To: The Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies
Copies to: The Peoples' Court of Pasvalis Rayon
The Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Panevėžys Priests' Senate of the Diocese of Panevėžys The Dean of Pasvalis
A Petition from the Rev. Benediktas Urbonas, Pastor of the Joniškėlis Church
I appeal to you, as the immediate leader in the rayon, with regard to matters of cult.
On April 20, 1982, after having been reported by acting Chairwoman (Mrs.) J. Gasiūnienė of the Executive Committee of the Council of Peoples' Deputies for the city of Joniškėlis, I received Decision No. 59 of the Administrative Committee attached to the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies written April 16, 1982, by which I am blamed for the participation (serving) of schoolchildren at religious services and without investigation of the matter or any explanation. I was fined 50 rubles.
This accusation I consider unfounded and unlawful for the following reasons:
1. Par. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR recognizes the freedom of all citizens to carry out religious worship without restriction; therefore, even if some kind of directive restricting these rights for some citizens were to be promulgated, it would be void as contrary to the constitution. Jurists know that.
Nowhere have I found any law that religious freedom is granted only at the age of eighteen. After all, baptism is ordinarily conferred on infants, and not on adults.
2. The Church in our country is separated from the state and the school from the Church. Priests do not interfere in the school. But it is through baptism that we become full-fledged members of the Church, and children have the right to exercise religious worship. Show me the law by which the faithful (including schoolchildren) are forbidden to exercise religious worship (Confession, Holy Communion, etc.)
3. Interference by individual officials of the civil government in the internal affairs of the Church restricting the right of a certain group of the faithful (i.e., children) to exercise religious worship: A. Is contrary to the constitution (See Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR, Par. 50: "Citizens of the Lithuanian SSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience; that is, the right to profess any religion ... to participate in religious cult . . .") and, B. It is a transgression of Church Canon Law by which the Church herself determines the manner and forms of worshipping God in church. This is not determined by outsiders.
4. The practice of having youngsters serve in church is not something initiated by bishops or even popes, but rather commanded by the very Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not stop them." (Lk 18, 16; c.f. Mk 10, 14) and therefore, I cannot forbid this in my church and being penalized for it is a gross interference in the internal affairs of the Church and its Canon Law, which our state claims to respect, and a paralyzing of this freedom and of the essential task of the Church: to proclaim the Gospel to all people, (c.f. Mk 16, 15).
Moreover, believing parents will not willingly renounce the right to take children to church and here they will be acting in accord with Church law.
5.Regarding the accusation that children "served": No contract for services or employment has been made with them; they took part in the ceremonies as believers, with complete freedom according to their own wishes, those of their parents, and according to Church law. It is not I who thought this up or originated it; this was being done before I ever came to Joniškėlis. You can ask the people.
6.What we do is allowed in other churches of the republic: (e.g., in Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys, rayon centers, etc.), so it cannot be forbidden and considered a crime in Joniškėlis alone, because the latter is one of the average cities of the Lithuanian SSR, and does not have any special status.
I ask you, Mr. Chairman, in consideration of the arguments I have submitted to see to it that once the complaint of (Mrs.) Gasiūnienė has been investigated, the aforesaid decision of the Administrative Committee be set aside as unconstitutional and as compromising Soviet justice.
Joniškėlis, April 23, 1982
K. B. Urbonas
Pastor of Joniškėlis Church
Civil Case No. 2-128/1982
In the Name of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
Pasvalis May 12, 1982 Rayon,
The Peoples' Court of the Pasvalis Rayon, consisting of the presiding Peoples' Judge L. Trakelis and Peoples' Councilors 1. (Mrs.) A. Gritėnienė, 2. (Mrs.) S. Nevulienė, with (Mrs.) D. Svistova as Secretary and Assistant Prosecutor V. Grigalavičius participating, considered in open court the civil case on the suit of Benediktas Urbonas to set aside the decision according to which a fine was assessed, and came to the following decision:
B. M. Urbonas did not attend the trial. A notice of the place and time for trying the case was presented to him but he refused to sign. In his complaint, Urbonas indicates that the Administrative Committee attached to the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies Executive Committee, in its decision of April 16, 1982, fined him 50 rubles without cause. He maintains that there was no basis for punishing him because Par. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR grants citizens the right to profess any religion at all. The law does not forbid children to serve in church. He asks that the judgement assessing a 50 ruble fine on him be set aside.
No representative of the administrative committee showed up at the trial.
The Assistant Prosecutor requests that Urbonas' complaint be rejected because he maintains that the fine was assessed with cause.
The complaint is rejected. In his complaint, Urbonas does not deny that on April 10-11, 1982, pupils of Joniškėlis Middle School assisted him during religious services. From the report of the offense it is obvious that on April 10-11, a group of pupils from the Joniškėlis Middle School served in church. Witnesses (Mrs.) Noreikienė and (Mrs.) Mikėnienė testified that their children served in church on April 10-11. They maintain only that for this, they are guilty, and not the priests. Therefore, it has been irrefutably established that children served in church during religious services. It is not the believers but Urbonas who transgressed against the May 12, 1966 instruction of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR,
"Concerning administrative liability for breaking the law regarding religious cults." The fine was assessed in keeping with the adminis -trative requirements of Par. 36 of the bases for transgression of the law. The deadline for assessing the fine was not passed. In the aforesaid order, the size of the fine was set at 50 rubles. The fine was assessed by an organ which has the right to levy it (Code of Civil Procedure of the Lithuanian SSR, Par. 264.).
The decision of the administrative committee does not contravene Par. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR or the aforesaid order.
Therefore, on the basis of Par. 15, 58 and 222 of the Code of Civil Procedure of the Lithuanian SSR, the Peoples' Court has decided to reject the complaint of Benediktas Urbonas, son of Mykolas Domininkas. This decision of the court is final.
On May 16, 1982, the parents of schoolchildren in the parish of Joniškėlis wrote a petition to the republican Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR in which they protest an administrative fine levied against Father Benediktas Urbonas, April 16, 1982, for, "Having children serve in church". The parents raise a number of arguments showing the injustice of this fine: the Soviet government allows us to baptize our children, that is, to make them full-fledged Catholics. Therefore, they must have the right also to worship in the Catholic Faith. ... Is there some sort of law which, contrary to the constitution, would ban this and would forbid the rights of religious worship? . . . Our children do not work in church, but take part in ceremonies freely without being hired and without compensation, but rather, in accord with their preferences and ours and with Canon Law.
On June 25, 1982, Senior Prosecutor (Mrs.) D. Kazakaitienė, in response to the May 16 protest by parents of schoolchildren in Joniškėlis offered the following "explanation" to the faithful. "In response to your petition and that of other individuals, I wish to inform you that the republican prosecutor's office has found no basis for appealing the Pasvalis Rayon People's Court's decision of May 12, 1982, rejecting B. Urbanas' appeal to have his administrative fine set aside."
To: Pasvalis Rayon Peoples' Court Chairman L. Trakelis Copies to: The Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the
Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies
Dean of Pasvalis
From: Father Benediktas Urbonas, Pastor of Joniškėlis A Petition
On May 15, 1982, I received in the mail a copy of Decision No. 2-128/1982 in a civil case before the Peoples' Court of the Pasvalis Rayon. It states that the Pasvalis Rayon Peoples' Court, and I quote, "has considered in open court the civil case of Plaintiff Benediktas Urbonas requesting that the decision assessing a fine be set aside . . ."
I did not appeal to the Peoples' Court of Pasvalis Rayon nor did I write such a complaint. After receiving from the Administrative Commission attached to the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples. Deputies Decision No. 59, written April 16, 1982, in which I am blamed for the participation of schoolchildren in services (so-called "serving") and fined 50 rubles, I wrote a complaint, not to the Peoples' Court concerning the administrative fine, but rather, I appealed in writing to the Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies (I quote), "As the actual director of cult affairs in the rayon".
That same day, i.e., April 23, 1982, I sent out some copies of the petition to: the Bishop of Panevėžys, the Dean of Pasvalis and the Pasvalis Rayon Peoples' Court.
A copy of a document is not a complaint or petition; it does not obligate anyone, but merely acquaints the recipient with measures that have been taken.
That is why I did not attend the session of the Peoples' Court, because I had not asked the court to take up my case, but am instead waiting for an answer in writing from the Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies.
I take this occasion to remind you that participants in my trial, May 12, 1982, in Pasvalis, said that in the course of it, the entire copy of the petition I sent to the Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies was not even read, and no substantive reply was given during the trial to several extenuating arguments presented by me.
Respectfully, Rev. B. Urbonas Pastor of Joniškėlis
Joniškėlis, May 18, 1982
Commissar of the Council of Religious Affairs attached to the Council of Ministers of the USSR for the Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania, 6/1/82, No. 193
232600 Vilnius Totorių 1 Tel. 61-95-29
To: Father Benediktas Urbonas Joniškėlis
M. Melnikaitės 24/2 Pasvalis Rayon
In response to your petition of May 17, 1982, addressed to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR, be informed that it is not possible to equate the fact that every citizen is free to go to church with the teaching of religion to children or enticing them to assist ministers of cult performing religious ceremonies. These are two concepts, distinct and well-known to you.
Ordering children out of church on the one hand, and, on the other, not organizing them to participate actively in those ceremonies serving at the altar, participating in choirs, processions, ceremonies these are not one and the same.
You may abide by Church canons and regulations only insofar as these do not contravene state law; otherwise, state organs would be forced to take appropriate steps in your regard for breaking Soviet laws regarding cults.
In the opinion of the commissar, the Administrative Commission attached to the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies, in penalizing you, acted justly.
Commissar P. Anilionis
To: The Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR
Copies to: The Commissar of the Council for Religious Affairs attached to the USSR Council of Ministers Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Panevėžys The Chapter of the Diocese of Panevėžys The Dean of Pasvalis From: Father Benediktas Urbonas, Pastor of Joniškėlis
I find myself in the following predicament: Articles of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR and official pronouncements of the Lithuanian SSR Commissar of the Council for Religious Affairs attached to the Council of Ministers of the USSR conflict with administrative measures aimed at me.
I am well aquainted with the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR: Par. 32 and Par. 50 guarantee all citizens freedom to exercise religious worship without restriction.
I am also well acquainted with my own duties as a priest, the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church stipulates: "Shephards of souls are strictly obliged to teach all the faithful Christian doctrine, but especially the children. (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1329) The Panevėžys Diocesan Synod also strictly requires the same (See: First Synod of the Diocese of Panevėžys, pp. 45-47, Par. 188-197).
Here is what representatives of the state officially proclaim:
Petras Anilionis, Commissar for the Lithuanian, SSR of the Council for Religious Affairs, attached to the Council of Ministers for the USSR writes: "All citizens are granted complete freedom in questions of religion . . . each citizen may freely go to church . . . Soviet law protects believers from any assaults on freedom of religion" (Valstiečių laikraštis, Farmers' Newspaper, March 29, 1980, No. 39, "Freedom of Conscience").
Justas Rugienis, Commissar for the Lithuanian SSR of the Council for Religious Affairs, attached to the Council of Ministers for the USSR has written, "Neither the Soviet State nor its government organs interferes in the internal affairs of the Church, i.e., its canonical or dogmatic activities (Tarybų darbas, Soviet Work, September 9, 1972, "The Councils and the Regulations for Religious Cult").
Therefore, I wish to inquire why it is proclaimed that all people are free to go to church to carry out religious worship, but the priest is penalized for doing so? Why is it proclaimed that the state does not interfere in the internal affairs of the Church and its canons and yet the priest is penalized for conforming to them? Am I to blame for not ejecting children who have come to church?
I respectfully request the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR to explain competently to me the following things:
May a priest in the Lithuanian SSR carry out his duties as a priest according to the directives of Canon Law, or not? If he may, then I am not guilty. If he may not, then this is contrary to Par. 32 of the Contittution of the Lithuanian SSR and the declaration of Commissar J. Rugienis.
Do all citizens of the Lithuanian SSR have freedom of exercizing religious worship, or only adults? If all have this freedom, then I am not guilty. If not all, then this is contrary to Par. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR and the aforesaid declaration of Commissar Petras Anilionis.
Is there some sort of law which separates citizens into those who have full rights with regard to religion and those for whom those rights are restricted or taken away; how does it sound, and by whom was it promulgated?
Until I was blamed, I carried out my duties as a priest without interference. It is therefore true that if no one accuses me, I am free to carry them out, but if anyone accuses me, then am I to be penalized?
Do Soviet agencies regulate the manner and form of Roman Catholic Church ceremonies in the Lithuanian SSR, and rules of conduct for the faithful, or, is this an internal matter of the Church? If it is an internal matter of the Church, I am not guilty. If not, this is contraryto the abovementioned declaration of Commissar J. Rugienis.
Respectfully, Father B. Urbonas Pastor of Joniškėlis
Joniškėlis, May 17, 1982
Response to the petition by Father Benediktas Urbonas, Pastor of the Parish of Joniškėlis, to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR, May 17, 1982:
"In response to your complaint, I wish to inform you that the Office of the Prosecutor of the Republic has found no grounds to overturn by judicial review the May 12, 1982 decision of the Pasvalis Rayon Peoples' Court, by which your petition to set aside an administrative fine had been rejected.
In keeping with the June 12, 1966 instruction of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR, "Concerning Administrative Liability for Offenses against the Law Regarding Religious Cults", the administrative fine has been levied against you justly.
(signed) (Mrs.) D. Kazakaitiené Advisor to the Supreme Justice, Chief Prosecutor, Oversight Section of Civil Case Court Trials.
Priests of the Panevėžys Diocese working in the Rayon of Pasvalis sent a protest, June 30, 1982, to the Assistant Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon, regarding a fine unjustly levied against Father Urbonas. Among other things, the priests wrote:
"All we priests residing in the Rayon of Pasvalis have followed events with interest. The communication received from the Commissar for Religious Affairs says nothing essentially, and it does not satisfy us. The question is not one of permission to go to church (even unbelievers do that), but concerning Par. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR which declares that citizens of the Lithuanian SSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience . . . After all, 'the exercise of religious worship' includes participation in religious ceremonies. It is one and the same thing. To proclaim that 'citizens of the Lithuanian SSR have freedom of conscience and the right to exercise religious worship' and to forbid them by law to participate in such, is a contradiction."