June 15, 2015

WASHINGTON – A month-long review of a key nuclear weapons treaty saw the nuclear powers stepping back from an opportunity to alter the status quo, much to the disappointment of Catholic peace advocates.

The disappointment stems from the failure of the nuclear weapons states to heed the arguments of the advocates, nongovernmental organizations and non-nuclear nations on the moral imperative to more rapidly shrink weapons stockpiles.

"Just the lack of political will all the way around, it's discouraging," said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The bishop spoke with Catholic News Service May 26, four days after delegates from more than 150 nations concluded the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in New York.

The conference ended without a final statement being issued. That signals a step back from the minimal progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons at earlier review conferences.

Without a final statement, nuclear-armed states will be able to keep their arsenals intact, much to the frustration of nations trying to rid the world of such weapons.

Cantu said if Americans understood the security dangers and enormous social and economic costs of maintaining a nuclear arsenal they might be motivated to join the call for abolition.

"It's amazing that if you walk on the street and ask people about nuclear weapons, they'd say 'No, that's an old thing." People assume that went away when the Cold War ended.

The Vatican made clear its stance in support of abolition at the Vienna conference through two statements, including one from Pope Francis.

"The time has come to embrace the abolition of nuclear weapons as an essential foundation of collective security," the Vatican said in its paper.