Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn July 1 questioned the morality of building new nuclear weapons and modernizing existing ones as he met with a group of local reporters.
The issue is not abstract for local Catholics as the U.S. government is constructing a new nuclear weapons plant south of Kansas City. The plant, which broke ground last September, will produce non-nuclear parts for the nation’s nuclear weapons. It will replace a controversial aging plant that has been making nuclear parts for several decades.
Kansas City peace activists have argued the construction of new plant escalates the arms race, making it more, not less, likely that nuclear weapons will one day be used.
Finn questioned the construction of the new plant, asking, “is this the kind of thing that we should be spending large amounts of human resources on? What is the moral justification for those kinds of expenditures?”
The bishop said that some people have said to him that building the plant would bring needed jobs to Kansas City, and, further, that if the plant were not built here, it would be built somewhere else.
Answering the question, he compared the building of the plant to the building of an abortion clinic. Speaking about a plant building nuclear weapons parts he said “at a certain point we would have to stand up as say ‘we don’t want it.’
Just as If someone would want to build an abortion mill, many folks would say ‘we don’t want it.’ If they have to build it, then build it in some other place. Those people would then have to deal with it.”
Finn also said he is concerned about the environmental degradation resulting from the building of nuclear weapons. He said Kansas City’s current weapons plant has been associated with “very serious contamination issues.” This, he said, raises a legitimate question as to whether the new plant will similarly cause environmental harm. “What are the checks and balances? What are the accountabilities?” he asked.
Finn concluded his remarks, which came in answer to a reporter’s question, saying that modernizing the U.S. weapons deterrence system might be “promoting, not by design, but by circumstances” an escalation in the arms race. “Under the argument of deterrence, are we actually contributing to an escalation,” he asked.
Finn made his remarks following a talk on nuclear weapons by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of Vatican to the United Nations, who spoke in Kansas City at Finn’s invitation.
Chullikat told a group of more than 100 at the Catholic center in downtown Kansas City that Catholic teaching holds nuclear weapons are viewed with limited moral acceptability only temporarily during a process of nuclear disarmament. The Vatican diplomat called for a far more concerted efforts by the world’s nations to rid nuclear weapons from the planet.
Finn’s remarks reiterated statements he made last year when the new Kansas City weapons’ plant first began to be constructed. At that time he called these weapons a “grave moral danger.”
Fox is NCR Editor