Papal Nuncio On Nuclear Disarmament
Archbishop Francis Chullikat, Papal Nuncio to the United Nations, spoke on nuclear disarmament in Kansas City on July 5, 2011 at the invitation of the Kansas City - St. Joseph Human Rights Office. Kansas City is the location of a new nuclear weapons factory.
The address of Archbishop Chullikat echoed the words of President Ronald Reagan: "We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth." The Archbishop went further and developed the position of the Catholic teaching that is grounded in respect for life and the dignity of the human person. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church, the teaching of Vatican Council II, is cited as condemning acts of war used indiscriminately to destroy entire cities and their populations; such acts are seen as crimes again God and humanity.
The speech treated at length the issue of nuclear deterrence, and pointed out that any acceptance of that by the Catholic Church has been limited and based on the goal of progressive disarmament. Deterrence is not acceptable as a means of "projecting state power, protecting economic or political interests," nor can it be accepted as a primary defense strategy.
The Holy See has been active in pursuing disarmament through the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), in spite of ongoing programs by nations that spend billions of dollars on developing their nuclear arsenals. The Church has increased its efforts to challenge the lack of action toward nuclear disarmament and what the Archbishop termed "institutionalization of deterrence." He denied the value of deterrence as being able to provide real security for nations.
In regard to the human dimension of the nuclear issue, Archbishop Chullikat expressed concern that resources spent on weapons could be better used to benefit people, particularly the poor. His address labeled the use of hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear weaponry as a scourge and "nothing short of sinful." The Archbishop referred to International Law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Church's Just War principles in outlining the social and economic consequences of nuclear war. The effects of such a war would produce severe physical damage, the breakdown of health-care facilities and the collapse of systems for providing food and water needed by people.
Some facts presented in the address include numbers of nuclear weapons now in the possession of various nations: 20,000 located in 14 countries. In all there are some 40 nations having civilian programs that are able to process nuclear substances into weapons grade material. Pope Benedict XVI has called for "negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons" citing the goal of completely eliminating such weapons from the Earth.
By Gerald Bettice, Pax Christi Memphis