FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. – Today, a group of scientists and Catholic leaders released a statement calling on President Biden to reduce the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the world and work with other nations toward their abolishment. The statement, signed by fourteen Catholic leaders and top scientists — including Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv, Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA and Marie Dennis, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, urged the Biden administration to revise dated U.S. nuclear policies, reduce U.S. spending on nuclear weapons, and engage in diplomacy with Russia and other countries, including at the upcoming review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which takes place in New York this August.
“If there is a voice to which President Biden, as a Catholic, should be listening, it seems to me at this point it is Pope Francis on an issue that is weighted with moral significance,” said signer Marie Dennis, senior adviser to the secretary general of Pax Christi International. “It just seems this is the time for the U.S. to move in the right direction.”
The statement was coordinated by the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Global Security Program and Stephen Colecchi, the former director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace.
“Now is the time to point out the expense of these weapons of mass destruction and the plan to spend even more on creating an unnecessary next generation of nuclear systems when people need their basic needs met,” stated Johnny Zokovitch, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. “Pope Francis has condemned the possession of nuclear weapons; as faithful followers of Jesus, Pax Christi hopes for a drastic reduction in U.S. nuclear spending and rapid progress in negotiating disarmament agreements.”
A nuclear weapon can kill more than a million people if dropped on a major city, and there are thousands of these weapons in existence. Just the production and testing of these weapons have had a devastating human cost.
“As a senator, vice president, and candidate for president, Joe Biden has been a leading advocate for nuclear arms control because he understands the threat these weapons pose,” said Dr. Laura Grego, a senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at UCS, who signed the statement. “As president, he has pledged to ‘listen to the scientists.’ Scientists and other experts have proposed concrete steps to reduce the nuclear threat, and President Biden is in a position to get started on those, by pledging that the United States would never use nuclear weapons first, shifting some of the billions of dollars slated to be spent on nuclear weapons to other pressing human needs, and negotiating with other states to move toward global nuclear disarmament.”
The Catholic tradition, as in many other faith traditions, forbids the use of weapons of mass destruction and condemns the nuclear arms race. Every pope since St. John XXIII in 1963 has called for global nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapon stockpiles. In January, Pope Francis expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and appealed to countries to “work decisively toward promoting the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons.”
“In the Catholic tradition, faith and reason work together,” said Colecchi. “Whether you approach the problem from a scientific or moral perspective, the conclusion remains the same: Nuclear weapons make our communities and our world less secure and drain resources that could be used for human development and addressing the underlying inequities and injustices that fuel conflicts. This statement by a diverse group of Catholic leaders and scientists reinforces the many calls of popes, the U.S. bishops and other Church leaders for Catholics and all people of goodwill, especially political leaders, to work for a world free of the nuclear threat.”
The statement affirms President Biden’s extension of the New START Treaty with Russia and calls on the administration to further reduce risks by:
- declaring that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first;
- working with Russia and then with other nations to verifiably reduce nuclear arsenals;
- redirecting nuclear weapons spending toward other pressing needs that build human security;
- affirming the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as complementary to existing disarmament agreements;
- working for a successful conclusion at the tenth review conference of the NPT, with nuclear states honoring their disarmament obligations;
- ratifying and bringing into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
- promote a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty to prohibit production of weapons-grade materials;
- strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance with disarmament obligations; and
- extending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, set to expire in 2022.
For more information or comment, contact Nick Mele, chair of Pax Christi USA’s Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-223-7098 .