The Bishops and the Nuclear Tipping Point

Bishop Hubbard Howard (Albany, NY) and Bishop William Murphy (Rockville Centre, NY) share leadership for the United States Catholic Bishop’s Conference Department of Justice, Peace, and Development. “It is a bifurcated committee,” said Hubbard, “where my staff focus on international issues and Bishop Murphy’s staff look at domestic issues within our own country, and the title indicates that if you want to work for peace you have to addresses the injustices underlying conflicts as well as examine  structural problems such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and other festering conditions that often lead to conflict and warfare.  Each month I write two or three letters to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that represent the Bishop’s Conference on different international issues in view of Vatican diplomacy and the social teachings of the Church.”  Several important and ongoing tasks of this department were reviewed last week at the bishop’s meeting.

The entire Bishops Conference is endorsing a new DVD and study guide, "Nuclear Tipping Point,"for use with adolescents and young adults. This film was produced by General Colin Powell and includes interviews with former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Senator Sam Nunn. Each of these experienced United States leaders come together and talk about the compelling need for a world free of nuclear weapons. The Study Guide is replete with discussions questions as well as an annotated bibliography of church teachings including encyclicals and statements including the 1983 Bishops Pastoral Letter on War and Peace, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.” Hubbard hopes these materials will be welcomed in Catholic high schools, CCD classes, parishes, and colleges. “This teaching tool teaches Catholic social doctrine including landmark social encyclicals and tries to unpack these rich teachings  in an interesting way to reach our young people,” said Hubbard.


Another task of Hubbard’s committee is to create greater freedom and exchanges between citizens of the United States and Cuba--these countries for decades having a significant barrier between each other while being with 90 miles of each other geographically. “Last week I communicated  with Cardinal Ortega of Havanna and we spoke of efforts to open up tourism between the two countries and to bring forth aid from the United States that will support agriculture and help improve the lives of millions of people,” said Hubbard. 

The 1983 Pastoral Letter on War and Peace is arguably one of the most important Catholic documents of the last century, and new challenges confront the equilibrium of peaceful regions around the world in the form of “drone” aircraft which may be piloted by remote control from places of safety thousands of miles away. These devices bring a new psychological dimension to warfare in that there is no personal risk to the operator of the system. There are three types of systems: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs); Remote Piloted Vehicles (RPVs); and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). There are even insect-sized Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) envisioned in the near future.

Hubbard noted that this topic was brought up at the last meeting as well as recognition of the eventual need for moral consideration and/or judgment of these devices. “I don’t feel we know enough about the  technology of these weapons as they are cutting-edge breakthroughs requiring more study and understanding. However, this is something that we as bishops will be examining in the very near future,” said Hubbard.

Your comments on these topics today are greatly appreciated.

Free copies of the DVD "Nuclear Tipping Point” are available here.

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8 years 8 months ago
Bill, I think Bishop Hubbard is very wise in targeting adolescents and young adults for education on the issues of war and peace.  These are the ones who will be making the decisions at a date not too far in the future.  It seems crucial that they be knowledgeable about Catholic social doctrine and the DVD  sounds like an excellent means to educate them.  Of course that doesn't mean that we oldsters are off the hook!  As Bishop Hubbard mentioned he moral issues of using drones, it behooves us all to be well informed.  I ordered the DVD and plan to give it to my parish for its youth group.   
What disturbs me about the use of drones is the separation of act and consequence.  As a society we are already so numbed by the depictions of violence in movies, TV and video games.  To use weaponry without seeing the devastating consequences -the human toll -further removes us from the realities of war.  It seems dehumanizing to me.  I'll be interested to learn what the bishops say about this issue. 
we vnornm
8 years 8 months ago
Hard to imagine getting the kids on the bus in the morning, driving to work, sending out the drones to kill some people in the mid east or wherever, and then come home for dinner.
Somehow I've ended up on Wikipedia and I'm learning about all types of devices and that makes it more real. 
Do you remember the movie "The Day After" in 1983? It showed Kansas City being obliterated. Ronald Reagan watched it that night and it changed some of his views.
best, bill
we vnornm
8 years 8 months ago
Many times the "other" side is right. Ronald Reagan was demonized when he took office (softened a bit after he was shot), mocked for Star Wars, but surprisingly it was Reagan's strong stance against the USSR that "ended" the arms race.
There is a dark side to human nature-Original Sin, el Diablo. Some say you have to fight fire with fire.
Study war from the ground those older ages, wouldn't it be right to defend the home when the barbarians came to rape and pillage?
Some could argue that the possibility of nuclear war has had a preventative effect. Less deaths and wars in second half of 20th century.
I'd like to see opposing viewpoints columns in magazines like this. It is possible for faithful Catholics to come to different and varied positions on issues.
We certainly need many different "loyol oppositions", with a special emphasis on that first word.  
David, you bring this up on the Fourth of July weekend. The country's independence was not won by pacifism, and those who want to repudiate this beginning would have to be willing, I think, to give up any expectation of the political freedoms and material comforts that are enjoyed. You can't have it both ways.
So there's a few "positive contrarian" thoughts.


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