War and Peace: Practical Arguments for Nuclear Disarmament

Submitted by: Jim Bacik

After presenting moral arguments for nuclear disarmament in his pastoral letter, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace,” Archbishop John Wester went on to present more practical reasons for abolishing nuclear weapons. Writing in 2022, Wester noted the world has more than 13,000 nuclear weapons, some 100 times more powerful than the two bombs the United States dropped on Japan in August, 1945. An estimated 12,000 U.S., Russian, British and French warheads remain ready to fire on short notice. The Archbishop makes the case that we are now in a new arms race. The U.S., which has 3,750 nuclear weapons in its active stockpile, plans to invest $1.7 trillion in modernization over the next 30 years. Russia is also engaged in a major modernization of its nuclear arsenal. China is building hundreds of new hardened silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. The United Kingdom and Pakistan are numerically expanding their nuclear arsenals. Iran has enriched uranium almost to bomb-making capacity. Israel, which is known to have a stockpile of nuclear weapons, has repeatedly threatened preemptive military action against Iran. North Korea has an estimated 45 nuclear weapons and continues to develop missile delivery systems. According to Wester, this second nuclear arms race is more dangerous than the first because more countries have them and terrorists could get hold of them.

In the third and final part of his pastoral, Archbishop Wester discusses the failure of nations to abide by the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signed by 190 countries that involved a “grand bargain” that states without nuclear weapons would not seek them while the five nuclear countries (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) would look for ways to stop the arms race and promote nuclear disarmament (p.26). In 2014, the Vatican reminded the world leaders that the NPT treaty is a “moral commitment” on which the future of the world depends. Writing in 2022, Wester lamented that more than a half-century after the NPT was signed, the nuclear states have failed to honor the treaty and have, unfortunately, implemented massive nuclear modernization programs.

Turning his attention to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Archbishop notes that Pope Francis supported it as a “decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons,” which is “not beyond reach,“ a position Wester totally supports and actively promotes.

Near the end of his pastoral letter, the Archbishop affirms the Vatican II teaching that the nuclear arms race is a “treacherous trap,” which injures the poor to an “intolerable degree” (GS 81). He also appropriated the message of Pope Francis, who after his pilgrimage to Nagasaki, Japan in 2019 insisted that the nuclear arms race squanders resources which could be used to help the millions of families living in poverty. Finally, Archbishop John Wester concludes his widely welcomed pastoral letter with an urgent plea: “It is time to take up the hard work of nuclear disarmament and move toward the creation and building of a new culture of justice that cares for our planet and offers peace for everyone” (p.30).


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About the Author

Fr. James J. Bacik has served as a priest of the Diocese of Toledo since his ordination in 1962. He is a widely regarded theologian, writer, lecturer and pastor who served as campus minister and adjunct professor of humanities at the University of Toledo for more than 30 years. Fr. Bacik is an AUSCP member. Visit his website at frjimbacik.org.

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