Monday, June 22, 2009

Bishop Finn and Proposed Nuclear Weapons Plant

On June 19, Jude Huntz, director of the human rights office for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, testified on the moral teaching of the Church about nuclear weapons proliferation relative to the construction of a proposed nuclear weapons plant in Cass County, Missouri. The Catholic Key Blog posted excerpts of his planned testimony earlier that week.

After Huntz’ testified before the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, some confusion arose in the local press as to whether Huntz was authorized to give such testimony. Huntz testified in his capacity as Director of the Human Rights Office for the diocese. In that capacity he is authorized to speak on matters of human rights by the bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Robert W. Finn. Bishop Finn was unavailable for comment at the time because he was attending a meeting of the U.S. Bishops in San Antonio. Following is Bishop Finn’s statement on the proposed plant:
The Catholic Church advocates for the application of a consistent ethic of life, resting on the primacy of human life and the innate dignity of the human person. Objective principles based on the natural law must be applied to practical issues of medical research, abortion, migration, capital punishment, the conduct of modern warfare, the care of the terminally ill, and other issues.

On June 19, Jude Huntz, the Diocesan Director of Human Rights, offered testimony to the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority concerning a proposal by the federal government to build a nuclear weapons plant in Cass County, Missouri. The new plant would replace an existing facility operated by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technologies.

Huntz effectively summarized Church teaching about the consistent ethic of life, and the grave concern of the Catholic Church about the continued production of nuclear weapons. The diocese is grateful for the opportunity to add the principles of the ethical and moral law into the public record concerning an important development in our community.

In his testimony, Huntz quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church and stated, “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.”

We value and support the right of the state to defend itself in the face of unjust aggression. We also value the need for industrial improvements and jobs for our citizens. Our hope, however, is that if this project moves forward, it does not contribute to an unnecessary accumulation of nuclear weapons. Our belief in the sanctity of human life leads us to stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to remind the world that, “Those who possess them have an enormous responsibility before God and all of humanity.”

Following is excerpted from the Testimony of Jude Huntz to the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority on the Proposed Nuclear Weapons Plant:
The Catholic tradition has always defended the right of a state to defend itself from unjust aggression. Implicit in that right is the need to equip a trained military force. No one denies this obligation and necessity on the part of any state.

However, the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction – which this nuclear plant proposes to construct – constitutes a grave moral danger to the entire planet. Nuclear weapons are by their very nature weapons of mass destruction: their force and impact cannot be contained, and their use affects combatants and non-combatants alike. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “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. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to use them” (CCC #2314; cf. also Gaudium et Spes #80).

Others would argue that to possess such weapons would act as a deterrent to other nations who also possess such weapons. Again, the Church responds to such an objection as well: “The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation” (CCC #2325; cf. also Pope Paul VI Populorum Progressio #53).

We will continue to stress the Church’s constant call for disarmament: “The Church’s social teaching proposes the goal of ‘general, balanced, and controlled disarmament.’ The enormous increase in arms represents a grave threat to stability and peace. The principle of sufficiency, by virtue of which each state may possess only the means necessary for its legitimate defense, must be applied both by States that buy arms and by those that produce and furnish them. Any excessive stockpiling or indiscriminate trading in arms cannot be morally justified. Such phenomena must also be evaluated in light of international norms regarding the non-proliferation, production, trade and use of different types of arms. Arms can never be treated like other goods exchanged on international or domestic markets” (CSD #508; cf. also John Paul II Message to the United Nations 1985, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace paper “The International Arms Trade” 1994, John Paul II Address to the World of Work 1988).

We have an obligation to think responsibly on this proposed nuclear weapons plant, to think beyond the local and examine the global dimensions of this decision. “Arms of mass destruction – whether biological, chemical, or nuclear – represent a particularly serious threat. Those who possess them have an enormous responsibility before God and all of humanity. The principle of non-proliferation of nuclear arms, together with measures of nuclear disarmament and the prohibition of nuclear tests, are intimately interconnected objectives that must be met as soon as possible by means of effective controls at the international levels” (CSD #509, cf. also Gaudium et Spes #80; CCC #2314, John Paul II World Day of Peace #2 1986).