Nuclear “ethics”

Pope FrancisAs a non-believer, I find it puzzling that the teachings of leaders of the Christian faith are so flagrantly ignored by our politicians. At an evangelical hustings I attended in Cwmbran, the most gung-ho supporters of nuclear weapons were those who boasted most about their christian church attendance. The Catholics Bishops of Scotland had this to say at Easter on these issues.

The Economy: The first consideration for any economic policy should be the dignity of the person, not the pursuit of profit. We urge candidates to endorse the living wage campaign, giving people the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.

In these turbulent financial times Pope Francis has been a prophetic voice, warning that economies stripped of ethics trample human dignity. “Unbridled capitalism,” he says, “has given us the logic of profit at any cost, (and) of exploitation without looking at the person.” The existence of so many food banks in our country offers a depressing vindication of the Pope’s warning.

Peace. Successive UK Governments have made plans to replace and upgrade our nuclear weapons capacity. This is despite the considerable costs involved and in the face of persistent moral objections, to say nothing of international agreements we have entered into which commit us to work against the proliferation of such weapons. While recognising each country’s right to defend itself, the existence of nuclear weapons, and their possible proliferation, continue to represent a grave threat to the human family.

Pope Francis reminds us that peace is better fostered by greater equality – not least by fairness towards the poor, refugees and migrants – rather than by increased spending on arms.

This was not a one-off. The Vatican has long opposed nuclear weapons – what has changed is that Pope Francis has made this a priority.

  • In December, the Vatican submitted a call for total nuclear disarmament to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
  • In January, Pope Francis touted nuclear disarmament as a major goal alongside climate change in his speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.
  • On Easter Sunday, he prayed that the proposal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
  • … and the Holy See’s UN Ambassador says. “Today there is no more argument, not even the argument of deterrence used during the Cold War …the ‘peace of a sort’ that is supposed to justify nuclear deterrence is specious and illusory.”

For Pope Francis, nuclear disarmament is viewed from the position of the poor: “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. … To prioritise such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.”

Meanwhile, in Britain, leaders of all three establishment parties and UKIP trot out the same 50-year-old banalities about the nuclear deterrent keeping the peace. They neither address the morality nor rationality of possessing weapons that, if used, would destroy Britain. There has been no word, throughout the election campaign, about the UN conference currently taking place on nuclear disarmament nor any British government initiative in support of it.


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