“Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation” (Gaudium et Spes, “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” Second Vatican Council).
On August 6, 1945 a United States’ Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing over 70,000 people – mostly civilians – and obliterated the city.
On August 9, 1945 the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing at least 60,000 people – again mostly civilians – and leveling that city as well. At the time of the atomic blast, Nagasaki was the heart and soul of Catholicism in Japan.
These bombings were indiscriminate acts of destruction and death – crimes against God and man himself. And therefore, merit unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
Yet many Catholics ignore church teaching here, and argue that the atomic bombing of those cities was necessary.
Well that’s not what Admiral William Leahy, President Harry Truman’s chief of staff thought.
Leahy said, “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. In being the first to use it, we adopted an ethical standard common to barbarians of the Dark Ages. Wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
Catholic moral theology is crystal clear here: The end never justifies the means. Even if the final goal is morally good, the means used to accomplish that good must also be morally good.
The possession, modernization, targeting, and of course the use of nuclear weapons, is an evil means – gravely immoral.
What the world’s Catholic bishops at Vatican II taught here is worth repeating: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.”
Sadly, we have not learned the tragic lessons of history here.
Our nuclear arsenal is far more dangerous than it was in 1945. Today’s strategic nuclear weapons are much more destructive.
Furthermore, the number of nuclear weapons in America’s arsenal has increased from two in 1945, to the estimated current number of 7,700 according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
According to FAS, when Russia’s nuclear arsenal of 8,500 nuclear weapons is added, along with the arsenals of the remaining seven other known nuclear powers, the total world number is approximately 17,300.
Although treaties have reduced the number of nuclear weapons, the U.S. and other nuclear states continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, and show no desire to truly eliminate them.
Federation of American Scientists warn that approximately 1,800 Russian and American nuclear weapons are on dangerous high alert – ready to be lunched within minutes.
When near accidental launches, the increasing possibility of terrorists acquiring small but highly dangerous nuclear weapons, and the likelihood of more nations joining the infamous nuclear club are also considered, it defies logic not to work hard for verifiable worldwide nuclear disarmament.
One group, Global Zero, has a step-by-step plan to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2030. Watch their challenging and inspiring short video http://www.globalzero.org/demand-zero/prague-speech. And then join the global zero movement.
And finally, consider this: Who would Jesus nuke?
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is also available to speak at conferences and other events on social justice and peace issues and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.