U.S. Bishops Urge Support for Nuclear Weapons Pact

The new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace called on U.S. senators to set aside politics and ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The treaty, signed by President Obama and Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev on April 8, would reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries by 30 percent.

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, wrote in a letter to the Senate on Nov. 29: “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. We understand this is an ideal that will take years to reach, but it is a task which our nation must take up with renewed energy.” Bishop Hubbard chairs the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

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Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the recently elected president of the U.S.C.C.B., said, “I renew and re-emphasize the position taken by my predecessor, Cardinal Francis George, that the [conference] is ‘a steadfast supporter of strong and bipartisan action on the new Start Treaty.’”

Bishop Hubbard called the new Start a “modest step toward a world with greater respect for human life.” He added: “The church’s concern for nuclear weapons grows out of its commitment to the sanctity of human life. This commitment led to the development of just war criteria, including the principles of discrimination and proportionality. Nuclear weapons are a grave threat to human life and dignity. Nuclear war is rejected in church teaching because the use of nuclear weapons cannot ensure noncombatant immunity and their destructive potential and lingering radiation cannot be meaningfully proportionate. Pope Benedict XVI said in a January 2006 statement, ‘In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.’”

New Start would commit the United States and Russia to reducing their strategic arsenals to 1,550 warheads deployed on long-range missiles, bombers and submarines. Under the previous Start pact, which expires this month, both countries reduced their arsenals to 2,200 weapons each.

A threat on Dec. 1 by Senate Republicans to block all legislation until expiring tax cuts are extended and a bill is passed to fund the federal government does not apply to Start, and President Obama has made ratification of the pact a top priority.

In his letter to Congress, Bishop Hubbard argued that the treaty would be a step toward further international cooperation to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear material. “Military experts and former national leaders have come together across party lines to support the new Start treaty,” Bishop Hubbard wrote. “Leaders from both parties, diplomats and military experts argue that the treaty does not constrain U.S. missile defense and that announced investments in our nation’s nuclear weapons infrastructure will keep our nuclear deterrent safe and reliable.

“The U.S. bishops’ conference is urging strong bipartisan support for the new Start treaty because the treaty makes our nation and world safer by reducing nuclear weapons in a verifiable way. We urge the Senate to take up the new Start treaty without delay,” he concluded.

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