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Catholic Bishops Oppose Trident


Last month Scotland’s eight Catholic bishops called on the government not to invest in a replacement for the Trident system and to begin the process of decommissioning these weapons. The use of weapons of mass destruction, the statement went on, would be crime against God and against humanity and must never happen. Equally, storing and accumulating such weapons is wrong. This echoed a statement from 1982 that ‘if it is immoral to use these weapons, it is also immoral to threaten their use’. In January of this year, Pope Benedict XVI stated clearly, ‘In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims’. He called on those countries in possession of nuclear weapons to ‘strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.’

In making their statement the Bishops of Scotland were responding to the invitation from the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence to engage in a public debate on the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system.

In his Easter sermon, Cardinal Keith O’Brien made it clear that Scotland has a duty to lead the way in campaigning for change, ‘because we have the shameful task of housing these horrific weapons’.

‘Now is the time for all men and women of Easter faith, men and women of good will, men and women of peace, to raise our voices. Enter this debate and demand that these weapons of mass destruction be replaced, but not with more weapons. Rather, replace Trident, as the Holy Father has said, with projects that bring life to the poor.

‘I know first hand what the peaceful diversion of the vast sums of money in our military budget could accomplish. Earlier this year I was in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. I will never forget the ramshackle homes in the vast Internally Displaced Peoples’ camps in the desert – nor people like William, Magdalena and their children, Mary, Daniel and Marco, eking out an existence in their ramshackle home on less than £1.50 per day.

‘We help such people through our giving – but how much more help could there be if only a fraction spent on nuclear weapons could be saved. Yes – what help could be given at home by way of healthcare, schools, hospitals and the basic necessities for those who are in need if we had that money at our disposal. And the sum is more than the much advertised amount of debt relief announced at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles last year. Britain alone will be spending more on nuclear arms than what 18 of the world’s poorest countries are getting together in debt cancellation.

‘Replacing Trident in this way is the only moral option, the only way to show we really are serious about our obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which we are a signatory.
As long ago as 1968 our government undertook the following: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”.

‘Let us now, nearly forty years on from making this undertaking, finally prove that we take our obligation seriously. If not, if by replacing Trident with an even more destructive weapons system we would show our utter contempt for this Treaty and we would be in clear breach of it. We would lose any moral authority we currently have to tell other nations they may not possess weapons of mass destruction. Why should Iran or Korea or any other nation pay attention to us? Our moral authority on this matter would be zero. For those who have never contacted an MP before now is the time to do so. It is a matter of faith, but it requires a political solution, and we must act. May our prayer become a reality in the eventual scrapping of Trident, using those resources for life instead of death, peace instead of hatred.’


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