LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 20, No.4 - Winter 1974
Editors of this issue: J.A. Rackauskas
Copyright © 1974 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
NATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS PROTEST IN LITHUANIA
From the Underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania
Since 1971 the militant Catholic clergy and laymen in Lithuania have been publishing Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania (hereafter cited as LKB Kronika). Until the Spring of 1974 nine issues of the underground publications have been received in the West. Despite the intensive efforts to suppress the publication, the Lithuanian Chronicle so far has escaped KGB discovery. It has appeared approximately quarterly in type-written form of about 30 typed pages each issue (mostly single-spaced). The Chronicle has published texts of statements by believers and clergy, protesting Soviet religious discrimination and suppression, court proceedings against the clergy and laymen for religious activities, survey of events in various parts of Lithuania, and interpretive articles on the status of the Catholic Church. In recent issues the Chronicle began to include also materials not directly related to religion. It has reported on the suppression of human rights in general and particularly on the suppression of national rights.
The following are selected items from the 6th and 7th issues of the Chronicle, which cover approximately the period from the beginning of 1973 to the end of August of 1973.
5. Complaints of Lithuanian Catholics concerning the discrimination of religious students and the limitations on religious press*
(CONTINUED from Vol. 20, No. 3)
To: The Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR
A STATEMENT BY THE STUDENTS AND PARENTS OF LITHUANIA
We, students and parents, comprehending well the purposes of the school as well as the duties to the younger generation, are often disappointed because the students are not offered that which they really need.
The textbook on Social Science notes: "Patriotism is among the best of innate manifestations of man. It manifests as love of the land, where we were born and grew up, as love of its history." But how can the students know the past of Lithuania, when the History of the Lithuanian SSR by J. Jurginis is brief barely 100 pages and one-sided, while the History of the Lithuanian SSR by A. Gaigalaitė (148 pages) relates only about the revolutionary movement and the post-war years? At the same time the History of the USSR consists of four parts with a total of 650 pages. For this reason the student knows a lot about Pugachiov, Peter I, and others, but they know practically nothing about the great past of Lithuania.
The greatest evil is the forceful atheistic indoctrination of the students. It is said that religion in the Soviet Union is a private matter, that the Constitution of the USSR guarantees everyone the freedom of conscience, yet practice indicates the contrary.
Religious students are repeatedly ridiculed, rebuked for religious practices; their caricatures "decorate" school wall newspapers. Religious medals and crucifixes are taken away from the students. At times teachers even take the students out of church, for example, from funeral services.
Religious students are forced to speak and write against their beliefs, to draw anti-religious cartoons. Those who refuse to be hypocritical find their grades lowered to failing.
The teachers force religious students to join atheistic organizations and clubs and, for this reason, many are encouraged to be hypocritical.
A number of teachers use their class time for atheistic propaganda. Atheism is proclaimed in the school and beyond its walls even through trickery, for example, by showing "miracles," by cruelly ridiculing and deliberately distorting the Catholic faith.
The grade for conduct is lowered to barely passing solely for church attendance. The beliefs of religious students are noted in the character reference, thereby making and more difficult for them to enter schools of higher education.
Students are often required to respond to questionnaires dealing with religious convictions. We cannot understand why the conscience is forcefully violated. Some students, unwilling to air their convictions, hypocritically answer the questionnaires. Who benefits from this?
We have mentioned only certain cases of violation of the conscience of the students, but even this forces the conclusion that the Soviet school is most interested not in teaching, or upbringing, but rather in developing atheists. Such "upbringing" destroys the authority of the school and irreversibly harms the students.
We are tired of compulsory atheism and this evokes a reaction: the rejection of ideas, advocated by force. How can this be reconciled with the Constitution of the USSR, which proclaims the freedom of conscience?
Therefore, we request the Ministry of Education to put an end to such harmful practices and request that nobody hinder the students to enjoy the freedom of conscience.
March 1973 14,284 Signatures
Nota Bene: About 25 percent of the signers are students.
* * *
The Representative of the Council for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas
A STATEMENT OF THE BELIEVERS OF LITHUANIA
In the March 1, 1973 edition of "Gimtasis Kraštas" we read a statement of Bishop R. Krikščiūnas:
The Catholics of Lithuania publish books that are needed. Recently we published The Ritual of Roman Catholics for the Dioceses of Lithuania, the Prayer Book, The Resolutions of the Second Vatican Council and other books. The odor of printer's ink is still present on the very significant publication The New Testament.
We, believers, wanted to buy The New Testament. Regretfully, the local priests explained to us that they received only a few copies of The New Testament approximately one copy for 300 believers...
If the Lithuanian Catholics publish their own religious books, why is it that in the post-war years the most important book of all, namely the Catechism, has not been published? Why were only 10,000 copies of the Bible published? Why did we not see The Resolution of the Second Vatican Council, could we not get The Prayer Book, even though every Catholic is supposed to have it? It is not enough that we are unable to secure the Bible for ourselves, we now hear that someone is sending thousands of copies to Lithuanians abroad? Is it possible we will have to ask our relatives abroad to send us the Bible which was published in Lithuania?.
Since it is clear to us that religious books are published in very limited quantities and not by Catholics, but at the request of the bishops and you, the Representative, by the Soviet government, we are therefore requesting the reprinting of the Bible and the Prayer Book in sufficient quantities so that every Catholic family could have at least one copy of each. In addition, we are asking for a permit to publish an extensive catechism. If we are not granted these requests, it will be difficult to believe in any statement about the publication of the most needed Catholic books in Soviet Lithuania.
March of 1973 16,498 Signatures
* * *
6. A complaint of a group of believers concerning religious discrimination**
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR
A STATEMENT OF A GROUP OP BELIEVERS
In the press, at meetings, in the schools, on the radio and television, in the movies and the theater, a sharp anti-religious propaganda is being conducted, including distortion of facts, false accusations, mockery and degradation of believers. Under the cover of anti-religious campaigns even the nation is shamefully degraded. This is being done in the film "Herkus Mantas," in which, in the propagation of atheism, a painful accusation, which is not corroborated by historical facts, is cast: allegedly the Prussians burned live humans (as sacrifices to the gods). There is no constraint in the use of even base means to degrade and discredit religion in the eyes of the people.
Religion is condemned, while atheism is forcibly foisted upon everyone. What are the results of this? Lenin has taught that the truthfulness of ideas, theories, science is confirmed through practice. For almost 30 years the younger generation in Lithuania, as well as everyone else, are being brought up and predisposed in the spirit of atheism. During lessons in school and in all extracurricular activities atheism is propagated and religion is scorned. Cartoons mocking believers are posted on school bulletin boards. Students who attend church are interrogated, intimidated, sometimes even punished, as in the case of Aurelija Račinskaitė, whose conduct grade was lowered, according to a notation, for "church attendance." What have been the consequences of this rather extensive practice of atheist upbringing?
If prior to the introduction of atheistic education in the Lithuanian schools, crimes such as pilfering, robbery, attempted murder, sexual abuse were very rare, today they are a common occurrence. Children's departments are established in militia stations as part of the battle against juvenile delinquency. Alcoholism, stealing, murder, lying, deceitfulness, and insensitivity to duty were never so rampant in Lithuania as during the recent years. Everywhere, in dealing with public servants and officials in stores, factories, administrative and medical institutions, and elsewhere, we are exposed to an insensitive conscience. Practice has shown that atheistic upbringing is incapable of training the youth with strong moral principles and that atheistic propaganda is unable to change the moral level of society. Christian morality, proven by centuries, which promotes sensitivity of conscience, encourages man to develop self-control and to overcome negative inclinations, to perform the duty faithfully and to develop an inner sense of responsibility for his acts, is negated and hindered. Article 123 of the USSR Constitution, proclaiming the equality of all the citizens in all areas of social life, and Article 125, guaranteeing to all the citizens of the USSR the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, and demonstrations, are not applied to the believers. They cannot defend their ideas in meetings, through the press, radio or other media, which can be freely utilized by the atheists to spread their ideas. It is forbidden to publish books with a religious content. Of course, during the years of Soviet government, The Prayer Book, The Resolutions of the Second Vatican Council, and The New Testament were published. Three books in almost 30 years. Even so, there were so few copies printed and only a rare religious family was able to secure them. The press and the official statements of representatives of Soviet government frequently condemn racial and religious discrimination in other countries. Why then is religious discrimination allowed in Lithuania?
We, the undersigned believers, request the Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet to put an end to religious discrimination and allow the believers of Lithuania:
1. To defend and to disseminate their beliefs through the means of communications (the press, public lectures, radio and television);
2. To establish association of believers;
3. To publish newspapers and religious books;
4. Not to prohibit students to attend church, not to persecute and prosecute them for church attendance;
5. Not to limit the number of candidates for the seminary;
6. To put an end to all means of religious discrimination.
We want to believe in the good will of the Soviet government. In Poland and other countries with the socialist system the believers attend church, educate their children in the catechism, publish religious books without obstruction. We are awaiting the end to religious discrimination in Lithuania.
August of 1973 540 Signatures
(Explanatory note attached to the above statement):
We are sending the text of the statement, which was signed by 540 believers, to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR. Original copies of the statement together with the signatures are not being presented for the following reasons:
J. Vilutis, the investigator for specially serious cases, sent by the Procuracy of the Lithuanian SSR, for several months terrorized the Catholics of Kaunas, Panevėžys, and other cities solely because they were collecting, or were at least suspected of collecting signatures on statements regarding discrimination of believers, addressed to the Soviet government. Those who signed the mentioned statements were also interrogated. The government of the Lithuanian SSR demonstrated the unwillingness to respect the rights of the believers, the aim of imposing forcibly upon the Catholics an alien ideology. In August of this year (1973) the Soviet government forbade the Lithuanian bishops to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation until the "crops were harvested." This administrative interference of secular government in religious affairs clearly showed which "harvesting of crops" the Soviet government is really interested in the forceful detachment of the people from religion.
Because of the aforementioned reasons, the text of the statement with 540 signatures will be sent to the Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet only when we are thoroughly convinced of the good will of the Soviet government. At the moment we are only convinced of its desire quietly and quickly, even through inhumane means, to destroy the Catholic Church of Lithuania.
We are also advising the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR that four pages of the statement with 320 signatures, addressed to the Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR, and four pages of the statement addressed to K. Tumėnas, the Representative of the Council for Religious Affairs, with 302 signatures, were received lately. The aforementioned statements and signatures will be added to the previously collected pages of statements, about which the Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet was informed on May 14, 1973.*** Thus, the statement to the Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR regarding the discrimination of religious students was signed by 14,604 believers, while the statement to the Representative of the Council for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas concerning the shortage of Catholic publications was signed by 16,800 believers.
Representatives of Lithuanian Catholics
August 31, 1973
* From LKB Kronika, 1973, No. 6.
**From LKB Kronika, 1973, No. 7
*** Reference to the previous item published here (No. 5).