Cardinal writes on nuclear disarmament, questions raised about nuke facility

Those interested in nuclear disarmament issues may be glad to hear that Cardinal Roger Mahony, Los Angeles' retired archbishop, yesterday wrote that disarmament should be the "long term basis for security" across the world.

The cardinal's comments came the same day that new questions were raised about a planned new nuclear weapons facility in Los Alamos, Nevada.

The United States, Mahony wrote, "has an especially heavy moral burden to bear" in terms of the pursuit of total nuclear disarmament.

Our county, he writes, "has a responsibility to take the lead in nuclear disarmament and to develop the institutions and practices of cooperative security that will make that more likely and more sustainable."

Titled "The Ethical Imperative of Disarmament," Mahony's piece appeared yesterday for Peace Policy, a web publication of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Two other articles focused on disarmament issues were also featured yesterday for the publication.

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The Los Alamos facility, estimated to cost some $6 billion, is one of three new nuclear weapons sites currently under consideration.

Another, located in Kansas City, Mo., is currently under construction and is expected to begin operations next spring. The price tag on that facility is an estimated $1.2 billion.

Questions about the Los Alamos site were highlighted in an Associated Press story yesterday, including what work will be done at the new lab and whether it will be safe, as the proposed construction site lies along major earthquake fault lines.

Also at question is whether that site or the others are really necessary, considering the federal government's stated goal of nuclear disarmament.

To encourage the U.S. to focus on nuclear disarmament, in his article Mahony highlighted what seems to be a recent tweaking of the Catholic Church's teaching on deterrence. He focused on a June speech by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations.

Speaking in Kansas City at the request of organizers concerned about that city's proposed new nuclear weapons facility, Chullikatt said the world's system of nuclear deterrence has seemingly proved permanent.

Summarizing Chullikatt's message, Mahony wrote that the church "finds the nuclear status quo morally unacceptable, and is convinced that the moral imperative is to move carefully but courageously toward a mutual, verifiable global ban on nuclear weapons."

In the June speech, Chullikatt called for a new, comprehensive effort through the United Nations to address nuclear weapons disarmament.

“It cannot be considered morally sufficient to draw down the stocks of superfluous nuclear weapons while modernizing nuclear arsenals and investing vast sums to ensure their future production and maintenance,” said the archbishop. “This current course will ensure the perpetuation of these weapons indefinitely.”

For his part, Mahony wrote yesterday that those dedicated to nuclear disarmament must remain hopeful.

"We must not be naïve about the real risks and daunting challenges involved in nuclear disarmament," writes Mahony. "We cannot dis-invent nuclear weapons. But, as with biological and chemical weapons, we have a moral obligation and an ability to ban them."

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