US bishops praise pope’s ‘clarion call’ for nuclear disarmament

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States released a statement on Friday calling for the United States and other nuclear powers to dismantle their arsenals and praising Pope Francis for drawing the world’s attention to nuclear weapons.

“The Committee on International Justice and Peace is grateful to the Holy Father for this renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity,” said the statement released Feb. 14.

The statement was co-signed by the eight bishops who comprise the committee, as well as the two bishop consultants to the committee. The chairman of the committee is Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford.

The bishops referenced Pope Francis’ November visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki while he was in Japan. Both cities were attacked with atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The bishops said the pontiff “spoke forcefully” on the issue.

“Speaking at Nagasaki, he emphasized the need for a wide and deep solidarity to bring about security in a world not reliant on atomic weapons,” said the bishops.

They quoted the pope calling on “individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations” to work together to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

In Hiroshima, the bishops recalled, Pope Francis stated that the use of nuclear weapons is always immoral, as is their possession.

“The words of Pope Francis serve as a clarion call and a profound reminder to all that the status quo of international relations, resting on the threat of mutual destruction, must be changed,” they said.

The bishops noted that the continued existence of nuclear weapons “weighs on the consciences of all to find a means for complete and mutual disarmament based in a shared commitment and trust that needs to be fostered and deepened.”

“As such, we also call upon our own government to be part of and indeed renew its primary responsibility in that effort.” they said. In addition to the United States, the other nations possessing nuclear weapons “must take the lead in mutual reduction” of their stockpiles.

“The international community [has] recognized the need to move away from the threat of mutual destruction and toward genuine and universal disarmament,” said the bishops.

Currently, eight countries–the United States, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and the United Kingdom–are known to possess nuclear weapons. Israel is also believed to have nuclear weapons, but has refused to confirm the matter.

The former Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, along with South Africa, have all disarmed themselves of nuclear weapons.

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1 Comment

  1. We read, “In Hiroshima, the bishops recalled, Pope Francis stated that the use of nuclear weapons is always immoral, as is their possession.”

    Not new is the difficulty is in CONFLATING the (1) deterrent (?) “possession” of nuclear weapons with (2) the actual use of nuclear weapons (which today include precision versions unknown in 1945). Without detracting from the insanity of enormous nuclear stockpiles, we might reflect on the mix of moral imperatives defended by the Church and the realm of prudential judgment(s) as this mix was articulated in earlier and different circumstances during the final decades of the Cold War…

    In 1965, while condemning the indiscriminate targeting of populations, the Second Vatican Council also still ACCEPTED “deterrence” (“possession”) IF this was at least a step toward nuclear disarmament. The Council stopped short of demanding a “freeze” (Gaudium et Spes, 78-82). Ever on mind were the overwhelming risks of slippery-slope escalation into nuclear Armageddon.

    In the 1980s tactical and mobile battlefield-level missiles (offensive/ defensive?) with targeting precision, were deployed by the West to offset the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact’s massive superiority (3:1 ration) in conventional armaments/tanks. Also, at this time, President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative—the high cost of which is said to have helped achieve the collapse the economically non-viable and Marxist Soviet Union.

    In 1983 THREE national episcopal conferences (synods?) produced non-identical (!) and non-doctrinal pastoral letters.

    In addition to (1) the AMERICAN The Challenge to Peace (which highlighted the slippery slope into Armageddon; and which eventually clarified/separated its moral message from and appendix for prudential judgments), there were also (2) the GERMAN Out of Justice, Peace (which highlighted the imbalance in battlefield weaponry in a vulnerable Eastern Europe), and (3) the FRENCH Winning the Peace (which highlighted the overall threat to humanity of international Marxism). (The latter two pastorals were combined and edited by Fr. James Schall, S.J., and PUBLISHED by Ignatius Press, 1984).

    But, PRIOR to all three conference reflections, in 1982, Pope John Paul II already had delivered a nuanced papal address to the Second Special Session of the United Nations dedicated to disarmament (Negotiation: The Only Realistic Solution to the Continuing Threat of War, Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1982). At that time the pope CONCLUDED, in part, that: “In current conditions ‘deterrence’ based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable” (p. 10).

    So, today—-regarding “possession” versus potential use—-FIRST, what has been and is the morally-required progress, if any, toward disarmament; and SECOND, globally, what is the “current condition” in 2020, politically and technologically?

    Pope Francis (now joined by the American bishops) is speaking to the possession of still-enormous nuclear stockpiles, plus the proliferation of such weapons to more nations in hair-trigger situations—all in a real (or unreal?) world where negotiation is both barely possible and absolutely necessary. May the Church continue to reestablish its moral voice, and to leaven a sustained trend in determined and even creative negotiation.

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