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May 12, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters endorses the following statement by scientists and Catholic leaders, encouraging President Joseph Biden to work toward a world that is free of the nuclear threat. The statement is in alignment with the Corporate Stance, adopted by the Sisters in 2007, calling on the U.S. government “lead the way for the global abolition of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction by adopting a plan to lock down, reduce, and eliminate nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction.”
We are scientists committed to protecting health and safety, and Catholic leaders committed to the common good of all people. We are united in calling on President Biden to reduce the nuclear threat as our nation works with others for a world without nuclear weapons.
Scientific research has provided ample evidence of the devastating humanitarian and ecological consequences of the production and use of nuclear weapons. Testing and production has killed or impaired the health of many thousands. One nuclear bomb dropped on a major city could kill millions; a nuclear war could bring on a nuclear winter and kill billions. Spending on nuclear weapons diverts scarce resources from programs that improve human health and security.
Catholic social thought, whose principles find resonances in other religious traditions, forbids the use of weapons of mass destruction that would cause indiscriminate harm to civilians and damage disproportionate to any legitimate objective. The Catholic tradition has condemned the nuclear arms race as a theft from the poor. The arms race robs humanity of the resources it needs to address basic human needs and aggravates the underlying causes of war.
The year following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Albert Einstein warned: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” During his 2019 visit to Nagasaki, Pope Francis declared, “…[A] world without nuclear weapons is possible and
necessary…. We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint….”
Together we affirm President Biden’s extension of the New START Treaty with Russia as a solid first step. We pledge our support for additional steps to reform U.S. nuclear weapons policy, reduce nuclear dangers, and reaffirm a U.S. commitment to pursue a world free of the nuclear threat. We urge the Administration to:
declare that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first;
work with Russia and then with other nations to verifiably reduce nuclear arsenals;
redirect spending from new nuclear weapons and modernization programs toward other pressing needs that build human security;
affirm the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as complementary to existing agreements, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty;
work for a successful conclusion at the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, with nuclear states honoring their disarmament obligations;
aim to ratify and bring into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty;
promote a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty to prohibit production of weapons-grade materials;
strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance with disarmament obligations; and
extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, set to expire in 2022.
We will urge bipartisan support of an ambitious nuclear disarmament agenda. In his second inaugural address, President Reagan supported “the elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” In his Prague speech, President Obama “state[ed] clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” We call on President Biden to reaffirm the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and to take concrete steps to realize it.
Dr. Pierce S. Corden, Former Official, Arms Control Agency* and State Department*; Expert Adviser at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN*
Marie Dennis, Senior Advisor, Co-President (2007-2019), Pax Christi International
Tara Drozdenko, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director, Outrider Foundation
Elise D. García, OP, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Laura Grego, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Co-Director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists*
Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Dr. Gregory Hall, Associate Professor, Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce*
Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America*; Board Member, Arms Control Association*, Catholic Peacebuilding Network*
Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, Bishop of San Diego
Yuki Miyamoto, Ph.D., Associate Professor, DePaul University*
Most Reverend John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, Bishop President, Pax Christi USA
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark
Aditi Verma, Ph.D., Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School*
Frank von Hippel, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Program on Science & Global Security, Princeton University*, former White House official*
* Organizational affiliation for identification purposes only.
Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor.
February 11, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters was among members of a wide coalition of faith-based communities that signed on to a statement supporting the January 22, 2021, entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the “first international treaty to comprehensively ban nuclear weapons.”
In the statement, the faith leaders applaud the 86 signatory nation states – which does not include the United States – and note that the treaty “addresses the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and on indigenous peoples.” The statement further references the “existential threat to humanity” posed by nuclear weapons and the need to eliminate all nuclear weapons to ensure the safety of the planet.
The faith leaders encourage all nation states to sign the treaty and invite all people to join them in their efforts eliminate nuclear weapons. “At this historic moment, we must act decisively to strengthen the power of the TPNW upon its entry into force, and to work for peace, cooperation, and common security,” they write.
Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, said the TPNW and its support by faith leaders is an important step in helping to make the world safer. “The UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons might be our last chance to end the insanity of the possibility of nuclear war,” she said.
Even the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) – extended in 2019 by Russia President Vladimir Putin and supported by President Joe Biden – doesn’t go far enough, Sister Kathleen said. It would reduce each country’s arsenal to 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. “Why would we need even one nuclear warhead?” she asked.
The stated purpose of the arms build-up – deterrence, to prevent either side from using nuclear weapons – “defies all logic,” Sister Kathleen said. “[The existence of nuclear weapons] poses so many dangers. I wonder how many close calls have happened, where we were by mistake seconds away from an accidental nuclear catastrophe.”
While the issue of nuclear weapons has received little attention in recent years, Sister Kathleen said it is again recognized as a major issue. “People can easily forget that this is a constant threat,” she said. “We got away from worrying about nuclear weapons – until North Korea started testing. These past few years, Japan and South Korea were very threatened because of the saber-rattling and the rhetoric between North Korea and the United States.”
Highlighting the seriousness of the issue, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists earlier in January 2021 announced that it is keeping the hands of its famous Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight – less than two minutes to a possible global catastrophe.
“That’s the closest [to “midnight”] that it’s ever been,” Sister Kathleen said. “The scientists say unchecked climate change and nuclear weapons arsenals pose a continued threat.” This threat, she added, demonstrates the significance of the TPNW and the statement that the General Council signed.
Nuclear disarmament has been an issue for the Adrian Dominican Sisters for a long time, Sister Kathleen said. The Congregation’s Motherhouse Campus has been set apart as a nuclear-free zone for years.
In 2007, the Sisters approved a corporate stance on nuclear disarmament. “In corporate stances, you make a statement and then, more importantly, you work toward the implementation of the statement,” Sister Kathleen explained. “It becomes more than words on a page. It becomes something that you are aware of and act on.” Sisters and Associates have continued to take action for nuclear disarmament through the years, she said.
The Congregation’s stance and the recent statement by the coalition of faith- based groups reiterate a recent statement by Pope Francis during his visit to Hiroshima, that “the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral,” Sister Kathleen said. The Catholic Church has spoken out against nuclear war for years, at least from the time of the Second Vatican Council. Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) states that the nuclear arms race “is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree” (No. 81).
To learn about individual actions that may be taken against nuclear weapons, visit the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Action Alert page and scroll down about half of the page.