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Faith and the Marketplace--An option to purchase the American Dream one-week at a time.

by Fr. John Rausch

a Buddhist monk banged her drum as a phalanx of twenty-one people marched silently to the property line at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant in Oak Ridge, TN.

Two Department of Energy officials, referring to the platoon of uniformed police nearby, told the protestors if they crossed the line, they would be arrested for criminal trespass. The spokesperson of the marchers raised his voice: "We are pilgrims of peace, and we have come non-violently to protest the production of nuclear weapons." Police officers silenced the squawk from their personal radios to listen. "We are pilgrims of peace, and we are marching." The twenty-one stepped across the line and were arrested.

The protest attempted to raise consciousness about U.S. nuclear weapons policies. Even with no formidable enemy, at all times the U.S. keeps on alert more than 2,300 warheads capable of delivering within an hour the equivalent destructive power of 44,000 Hiroshimas. With more than 12,000 nuclear weapons in America and Europe's arsenal, arms expert William Arken says, "We actually have a greater capacity to destroy Russian nuclear forces than we did 10 years ago." The Y-12 plant coordinates the Stockpile Stewardship Program that certifies the safety, reliability and performance of American nuclear weapons for the next 100 years.

But, the peace dove currently offers a chance to escape the threat of nuclear annihilation with a precious gift of time. Not since the end of World War II has the world found a more opportune moment to rid itself of nuclear weapons. The arms race, run principally by the U.S. and the Soviet Union, relied on the Cold War. Yet within the recent past the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union split apart and the Cold War ended. These transformations came not from bombs and war, but from the power of people wanting to live freely in dignity. People could also demand the abolition of nuclear weapons.

While nonproliferation remains the official policy of the United States, India, Pakistan and Israel have joined the nuclear club. Other nations with fewer resources are working to develop chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. As a result, a Presidential Decision Directive issued in November 1997, expanded U.S. policy to permit the use of nuclear weapons against countries with nuclear, chemical or biological capabilities. Sheer prudence has prevented the U.S. from introducing tactical nuclear weapons since WW II, but one preemptive or retaliatory nuclear bomb could forever change the way nations fight regional conflicts. The nuclear genie would escape again and roam freely.

The morality of nuclear weapons remains uncompromisingly clear from the words of Vatican II: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." Even small nuclear devices kill so many that their use would violate the consistent life ethic. The U.S. Catholic bishops wrote in their 1993 pastoral, "Sown in Peace": "The eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is more than a moral ideal; it should be a policy goal."

The technology exists to dismantle nuclear weapons and build a worldwide inspection program, but the initiative requires a revolution in moral consciousness. The $35 billion currently spent on maintaining the American nuclear stockpile could support strategies for nonviolent conflict resolution and programs to build mutual trust among factions. The words of Paul VI still ring prophetic: "If you want peace, work for justice." With its precious gift of time, the world needs more pilgrims of peace willing to march.

Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in theMay 1999 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue. Fr. John Rausch, a Glenmary priest, teaches at the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center, Berea, Ky. His column appears monthly in many Catholic journals and in ours beginning this month, courtesy of the Friends of the Good News. When you purchase books, videos, etc. from this site, we receive a referral fee from them that support the work of the Friends of the Good News.