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(Photo courtesy Tom Webb)

Protesters at a Nagasaki Day demonstration at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore Aug. 9 carry a sign calling attention to the proposed trillion dollar cost of re-modernizing the American nuclear stockpile.

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Pax Christi urges prayer, study, action on abolishing nuclear weapons
August 22nd, 2016
By Tom Webb

This month we recall the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. The horrific and devastating effects of the bombs encouraged Japan to request terms for surrender to end the four year conflict with the United States. But it also opened the door to the Cold War, and the expansive growth of nuclear stockpiles, especially in the U.S. and Russia.

The end of the Cold War in 1989 led to some reduction of these stockpiles but it has not led to the abolition of these weapons. Contrary to the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction, which has governed relations between nuclear powers since at least the early 1960s, this balance of power has not made the world safer. Rather, it has actually produced greater instability as the number of nuclear-owning countries has grown to include North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel. With the rise of terrorist organizations, grave concerns arise around the distinct possibility that such organizations will gain access to materials for their construction.

In the 1980s the Vatican had held a nation could morally justify holding nuclear weapons, but only on the condition that abolition was the end result. In light of the developments since then, a new statement was issued by the U.N. in December 2014. The Vatican now argues that, contrary to its previously conditioned acceptance of these weapons, the state of world affairs requires their abolition. In the Vatican’s view, no nation is any longer morally justified in possessing nuclear weapons.

The statement outlined several reasons for this stance. First, the expansion of nuclear-weapon- owning countries creates fundamental instability rather than security. Second, there exists a fundamental inequity between nuclear-weapon-owing states and non-nuclear states. Those without nuclear weapons are vulnerable to threats and intimidation by nuclear-owning nations, and there is no international law against nuclear blackmail. Third, the conditions of extreme poverty, environmental problems, migration, military conflicts and other related concerns are exacerbated by expenditures in some countries for ongoing research, development and maintenance associated with these weapons.

From an American perspective we may want to consider recent decisions by the Obama administration to approve plans to allocate $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize our current nuclear weapons stockpile of 15,000 warheads. Further, recent innovations like the tactical “dial-a-yield” bomb increase the likelihood that the threshold to nuclear war will be crossed.

Pax Christi Northern California encourages Catholics throughout the seven dioceses where our members live to actually study and discuss the “Statement by the Holy See at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” presented Dec. 9, 2014. Following the directive outlined in the “Challenge of Peace” pastoral letter of 1983 (#294), we also encourage our Catholic brothers and sisters to renew the practice of the Friday fast and abstinence from meat. This return to penance for peace, as the bishops instructed, “... should be accompanied by works of charity and service toward our neighbors. Hence, every Friday should be a day significantly devoted to prayer, penance and almsgiving for peace.” Finally, we also invite interested Catholics to consider joining Pax Christi USA and to make inquiries about joining a local group in Northern California.

Webb is the coordinator of Pax Christi Northern California, the local regional council of Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi International. Visit

From August 25, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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