On May 4, 1973, Father Gvidonas Dovydaitis, curate of this parish, sent the following written explanation to the vice-chairman of the Šakiai Rayon Executive Committee, to its chief of security, and to the committee's secretary:
"On April 24, 1973, I was summoned by the Šakiai Rayon Executive Committee to the office of Vice-chairwoman D. Noreikienė, who, together with the chief of security and the secretary of the Party organization, berated me.
"On the following day, Father J. Žemaitis, Dean of Šakiai, was summoned to appear before the rayon executive committee. He was told he was not to allow me to go to Plokščiai to perform religious rites. Aside from that, they threatened that they would forbid me to preach.
"Although, as ordered by the rayon officials, I had hurriedly submitted a written explanation, it was not detailed. I therefore wish to answer more fully all of the charges against me, which I consider unjust:
1. I was charged with preaching a sermon to the faithful during a retreat on the evening of April 16 of this year at Plokščiai.
Because Father J. Adomaitis, pastor of the parish in Plokščiai, had been ill for some time, with his Memo No. 364 Bishop Labukas entrusted the Dean of Šakiai and me with the duty of providing religious services to the parish in Plokščiai. Inasmuch as it was more convenient for my pastor to remain in his own parish on Sundays and holy days, it was usually I who was sent to Plokščiai to provide religious services. I had to perform all of the liturgical rites, thus also to preach sermons.
2. I was charged with reading and explaining to the faithful during the services the Soviet laws regarding religious cults.
a. What I read were Soviet laws and not those of some capitalistic country. Was that a crime?
b. What I read were not secret and prohibited matters but excerpts from A. Vesčikov's book Tarybiniai įstatymai apie religinius kultus [Soviet laws concerning religious cults], which was published by the State publishing house of political and scientific literature in Vilnius in 1963. Was that a crime?
c. The Republic-wide educational conference held to consider the education of citizens in legal matters took place in Vilnius on February 23-24 of this year. At this meeting LSSR Minister of Justice A. Randakevičius emphasized that "the future development of the Soviet democracy will result in an ever-increasing role that laws will play in our political, economic, and cultural life. That is why the Party puts great significance on the improvement of Soviet laws, the strengthening of social justice and the legal system, and on the education of the residents on legal matters.' It was noted at this conference that 'as the citizens' legal awareness and their knowledge of the laws is strengthened, their criminal offenses decrease.' The participants of the conference stressed 'that the propagation of legal information and the education of working people in matters of law aid in augmenting the sense of responsibility each member of society feels for his own actions and those of others' (Tiesa [Truth], February 24, 1973).
Not all citizens are familiar with the Soviet laws regarding religious cults. We priests are often made aware of this fact. Many people complain to us that they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. They tell us that their superiors at work forbid them to perform their religious duties, to attend church, or to receive the sacraments. In case of disobedience, they are threatened with a variety of punishments in an effort to forcibly turn them into atheists; attempts are made to intimidate them with the possibility of demotion or even the loss of their jobs. Students and their parents also very often complain that students are not allowed to attend church, to receive the sacraments, or pray. Which means that many of our citizens do not know that among us there are no laws which prohibit the practice of one's religion. Was it then a crime that in my sermon I explained all this to the faithful? After all, at the previously mentioned conference this very thing—that laws should be explained because then violations decrease—had been discussed.
3. I was also accused of mentioning during my sermon the complaint signed by parents of students of the secondary school in Lukšiai addressed to the Procurator of the LSSR about the discrimination against students because of their religion.
It is no secret that as they propagandize atheism many of our officials and teachers overstep the bounds of Soviet law. Many teachers and officials actually terrorize citizens and students who believe in God. Soviet laws provide for the punishment of such violators. Being aware of this, the more knowledgeable parents of students from the secondary school in Lukšiai wrote a collective complaint to the Procurator of the Republic. They acted correctly, of course. I cannot comprehend, therefore, why this should not be mentioned. Is that a crime? If I am censured and threatened with punishment, why then are the editors of newspapers and magazines and their correspondents not castigated for the many violations they publicize in their pages? My sermon was heard by only several dozens of believers, while thousands read the events described by newspapers and magazines. I do not understand why some violations can be talked and written about, but not others. After all, the very same constitution guards both public property and the freedom of conscience.
4. I was also accused of derogatory talk about the school at which I myself had studied and from which I graduated. Bitter truth is always better than a sweet lie. It is shameful and demeaning, not to bring up mistakes, but to keep silent about them. Even F. Dzerzhinsky wrote: It is possible to go forward only when, step by step, you seek out wrong and vanquish it.'
"One could draw the conclusion that our constitution and our laws say one thing, but in practice it is otherwise. The laws exist only on paper. They are well formulated, but in reality they do not protect the convictions of believers. They are merely pleasant words of propaganda. Many atheists are guilty of violations against the freedom of conscience. Believers lament and complain, but not even once have the law enforcement agencies punished those who commit such offenses.
"One would wish that these fine laws regarding the freedom of conscience were not merely pretty phrases of propaganda, but that they would truly protect the sacred sentiments of believing citizens guaranteed by the freedom of conscience.
The Rev. G. Dovydaitis Šakiai, May 4, 1974"
THE DIOCESE OF KAIŠIADORYS
On Easter Sunday, 1973, girls of this parish scattered flowers during services. Meškauskas, principal of the Kuktiškės eight-year school upbraided the girls for this "offense." Caricatures of some of the students appeared in the newsletter posted on the bulletin board. Kuktiškės Collective Farm Chairman J. Ryliškis censured [Mrs.] Veronika Katinienė for having organized the girls in the procession. He threatened that her plot of land would be taken away and that she would be refused pasture and fodder for her livestock.
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