Nuclear disarmament will avoid obliteration of humans
Hopefully, such mishaps inspire an exacting tightening of procedures. It is also an opportunity to challenge the policy of maintaining such a redundant number.
I would like to add a religious perspective to the detailed proposals made by a number of leading national security experts and endorsed recently by Utah's former Sen. Jake Garn and Professor John Bennion ("Curbing the global threat," Opinion, May 24).
In his Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict XVI referred to the danger of nuclear weapons in paragraph 14: "Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person.
"In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aided at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms. At a time
when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity."
These remarks built on his 2007 World Day of Peace statement: "Another disturbing issue is the desire recently shown by some states to acquire nuclear weapons. This has heightened even more the widespread climate of uncertainty and fear of a possible atomic catastrophe. We are brought back in time to the profound anxieties of the 'cold war' period. When it came to an end, there was hope that the atomic peril had been definitively overcome and that mankind could finally breathe a lasting sigh of relief.
"How timely, in this regard, is the warning of the Second Vatican Council that 'every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.' Unfortunately, threatening clouds continue to gather on humanity's horizon.
"The way to ensure a future of peace for everyone is found not only in international accords for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, but also in the determined commitment to seek their reduction and definitive dismantling. May every attempt be made to arrive through negotiation at the attainment of these objectives! The fate of the whole human family is at stake!"
Both of these statements have roots in the 1963 papal encyclical by Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). The Catholic tradition on war and peace is a long and complex one, reaching back to the Sermon on the Mount. At the center of the church's teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human person.
Each human life is sacred; modern warfare threatens the obliteration of human life and thus the need to speak out.
In their l983 document, "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response," the United States Catholic Bishops stated that peacemaking is not an optional commitment but a requirement of our faith.
"We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but by our Lord Jesus." Twenty-five years later, those pleas are even more appropriate. For believers, our faith can give us hope and hope can be a resource for action and a source of strength in this demanding cause.
In my second year of living here, as I learn more of the devastating health effects on many Utah citizens living downwind of our nation's Nevada nuclear test site, I believe that our state should be a leader in promoting public policy that leads to the end of nuclear weapons development and the total elimination of existing nuclear weapons.
I thank all those who have spoken out and I pray that more Utahns will add their voices to the effort to abolish nuclear weapons.
* MOST REV. JOHN C. WESTER is bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.