The courage to oppose nuclear bomb makers

by Tom Roberts

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Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn’s recent statement questioning the wisdom of a major new weapons plant in Kansas City Mo. could provide a model for dioceses throughout the country where government and private enterprise prepare the most hideous devices of modern warfare.

The statement, largely a catalogue of papal and catechism teachings against the development of modern machines of war, is consistent with Finn’s ardent opposition to abortion and his advocacy of other life issues.

While NCR has certainly been critical of Finn’s management style and ecclesiological priorities, on this matter we applaud the courage it requires to take on a local major employer as well as the local political establishment.

Finn knows the sting of public rebuke and derision when taking unpopular moral positions. But no one questions your citizenship or patriotism for opposing abortion because that position can be chalked up to religious conviction, and it’s what the culture has come to expect from the Catholic community.

Taking on the military industrial complex, which has seeped into every level of American life and which is tolerated almost without question as an anchor of our security, is another matter. It takes a special kind of resolve.

Too many bishops and their priests are mum on the topic of the U.S. preparing massive human destruction. Too many are silent about what our taxes fund. The largest proportion, by far, of the taxes available for appropriation each year, goes to military pursuits. Our military expenditures dwarf those of the next two dozen plus countries combined. The issues can quickly become complex and difficult to speak about in any reasonable way when patriotic fervor is in overdrive. In many areas of the country, bishops and priests know that sizeable segments of their dioceses and congregations are made up of people for whom the military-industrial complex is a way of life.

Finn begins his statement by noting the church’s view of the state’s right to defend itself from unjust aggressors. How that is done and what constitutes legitimate defense is a topic for exhaustive investigation in this era of pre-emptive wars and drone attacks that have killed disproportionate numbers of non-combatants.

But the moral case against nuclear weapons and their continued development is unassailable, and it is encouraging to hear a bishop confront that reality on his own turf.

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