Catholic Bishops: ‘Just Say No To Nukes’

Among recent examples of Catholic bishops acting very poorly indeed, here’s an example of bishops acting “good.” They joined representatives of various groups advocating nuclear arms reduction to present a petition with over 50,000 signatures to the White House.

On May 7, Stephen Colecchi, USCCB’s director of International Justice and Peace, representing the US bishops delivered the petition in a meeting with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting. Leaders of arms control groups, including the Arms Control Association, the Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, also participated in the meeting.

In response to the petition, Rhodes said: “The White House appreciates the engagement of citizens across our country who support efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace and security of a world without them. This type of grassroots activism is critical to build awareness around the dangers of nuclear weapons, and to support common sense arms control policies.”

In a March 2 letter to National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, outlined some moral considerations to take into account during the study:

The current review of nuclear weapons policy by the Administration presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to make significant strides towards a safer, more secure future for our nation and world. For decades, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Holy See have supported nuclear nonproliferation and verifiable efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

As you advise the President, I urge you to recommend further reductions in U.S. nuclear forces. The horribly destructive capacity of nuclear arms makes them disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons that profoundly endanger human life.

At a time of fiscal restraints, tens of billions of dollars currently allocated to maintaining Cold War-based nuclear force structures could be redirected to other critical needs, especially to programs that serve poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad. As the Second Vatican Council taught, “[T]he arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree.”

Our Conference urges our nation to work with the international community to replace nuclear deterrence with concrete measures of disarmament based on dialogue and multilateral negotiations. Pope Benedict XVI stated in his 2010 World Day of Peace Message, “I firmly hope that … concrete decisions will be made towards progressive disarmament, with a view to freeing our planet from nuclear arms.”

Consistent with Catholic teaching, the Holy See and the U.S. bishops have long supported reducing the number of nuclear armaments, preventing their spread to other nations, and securing nuclear materials from terrorists. For decades they have promoted the twin and interrelated policy goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. USCCB understands this is an ideal that will take years to reach, but it is a task which our nation must take up with renewed energy.

The President has an opportunity to honor his commitment to “put an end to Cold War thinking” by pursuing further steps that will make our nation safer from the threat of nuclear weapons.

See Bishop Richard E. Pates’ letter here.

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