Archbishop calls for future ‘free of nuclear threat’
A Catholic archbishop has told a meeting of 200 international leaders at the Global Zero Summit in Paris that the path to the elimination of nuclear weapons will be “long and treacherous”.
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore told delegates that humanity “must walk this path with both care and courage in order to build a future free of the nuclear threat”.
Referring to the Second Vatican Council’s condemnation of “total war” and the council fathers’ scepticism of “deterrence” as a way to lasting peace, Archbishop O’Brien said, “Every nuclear weapons system and every nuclear weapons policy should be judged by the ultimate goal of protecting human life and dignity”.
The American Archbishop said the Catholic Church’s opposition to nuclear weapons is not new. “Our Church works consistently to defend the life and dignity of all: the unborn, the poor, the immigrant, and persons in every age and condition of life,” he explained.
“This moral commitment to protecting human life led to the adoption and development of the church’s just-war teaching.”
He pointed out that as a permanent observer to the United Nations, the Vatican has ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and actively participated in the treaty’s review conferences in the last four decades.
The Archbishop also quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said in his 2006 World Day of Peace message that in a nuclear war “there would be no victors, only victims.”
He noted that just-war teachings assert that the use of force must be discriminate, with civilians and civilian facilities preserved from direct, intentional attack.
The use of force must be proportionate, he said, with the overall destruction not outweighing the good to be achieved. It also must have a probability of success, he said.
Prior to his appointment to the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2007, Archbishop O’Brien, served for a decade as head of the US Archdiocese for the Military Services.
“The real risks inherent in nuclear war make the probability of success elusive,” Archbishop O’Brien said. He pointed out that nuclear war is rejected in Church teaching because it “cannot ensure non-combatant immunity”.
He added that the likely destruction and lingering radiation brought on by nuclear war would violate the just-war principle of proportionality.
“Even the limited use of so-called mini-nukes would likely lower the barrier to future uses and could lead to indiscriminate and disproportionate harm,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “And the continuing possession of nuclear weapons undermines non-proliferation efforts and contributes to the danger of loose nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists.”
The Archbishop called on the US to focus on the “next steps” in eliminating nuclear weapons.
“This requires the successful negotiation and ratification of a START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) follow-on treaty with the Russian Federation, the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the adoption of a nuclear posture that rejects the first use of nuclear weapons or their use against non-nuclear threats,” he said.
The Paris summit is timed to lead up to the Global Nuclear Security Summit in April, convened at the call of President Barrack Obama, and a conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May.