“For her part, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to promoting peace between peoples and nations. This is a duty to which the Church feels bound before God and every man and woman in our world. We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.” ~Pope Francis in Nagasaki, Japan, Nov. 24, 2019
On Friday, January 22, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into force, which means that its provisions make it illegal for nations which have ratified the treaty to participate in the development, production, possession or use of nuclear weapons. To date, fifty-one countries have ratified the treaty and many more have signed it. More than 75 years after nuclear weapons were developed and used, the international community has imposed a ban on these weapons of mass destruction.
Following the adoption of the TPNW at the UN on July 7, 2017, the United States issued a joint press statement with the United Kingdom and France, stating unequivocally, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” The U.S. opposition to the treaty has included pressure on many of its allies, like Japan, to also reject the TPNW.
For U.S. Catholics, the opposition by the U.S. government places it at odds with Catholic social teaching on the immorality of the possession of nuclear weapons. At Hiroshima in November 2019, Pope Francis stated, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.”
Pax Christi USA believes that the January 22nd ‘entry into force’ of the TPNW will help increase international pressure on the United States and other nuclear-armed states to join the treaty, especially through legal constraints on the financing and trade of these weapons and their components. In our efforts to move our own nation to sign and ratify the treaty, we welcome how this moment focuses world public opinion on banning these weapons of mass destruction. We recognize too that at this time, when over 400,000 people in the United States have died because of the pandemic and millions more have been left economically, physically, and emotionally vulnerable, the resources spent on the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons could be better invested. As Pope Francis stated in Nagasaki in November 2019,
“The arms race wastes precious resources that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and to protect the natural environment. In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.”
This past weekend, as we celebrated the life and witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember too his April 1967 address at Riverside Church in New York which connected militarism and weapons of mass destruction on the one hand with economic and racial justice on the other. Pax Christi USA believes that the TPNW is a step toward his vision of conquering those giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism, bringing about that “beloved community”.
And today, Pax Christi USA leaders joined with other international Catholic leaders throughout the Pax Christi International network in signing onto a joint statement urging governments the world over to recognize our common bonds and sign and ratify the TPNW:
“Surely, in this era of increasing global interdependence and vulnerability, our faith invites us to seek the common and universal good. ‘We are all saved together or no one is saved,’ the pope’s new encyclical Fratelli Tutti says. ‘Is it possible for us to be open to our neighbors within a family of nations?’ it asks. International cooperation is essential for addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, the gap between rich and poor, and the universal threat of nuclear weapons.”
Today as the TPNW enters into force, Pax Christi USA celebrates this milestone and looks forward to the day when all the nations of the world, including the nuclear-armed nations, will ratify this treaty and abolish nuclear weapons.
We call on the U.S. bishops, priests and deacons, women and men religious, and lay people throughout the U.S. Catholic Church to visibly observe in our dioceses, parishes, universities and schools the ‘entry into force’ of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with public calls for action, the offering of prayers, and legislative advocacy. The month following the entry into force on January 22nd can be used as a time of education and reflection, addressing the treaty and Catholic social teaching on nuclear abolition through sermons and discussion groups, webinars, lesson plans, prayers of the faithful, and more. Pax Christi USA is ready to help with resources as requested.
On this historic day, we join with Pope Francis in our conviction that a world without nuclear weapons is both possible and necessary and we extend our gratitude to the 51 nations which demonstrated true leadership in ratifying this treaty. We take encouragement from their example and pledge to continue this vital work in the hope that one day our nation too may sign and ratify the TPNW.