US Bishops Encourage Arms Reduction Efforts

Obama Criticized for Developing New Weapons

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WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are urging Congressmen to ratify the arms reduction treaty and to work continually to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore affirmed this Monday at a symposium focused on “The Ethics of the Obama Administration’s Nuclear Weapons Policy: Catholic Perspectives” at the Catholic University of America.

The prelate, a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on International Justice and Peace, spoke about the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed April 8, and the Nuclear Posture Review of the U.S. government.

He affirmed that “the conference of bishops is urging members of the U.S. Senate to come together across party lines to ratify the START Treaty.”

The prelate noted that this treaty “reduces deployed strategic warheads; limits the United States and Russia to fewer delivery vehicles; and includes new verification requirements.”

He called it “a significant, yet modest, step in the right direction,” which “sets the stage for future reductions.”

“Likewise the Nuclear Posture Review represents a significant, yet modest, shift toward a world free of nuclear weapons,” the archbishop affirmed.

He stated that “it does not go as far as the bishops urged and does not declare that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear attack against us or our allies.”

The goal

Archbishop O’Brien added, however, that “the Nuclear Posture Review embraces the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, recognizes the danger of nuclear terrorism, and narrows the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear threats and against non-nuclear states that are party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

“These directions are morally sound,” he acknowledged, “but more progress is needed to meet our moral responsibilities to rid the world of this disproportionate and indiscriminate threat to human life.”

The archbishop referenced a letter written by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the bishops’ conference, to U.S. President Barack Obama, in which he urged the government leaders to work to free the world from nuclear threat.

The letter called for the ratification and enforcement of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the reduction of the country’s reliance on nuclear weapons for security, and the securing of nuclear material from terrorists, among other things.

Archbishop O’Brien stated, “The moral end is clear: a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons.”

He continued: “This goal should guide our efforts. Every nuclear weapons system and every nuclear weapons policy should be judged by the ultimate goal of protecting human life and dignity and the related goal of ridding the world of these weapons in mutually verifiable ways.”

“Although we must always keep our eyes on the horizon of a world without nuclear weapons,” he said, “it is equally important to focus on our next steps because the journey is long and dangerous and we must take one step at a time if we are to be successful.

“The path to zero will be long and treacherous,” he affirmed. “But humanity has a moral obligation to walk this path with both care and courage.”

Misunderstandings

Meanwhile, the United States has been developing a new system designed to replace nuclear weapons without sacrificing the ability to deter enemies from afar and strike quickly if needed.

On April 11, a few days after the treaty was signed, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, stated that the nation already has the Prompt Global Strike capability. 

The Prompt Global Strike program includes a system capable of a conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within an hour. 

Yet critics, including Giuseppe Fiorentino, who wrote an article published today in the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano, state that the new weapons could lead to dangerous misunderstandings, since it is difficult to distinguish if a launched missile is nuclear or conventional. 

Fiorentino wrote, “But perhaps the Obama administration believes that today it can give Russia, and also China, the necessary guarantees to avoid misunderstandings; the new arms arsenals will be separated from the nuclear ones and will be able to be inspected periodically; an openness due to the atmosphere of trust that is breathed between Washington and Moscow, or to the new closeness that the global economic crisis has imposed between the United States and China.”

He suggested in his article that “the unheard of climate of collaboration” between “former enemy superpowers could be taken advantage of in another way,” such as working for “policies of development that, according to the experts, would really be capable of getting the world out of the recession.”

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On the Net:

Archbishop O’Brien’s address: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/2010-04-26-bishop-obrien-moral-reflections-us-nuclear-policy.pdf

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