Archdiocese for the Military Services
Member, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference
The White House
October 7, 1999
It is a pleasure to be here today with Senator Jeffords and my colleagues from the religious community. I am a bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, but I am speaking today as a member of the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. I also speak as a member of the committee of bishops that examined the morality of nuclear deterrence in 1993.
As a chaplain to U.S. military personnel and their families for 26 years, I know the risks these men and women are willing to take to defend our country and help preserve the peace in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. My years as a chaplain have also taught me far more than I want to know about the terrible realities of war. I know what ordinary weapons can do. Conventional war is a terrible thing. How incomparably worse would a nuclear war be -- for our troops and especially for civilians and the environment? That is why a few years ago, the US Bishops concluded: "We abhor any use of nuclear weapons." I hope, therefore, that, in the midst of this debate we will not lose sight of what we are dealing with here. We are not talking about testing ordinary weapons. We are talking about testing weapons of mass destruction.
Further testing by the U.S. will do nothing to discourage other nations from conducting their own tests. And further testing by others only increases the risk of accidental or deliberate use of these terrible weapons. Rather than testing to develop new and Abetter@ weapons, shouldn't we instead lead by example and commit our energy and resources to reducing dependence on nuclear weapons around the world?
In accord with recent popes, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have, for decades, called for a test ban treaty, and, today, we are seeking to mobilize the Catholic community in support of this treaty. In our view, the treaty is not just a political or legal instrument; it is a moral commitment. It recognizes the moral predicament we have gotten ourselves into with nuclear weapons, and the moral urgency of stopping nuclear testing as one essential step in escaping this moral predicament. The moral credibility of the United States is at stake. We cannot credibly urge other nations to forego nuclear weapons if we are not even willing to ratify a treaty to stop testing our own nuclear weapons. To follow this path involves risks, to be sure, but the moral risks of failing to move forward on the test ban are far greater. Do we really want our legacy to be one of failure to have had the moral courage to take this critical step?