When the US Bishops were at their prophetic best

AUSCP NewsBlog
Submitted by: Tony Magliano

By Tony Magliano

Forty-years-ago the United States Catholic bishops wrote a document that stirred up public opinion like none other. Many Catholics, and non-Catholics alike, were highly critical of the bishops. I was proud of them!

In 1983 tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was running high. The military industrial complex was developing and producing increasingly dangerous weapons of mass destruction at record pace. Both nations were preparing to fight and “win” a nuclear war.

In the midst of this insanity the Catholic bishops of the United States rose to the occasion by issuing “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.” Writing their pastoral letter with faith, courage, and vision, they boldly challenged American foreign policy and individual consciences. I believe it was their finest moment!

“We are the first generation since Genesis with the power to virtually destroy God’s creation. We cannot remain silent in the face of such danger. We are simply trying to live up to the call of Jesus to be peacemakers in our time and situation.” The bishops added that their letter was a challenge to Catholics in the U.S. to join with all others of good will “in shaping the conscious choices and deliberate polices required in this “moment of supreme crisis.”

Forty years have passed, and we are still in this moment of supreme crisis. In fact, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ famous “Doomsday Clock” the world is now at 90 seconds to catastrophic midnight – closer to global destruction than the “Doomsday Clock” has ever warned!

Thousands of nuclear missiles of the United States and Russia remain aimed at each other on highly dangerous hair-trigger alert! Not only is nuclear war now highly possible, but also a very conceivable accident could cause unthinkable death and destruction at any moment.

In “The Challenge of Peace” the bishops declared: “Under no circumstances may nuclear weapons or other instruments of mass slaughter be used for the purpose of destroying population centers or other predominantly civilian targets.” Yet, missiles are cocked and ready to do just that.

Way back in 1983 the bishops agreed to a strictly conditioned moral acceptance of nuclear deterrence, which rejected any U.S. strategy seeking nuclear superiority. “Nuclear deterrence should be used as a step on the way toward progressive disarmament …We cannot consider it adequate as a long-term basis for peace.”

However, 40 years have passed, and nuclear deterrence is now a permanent fixture of not only American military strategy, but also of all the other nine nuclear powers.

It is long overdue for today’s U.S. bishops, all other bishops, and all sane, peace-loving people of faith, to declare that the conditions for moral acceptance of nuclear deterrence have not been met, and demand that President Biden, the U.S. Congress, and other international leaders put total global nuclear disarmament on the diplomatic fast track.

In the “Challenge of Peace,” the bishops wrote, “We must re-emphasize with all our being, nonetheless, that it is not only nuclear war that must be prevented, but war itself. Therefore, with Pope John Paul II we declare: “‘Today, the scale and the horror of modern warfare — whether nuclear or not — makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations. War should belong to the tragic past, to history; it should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future.'”

With prophetic warning Pope Francis declared: “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this” (see: https://cutt.ly/Ne1emEG).

As a first step, please visit “Back from the Brink” and click “Take Action” (see: https://www.preventnuclearwar.org/).

There is no time to waste!

Tony Magliano (tmag6@comcast.net) is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist and speaker.  He is not a member of the AUSCP. His point of view is his own and not necessarily that of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests.

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