Nuclear Rearmament

For decades, the popes have called for nuclear disarmament


Earth Justice

In California, where bad things often begin, the papers tell us that we are facing a climate apocalypse. The fires are, indeed, horrific. But there’s no turning back from a true apocalypse.

Something closer to a true apocalypse awaits us, and we are currently planning to hasten its arrival. Our leaders think that nuclear rearmament, not disarmament, is the answer. So do the leaders of our nuclear competitors.

Some stats are worth noting. Northrup Grumman has just won a multi-year contract of $13.3 billion to build the next generation of intercontinental missiles, a key part of our nuclear triad. But someone is thinking big. There’s an estimated $85-billion project to replace our Minuteman III ICBM system. That’s not enough, though. In 2018 the Congressional Budget Office floated a figure of $1.2-trillion for a complete rearmament of our nuclear delivery system. All of this, says the L.A. Times (Sept. 9, 2020), is a continuation of an initiative begun under President Obama.

From Dorothy Day to John Ford, SJ, to the Plowshares movement, from Paul VI to Pope Francis, Catholic peacemakers and popes have called for nuclear disarmament. Of late, Pope Francis has insisted that the very possession of nuclear weapons is wrong. The use of weapons of mass destruction would be a crime that calls out to heaven for judgment. So, too, is harboring the intention to use them if sufficiently provoked.

One helpful source for tracking the new nuclear rearmament is the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It sums up, and soberly, our nearly apocalyptic status quo. “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change.” To this it adds: “The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”

And how is it that world leaders, and those who put them in their positions of power, could be so blind to these grave threats to human life? One reason is the tendency to become numbed to the ongoing presence of seemingly overwhelming dangers. Another reason is our widespread complicity in the deliberate destruction of preborn human beings. Yet another reason is a kind of paralysis of the will.

What, then, is to be done? Christians need, as always, to open themselves to God’s saving grace. A passage from Madelaine Debrel comes to mind. Debrel (†1964), now Venerable in the eyes of the Church, was a French evangelist to a culture losing its way. Far from giving way to paralysis, she reminds us that “We are charged with an energy which is out of proportion to the measure of our world: the faith that moves mountains, the hope that refuses to accept something is impossible, the love which sets the world on fire….We make our humble measurement of the will of God.”

That measurement is dynamic. Let us fly a banner that charts our course: Siempre Adelante con Juicio. The final apocalypse will come with God’s judgment. It is this same God who surely desires that we not hasten it with our folly, whether political or personal.


Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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