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No-nukes forum participants talk at Vienna event with image of Pope Francis posted in background.

Ban the Bomb?

At two major conferences in Vienna, Austria, in December, a dramatic challenge was issued to the theory of deterrence, by which a handful of nations around the world justify continued maintenance of their nuclear weapons arsenals. Most Americans have fallen into a dangerous complacency on the issue decades after the Cold War ended without an atomic shot fired. But the message that emerged from these meetings—a gathering of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a forum of civil society actors; and the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons conference, made up of global scientists, diplomats and politicians—was that only a world free of nuclear weapons will be a world safe from nuclear weapons.

In a series of statements, the Holy See suggested that the church’s conditional acceptance of deterrence, because it served to prevent conflict and was a preliminary step on the path to total nuclear disarmament, was no longer functional. The church asks that deterrence be re-evaluated in light of geopolitical realities, the ecological and existential threat posed by nuclear weapons and the devastation that could occur if these weapons were accidentally detonated or acquired by terrorists. Can deterrence, it asks, continue to justify nuclear arsenals, when the use of such weapons of mass destruction would be unthinkable, their collateral hazards numerous and their costly maintenance a scandalous misallocation of resources? One Vatican official told America, “We are back to ‘Pacem in Terris’” and that encyclical’s demand for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.


That revision strips the moral cover from deterrence and requires U.S. politicians to reassess the nation’s commitment to its nuclear arsenal. As one peace activist put it: the world will eventually be rid of nuclear weapons; better to do the job before being prompted by a nuclear fireball.

Better Policing

As protests continue following grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., social activists across the United States are demanding changes to what many see as systemic failures within police departments. A group of over 100 Catholic theologians from universities across the United States—including Jesuit schools like Boston College and Marquette University—has also issued a statement “calling for a serious examination of both policing and racial injustice” in the United States.

Justice League NYC, a group of social justice advocates, artists and former inmates, has created a petition with a list of demands, beginning with an emphasis on “direct and peaceful action.” As of early December, the petition had garnered over 4,000 signatures. Many of the demands are specific to the New York Police Department, but the petition also recommends measures applicable to police forces across the country, like fostering greater transparency between police departments and the communities they serve. It also calls for better officer training in “crisis intervention, harm reduction and de-escalation skills” as part of an effort “to eliminate racial bias and police brutality.” While more reforms are needed from state and federal leaders, these grassroots demands from protesters represent worthwhile, peaceful steps forward.

Reporting on Rape

When it comes to reporting on sexual assault, it is not difficult to see how the line between advocacy and journalism can become blurred. We live in a culture in which victims have too often been blamed rather than believed. This seems to be why Sabrina Rubin Erdely of Rolling Stone, along with millions of readers, accepted at face value an account of a brutal premeditated gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity party. But it does not justify the magazine’s willingness to publish the story of Jackie, the survivor—which, thanks to follow-up reporting by The Washington Post, we now know contains major discrepancies—while neglecting the most basic tenets of ethical journalism: contacting the accused and corroborating the primary source’s claims.

Some fear that this episode will undo the progress that has been made in dealing with sexual assault in recent years, though we are unlikely to return to the dark ages of victim-shaming. But real damage has been done. We may never know exactly what happened at U.Va.; but friends who were with Jackie that night say she experienced something traumatic, which she must now relive as the facts of her case are picked apart in the national media. This could deter survivors from sharing their stories in the future.

On Jan. 9, Greek life at U.Va. will return after being suspended to give the administration and student leaders a chance to “identify solutions that would best ensure the well-being and safety of students,” according to a university statement. This must remain the focus on campuses across the country. Many students were willing to believe Jackie’s story; they were shocked but not surprised. And that’s a problem.

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E.Patrick Mosman
4 years ago
A nuclear weapon has not killed a combatant or innocent civilian since August 1945, almost 70 years. However innocent civilians in the hundreds are being killed almost daily, not by any nation, but by Islamic terrorist organizations, by Islamic suicide bombers and by individual Muslims. Where is the call by the Catholic Church, all member states of the UN and HINW for a stop to the killing of innocents by the followers of Islam in the name Allah? The sound of silence is deafening. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent holding international meetings to discuss a non-issue,nuclear weapons, while ignoring the reality of innocents being slaughtered today. As Ebenezer Scrooge would say "Humbug". BBC America reported several day ago that an "investigation by the BBC World Service and King's College London has found Islamic jihadists have killed more than 5,000 people in November 2014. The data gathered by the BBC found that 5,042 people were killed in 664 jihadist attacks across 14 countries - a daily average of 168 deaths, or seven every hour. About 80% of the deaths came in just four countries - Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan, according to the study of media and civil society reports. Iraq was the most dangerous place to be, with 1,770 deaths in 233 attacks, ranging from shootings to suicide bombings. In Nigeria, 786 people, almost all of them civilians, were killed in 27 Boko Haram incidents. These tended to be large and indiscriminate bombings and shootings such as the attack on the central mosque in the northern city of Kano, which left 120 dead." While these killings were taking place Pope Francis was making nice with Muslims in the Blue Mosque, the National Cathedral in Washington DC was opened for a Muslim service and the Obama administration gave Islamic Iran an additional seven months grace in its development of a nuclear weapon. Most of these innocents were and more will be killed by old fashioned weapons, guns, knives, bombs, explosive devices now and in the future.
William Rydberg
4 years ago
Patrick, The pope is teaching the Gospel when he prays and speaks out. You should take the time and listen to our Maronite, Melchite as well as Uniate brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. They understand the power of God. They know that God is not weak as many men may surmise. Not to diminish in any way the real suffering experienced as I write this, but it is important that one also be a student of History. The things you describe above pale beside Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and his revenge on the Pilgrimage of Grace in England, the horrors of the 30 Years War, the Irish Famine, the 10's of millions killed during the Soviet regime, the 10's of millions killed by the Hitlerian War, and I understand that some scholars estimate many 10's of millions in Mao's Revolution. Interestingly the really high numbers of deaths are all said to be due to a Secular paradigm. I personally call it what the Church does - evil. Remember that the Church teaches that evil is not a separate entity or force, but rather is the perversion of the good. St Thomas Aquinas taught us that man seeks the good. Its the father of lies that contributes to this perversion. Let the Pope teach the Gospel. in Christ, on this day the Feast of St Thomas Becket, in Christ, still enjoying the Octave...
Anne Chapman
4 years ago
Since the history of the persecution of Catholics under Henry VIII and others has been raised, perhaps also remind readers of the history of his daughter, "Bloody Mary" who persecuted - "dissenters" - more than 280 "dissenters" were burned at the stake. Then there should be a discussion of the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the burning of "heretics" (aka, Protestants, Jews, Muslims), the burning of "witches", codified anti-Semitism etc - all part of the history of the Roman Catholic church.
E.Patrick Mosman
4 years ago
Mr. Rydberg, There is no doubt that there have been horrible atrocities in the past, including Pol Pot in Cambodia, and there was no intent to compare today's number of slaughtered innocents with those of the past as the past is past and the world must deal with what is happening today. Evil has been a part of the world since it appeared, in the form of a snake, to Eve in the Garden of Eden. One of the best illustrations of how evil works is found in C.S. Lewis's "Screwtape Letters" where "Screwtape, a senior Demon, gives Wormwood, a junior Tempter, detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient(mankind), interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine." Evil today in the persecution of Christians, Jews and all other non- muslims is found in Islam. However, political correctness, ignores the facts and continues to repeat the false mantra "Islam is Peaceful"as it has never been peaceful since its founding in the 700s AD. Is it better to spend millions of dollars on meetings to "Ban the Bomb" while ignoring the true evil? I think not.
E.Patrick Mosman
4 years ago
It is highly unlikely that any of the 100 theologians, social justice advocates(Al Sharpton) or any of the faculty at Jesuit Universities have spent time with police departments or individual police officers policing low and high crime areas in American cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston or others. Yet these ivory tower experts, social justice advocates and race agitators feel that they are sufficiently knowledgeable to pontificate on how policing should be done. In my opinion this is the epitome of academic/social justice arrogance, proving that academics are out of touch with the real world. The following article should be a must read for anyone offering advice on policing in America.
4 years ago
Patrick, what are your assumptions about 'theologians and social advocates' (I'm not Al Sharpton), but I do have a couple of masters degrees from two Jesuit universities including a degree on pastoral ministry. I do a ministry with juveniles in detention among other things. I was also active in a large city on the Pacific Coast in the 1970s in which we actually managed to reform our own police department by working together as a community and with administrators, and elected officials and some law enforcement officers we turned things around. It was in fact addressing police practices that improved the relationship between police and the community that made San Jose California one of the largest cities (of equal size) with the LOWEST crime rate in the country. It was precisely because of the improved relationship of trust between police and community that the Chief of Police, the late Joseph MacNamara (once upon a time a NYCPD beat cop) helped to solidify that this was possible. If the community is not part of working through this problem, the problem will not be solved. BTW, one of the major influences in organizing at the administrative level was a former Catholic priest who became the first director of the Human Relations commission, and it was 'social justice advocates' consisting of citizens from all spectrums of San Jose -- from plumbers, students, professors, housewives of all races and class levels -- that we managed to get it done. If the community does not support the changes there will be no change -- if the police don't want the changes, there will be no changes. It has to be a meeting of the minds between the 'sovereign's (that would be the citizens of a community) and their police force! This is not Jeremy Bentham's England, this is the United States, and we, the people, are the sovereigns!
E.Patrick Mosman
4 years ago
There is no doubt that the police force of San Jose is doing there best but statistics show that the crime rate per 100,000 population for major reported crimes has actually doubled and even tripled from years 2000 to 2012 for most of them: Meanwhile the the crime rate per 100,000 population in New York City has been reduced in every catagory for the 2000-2012 time period.
John Barbieri
4 years ago
Unfortunately, the "atomic genie." is out of the bottle. Hoping for a reduction in atomic weapons is laudable and desirable. But it just isn't realistic to think that any nation-state that has such weapons will willingly give them up entirely as long as any other nation-state possesses them.
Rory Connor
4 years ago
QUOTE On Jan. 9, Greek life at U.Va. will return after being suspended to give the administration and student leaders a chance to “identify solutions that would best ensure the well-being and safety of students,” according to a university statement. This must remain the focus on campuses across the country. Many students were willing to believe Jackie’s story; they were shocked but not surprised. And that’s a problem. Thee are THREE major problems here but America doesn't seem to understand any of them. (1) The president of the the university suspended the fraternities until January 9, as soon as the Rolling Stone article was published and failed to lift the suspension even when the allegations proved to be nonsense. This is a repeat of the kind of thing that happened at Duke University a few years ago when members of the lacrosse team were falsely accused of a gang rape. Once again university authorities have thrown the presumption of innocence to the winds and exposed easily identifiable students to hysterical abuse by the media and their fellow students. (2) OF COURSE "many students were willing to believe Jackie's story". After all the college authorities take a Guilty Until Proven Innocent view so what else does America expect from the students? (3) The "solutions" that are to be identified by the "administration and student leaders" do NOT seem to include the question of how to prevent false allegations of gang rape being directed against male students. Why is America in favour of this type of approach??


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