The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called today for the Senate to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, during its lame-duck session. Since the story is being ignored by news organizations (except for Catholic news services such as Zenit and CNS) we’ll call your attention to it here.
Writing to each senator in behalf of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany framed the issue in terms of the sanctity of human life. Hubbard, who heads the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote:
Both the Holy See and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops support the New START Treaty because it is a modest step toward a world with greater respect for human life.
Ratification of the New START Treaty is critical because verification ensures transparency and transparency builds trust. The earlier verification and monitoring requirements expired one year ago. Without a new treaty there is no verification requirement in place, a disturbing and potentially dangerous situation our nation has not faced in decades.
The Church’s concern for nuclear weapons grows out of its commitment to the sanctity of human life.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the conference, added his voice to a USCCB statement on the letter to the Senate.
Statements such as this are often overlooked in the news media, which (along with not a few bishops) prefer to emphasize the bishops’ opposition to abortion and gay rights and not their stands on social justice or war and peace. This statement probably will be overlooked, too, although it’s quite newsworthy when leaders of the nation’s largest religious denomination speak out at a crucial point in a major policy debate such as this, seeking to cast the issue in moral terms. As the bishops portray it, President Obama is trying to get Republicans to pass a treaty that raises respect for human life and “makes our nation and world safer by reducing nuclear weapons in a verifiable way.”
There are signs that some Republicans may be willing to vote for the treaty, which needs 67 votes to be ratified in the Senate. But the debate is far from over. If the bishops really want to bring the considerable body of church teaching on reducing nuclear weaponry to bear in this debate, they’ll need to go further than issuing a statement and talk about it in their individual dioceses.