September 28, 2015

WASHINGTON - Repeated calls from Pope Francis for the world to empty its nuclear weapons arsenals carry the moral weight of Catholic social teaching, a panel of experts concurred during a panel discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Yet, those pleas for nuclear disarmament are little known and often overlooked, the panel of experts said Sept. 17.

His pleas should come as no surprise because they reflect a view that has existed within the Holy See since the papacy of St. John XXIII and the days of the Second Vatican Council, said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M.

Citing statements from several Church authorities, Cantu said the Church has consistently questioned the morality of the use of nuclear weapons.

Cantu is chairman of the U.S bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The Vatican has always maintained that using nuclear weapons is immoral.

More recently, the Vatican and Pope Francis have moved away from accepting the concept of nuclear deterrence, saying such acceptance implies that it is acceptable to use such weapons.

Acknowledging the new perception, Maryann Cusimano Love, a professor at The Catholic University of America, said such statements reflect the moral dimensions of weapon production and stockpiling in the face of great human need in much of the world.

"He's trying to poke our consciences, poke our indifference," Cusimano Love said.

Pope Francis is saying it is time to counter the "logic of fear" with a "logic of solidarity" with the marginalized people of the world, she explained.

The third panelist, Sam Nunn, co-chairman and CEO of Nuclear Threat Initiative, welcomed the Church's raising moral questions about the world's nuclear arsenals.

Each panelist echoed Pope Francis' call for continued conversation.

"I think this what Pope Francis is saying when he says that his plan for peace is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue," Cusimano Love said.

"There is no person with whom we can't have dialogue no matter how diametrically opposed their viewpoints are."