Disarmament Week: Disarming Our Fears and Our World

Nuclear war protesters demonstrate outside the White House in Washington (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Each year on the anniversary of its founding (October 24), the United Nations observes Disarmament Week. This seems particularly fitting since the United Nations was founded “to maintain international peace and security.”

Whenever I think of disarmament, I am reminded of these haunting passages from the Second Vatican Council: “[T]he arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree.” “Rather than being eliminated thereby, the causes of war are in danger of being gradually aggravated. While extravagant sums are being spent for the furnishing of ever new weapons, an adequate remedy cannot be provided for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world” (Gaudium et spes, 81).

It is no secret that our nation and world are caught in this vicious trap. Congress and the Administration have proposed dramatic increases in military spending at the same time that they have propose dramatic cuts to resources for diplomacy and human development/poverty reduction. Our nation already spends about one-third of all military spending worldwide. The United States spends as much as the next eight nations combined, many of them are our allies.

I believe this overemphasis on armaments is driven by deep-seated fears and a lack of hope. If we want to move our world to resist the arms race, we must first resist the fears that drive it. It is possible to overcome fears and to reverse the arms race. And this doesn’t require optimism or blind trust. It just demands that we consider other options in dialogue with other nations.

For example, our nation could embrace the Arms Trade Treaty. This Treaty regulates international trade in conventional arms, making such trade more transparent and accountable. It entered into force on December 24, 2014. Ninety-two states have ratified the treaty, and 41 states have signed, but not ratified it, including the United States. The failure of our nation to ratify that Treaty is particularly damaging since our nation is the world’s largest arms exporter.

In addressing the vexing issue of nuclear disarmament, Pope Francis wrote: “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. … When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.” The Holy Father went on to say, “The desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart. … This desire can never be satisfied by military means alone, much less the possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction” (December 7, 2014).

Our hearts long for peace. We must disarm our fears in order to disarm our world.

Stephen M. Colecchi is director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Going Deeper

The Catholic Study Guide for Use with Nuclear Tipping Point can help small groups reflect on Catholic social teaching on nuclear weapons while watching the Nuclear Tipping Point film.

“All in one place together”: Pentecost and Immigrant Lives

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” On Pentecost the Holy Spirit showed up in power to publicly launch the church as a people of solidarity. After Jesus’ death disciples were fishing, hiding, and choosing another apostle (by casting lots) to replace Judas after his tragic suicide. Meanwhile, the risen Jesus appeared when least expected; then they watched him ascend into glory…and waited.

2013-08-27 20.53.57As we live Pentecost in the present, sisters and brothers at the border, in barrios, businesses, and backyards across the United States find themselves in a holding pattern, waiting for immigration reform and even DACA/DAPA relief to be released from the grip of the powerful. These disciples too wait, actively.

In the Diocese of Orange, Catholic immigrants, recent and not-so-recent, both citizens and undocumented from parishes throughout the county and across ethnic communities have been working together to change the narrative in Orange County. Neighbor to Murrieta, we’re no stranger to strong anti-immigrant sentiment, even within the Catholic community. How easy it is to forget our own history of discrimination by groups like the Klan against Catholics and immigrants. We have to face our own sinfulness, our own forgetfulness of the ways that we fail to welcome others – even at times actively thwarting their God-given dignity.

So, like others across the country, we meet with and alongside our immigrant sisters and brothers to listen, to advocate together, to learn how to share the spaces in which we live. This has taken some beautiful shapes: Dreamers transforming hearts through sharing their stories; Parishes tailoring outreach events to their particular contexts; Partnering with neighboring dioceses to host an annual Immigration Summit; Speaking truth to power in legislative visits; 2,000 people prayerfully processing from a local parish to Rep. Ed Royce’s district office in Brea, CA; 3,000 faithful gathering together for prayer and action with bishops, priests, and religious at Christ Cathedral; Parish leaders holding community forums to educate on the CA AB-60 Driver’s License law; 30 buses from Orange County caravanning to Southern California Regional Mass for All Immigrants in Los Angeles; and Trained leaders at Parish Hubs in every deanery in the diocese working closely with Catholic Charities to organize for expanded capacity for DACA/DAPA processing in Orange County.

As Pope Francis encourages us, we can’t fear “getting our hands dirty.” This activity has taken enormous effort on the part of many parish volunteers, the staff of Catholic Charities, diocesan pastoral center staff, and the leadership of our clergy. Our Bishop Kevin Vann has led the way, meeting with legislators, leading prayer services, and exhorting us to focus on the impact of our actions and policies on people versus an ideological focus on “issues.”

That such efforts are not without criticism is a sign that the reign of God is among us challenging the status quo. Even the sneering accusation of public drunkenness hurled at Peter bears witness in its own way to the cross (Acts 2:13f). It recognizes that the diverse group of “outsiders” suddenly coming together in solidarity poses a direct challenge to the logic of the principalities and powers, which today entraps us in regimes of “whiteness,” of political “respectability,” of liberalism’s exclusion of religious claims and of the political witness that is the church.

What a gift, then to see whites rich and poor from Catholic parishes and other ecumenical partners, Orange County Chinese Catholic Association, Korean and Vietnamese Catholic Centers, alongside our leaders of Hispanic movements and communities such as Renovación Carismática Católica, Jóvenes Para Cristo, Neocatechumenal Way, young and old—to be all in one place together!

Living Pentecost in the present, we discover that in faithful waiting, whether by working to provide for our loved ones (here or elsewhere), by keeping our families together in the face of deportation threats, by educating people in our parish, or by appointing a twelfth apostle—we Gentiles have already received the radical hospitality of the God of Israel, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Greg profile picGreg Walgenbach is the Director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in California (Orange County).