the right to go in organized fashion even to the cemetery, according to the old tradition on All Souls' Day, to pray for the deceased. Priests who have dared to disobey such unconstitutional directives discriminating against believers have been penalized by fines.
Organized processions to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Šiluva are forbidden. For participation in such processions, Engineer Vytautas Vaičiūnas, Laborer Mečislovas Jurevičius and Gemma-Jadvyga Stanelytė were punished with jail sentences.
So these are the means by which secularization of the nation is taking place. And you justify that, rejoice in it and consider it a normal process of secularization!
You, Mr. Grinius, are angry at the priests of Lithuania because they dare in their sermons publicly to raise these issues and this evil which atheism has brought upon our nation. It is impossible to keep silent about this: to keep silent about it would be an offense against God and the nation. The damage done has been very great. For the past forty-three years, with religion lessons banned from the schools and strict atheistic education introduced, with the use of the abovementioned means of education and communication, to your joy, religious life in the nation has weakened, and with the weakening of faith, the morality of the nation has also fallen considerably. Morality has lost its basis, This is witnessed by the numerous divorces, decrease in the birth rate and increase in abortions (If one is to believe the radio reports, then among us, on the average, each woman has four or five abortions.), the terrible increase in alcoholism and delinquency among the younger generation.
Our nation is physically dying. The average family size is 3.2. You are angry at priests because they blame atheism for the moral collapse of our nation, yet this is how it is. As long as our nation was deeply believing, families were numerous, decent and healthy. There were almost no divorces, for the Catholic faith forbids them. Abortions were strictly forbidden, for that is murder. Hence, there were few of them. There were not as many alcoholics, either.
When, during the era of serfdom, the people began to drink heavily, it sufficed for Bishop Valančius, in 1854, to establish the Temperance Brotherhood, and to urge people to join it. In a couple of years, drunkenness was almost wiped out. The authoritative word of a bishop was enough for a believing nation, but today, a nation wounded by atheism, will get little help from all of the methods intended for the war against alcoholism on a national scale.
Recalling the stormy period between 1940 - 1945, you accuse priests of cooperating with the enemies of the people and the Hitlerites. According to you, "248 priests who had assisted the Hitlerites skipped to the West to avoid punishment due them, when they should have answered to the law for their crimes; while those who had soiled their hands and had not been quick enough to disappear abroad, had to pay for their crimes according to the law."
This is not true. Two hundred-forty eight priests withdrew to the West, not because they had "soiled their hands", but out of fear, in order to avoid the Stalinist terror. Those Lithuanians and the majority of priests who at first looked to the Germans as liberators, and some even cooperated, acted thus because from the Stalinist regime, in one year they had experienced many injustices. On the basis of archives and being objective, you should know how many thousands of Lithuanian families, children and old people, were torn from their homeland, and without any trial, were taken off to Siberia, from where many of them did not return. Or how many priests were killed in 1941, without trial, as the Soviet Army was retreating eastward. Here are a few names: The Chaplain of the Joniškis Gymnasium, Father Paulius Bacevičius; the Pastor of Kruopai, Father Vanagas; of Viekšniai, Canon Navickas; of Kuršiai, Canon V. Dambrauskas; of Stirniai, Father Jonas Dausela; of Pusnės, Father Valentinas Balčius; those who died in prison were: Bishops Mečislovas Reinys and Vincentas Borisevičius; priests: Stanislovas Rimkus and J. Kostrickas.
This is an incomplete list of the nation's martyrs. In the light of such sad facts, with the Soviet Army returning, it was not 248 priests, but all the priests of Lithuania who were tempted to withdraw to the West, not out of love for the Hitlerites, but for fear of death or imprisonment. If most of the priests did not flee, then it was out of love for their nation and the Church, lest the sheep be left without shepherds. They risked prison and death, rather than leave their country. Many of them did end up in the camps, not because, as you write, they had committed a crime against their nation, but because they loved her and sacrificed themselves for her. This is the truth about the priests of Lithuania.
You, Mr. Grinius, wishing to degrade the priests of Lithuania in the eyes of the nation and to undermine their authority, act unjustly. By the same token, you serve not your own nation, but its enemies. Therefore, hardly had I read your article when the question arose: "Whom are you serving?"
You divide priests into loyal and extremist — unnecessarily. All the priests of Lithuania, except for a small percentage of those morally bankrupt, by proclaiming the teachings of Christ and Christian morality, perform a useful task in the education of the nation. The extremists you deride, are the most zealous fighters against all sorts of evils, and for the nation's brighter future. The entire believing public bows its head before them, and rejoices in them, is proud of them and you will not succeed in demeaning them. They are the pride of the Church of Lithuania, and of our nation. Of course, it is possible to destroy them physically. In this age of spiritual decline, deceit has become the easiest means to use against one's ideological opponents. However, the names of those courageous and high-principled men will someday fill out the list of national heroes.
Think it over!
Father Gustavas Gudanavičius
Žagarė, February 21, 1983 Administrator of Žagarė