1989 April 9th – 3rd Sun Easter (Bulletin Letters)
Bishop Gumbleton Crosses the Line at Offutt
Attached to this weeks’ bulletin is a flyer announcing the visit of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton to Omaha, May 8 and 9. Bishop Gumbleton is the Catholic auxiliary bishop from Detroit. He is president of Pax Christi USA and has been active in this faith based peace movement for over fifteen years. In May of 1983 the U. S. Catholic Bishops issued their peace pastoral, “The Challenge of Peace – God’ s Promise and our Response”. Pax Christi has called for national action to commemorate this document. This years campaign is called “From Deterrence to Love”. The goal of the campaign is to build a consensus within the Catholic community and the wider faith community of the immorality of the United States nuclear deterrence policies.
Five years ago in their peace pastoral the U. S. Bishops wrote, “The crisis of which we speak arises from this fact: Nuclear war threatens the existence of our planet. This is a more menacing threat than any the world has known. It is neither tolerable nor necessary that human beings live under this threat; but removing it will require a major effort of intelligence, courage, and faith”. In their pastoral, the U.S Bishops were following the examples set by the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II in the outright condemnation of the Nuclear Arms Race. The bishops left a major loophole in their statement with their conditional acceptance of nuclear deterrence; a conditional acceptance despite their recognition that “deterrence is the most dangerous dimension of the nuclear arms race”. The bishops could not bring themselves to an outright condemnation of deterrence. They took their lead from Pope John Paul II who stated in June 1982 “deterrence based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable.” The United States bishop’s conditional acceptance of deterrence was based on deterrence that was both balanced and temporary and leads to true disarmaments.
In the last five years, the MX missiles, the Trident missiles and the Bl Bomber have come on line, the development and the deployment of the Stealth Bomber and the cruise missiles continue, and Star Wars, the most destabilizing arms project, continues to be funded. An eighteen-month unilateral Soviet halting of nuclear testing went unanswered by the U.S. while al1 we can show for disarmament in the Reagan yeas is a ratified INF treaty: a treaty that is mostly cosmetic. With the completion of the INF treaty 2,000 nuclear weapons wil1 be dismantled, yet since 1981 we have added 6,000 new nuclear weapons to our arsenal.
Five years after the pastoral our nuclear deterrence policies are neither balanced nor temporary, nor have they lead towards any real disarmament. Bishop Gumbleton and Pax Christi are now asking Catholics and other people of good Faith to come together in one voice and declare our nuclear deterrence policies immoral. It should be noted that the U.S. Methodist bishops have all ready taken this step in their pastoral letter on nuclear weapons called, “In Defense of Creation”. In this respect we are following their lead.
It is fitting that Bishop Gumbleton bring the Pax Christi campaign of “Deterrence to Love” to Omaha, the home of the Strategic Air Command Headquarters (S.A.C.) S.A.C. is the command center for all our land and air based strategic nuclear weapons systems. A1so stationed at S.AC is the ‘Joint Strategic Targeting Planning Staff’. This targeting staff is responsible for choosing the targets for all U.S. nuclear weapons. Their targeting strategies are taken from the ‘Single Integrated Operational Plan’ (SIOP). This document outlines all possible U.S. nuclear war plans. Since the late 70’s the U.S. has been moving from a policy of deterrence to a policy of fighting and prevailing in a nuclear war. The Reagan years have bought on line the nuclear hardware necessary to carry out strategies and policies that can initiate or sustain a protracted nuclear war with the stated goal of winning. More dangerous than the weapons themselves, the work of the Joint Strategic Targeting Planning Staff represents the faulty thinking behind the Arms Race.
Declaring our nuclear deterrence policies immoral goes to the heart of the nuclear arms race dilemma. Declaring nuclear deterrence immoral demands our rethinking of war in an entirely new way, the “moral turnabout” that Pope John Paul II has called for in our nuclear dei1berations. Acceptance of deterrence has for too long served as the moral loophole that has allowed the Arms Race to go unabated. Every day at the Joint Strategic Targeting Planning Staff office human beings, none I ‘m sure who are Catholic, are plotting and updating nuclear war scenarios in direct violation of the Church’s moral teachings on nuclear weapons.
It is particularly heartening that Bishop Gumbleton is not only bringing his campaign on deterrence to Omaha in word but in deed. Also Bishop Gumbleton will be giving a lecture at Creighton University at 7: 30 P.M .on Monday, May 8th. The following day after presiding at an open Eucharistic Liturgy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Omaha at 10:00 A.M., the Bishop and others wi1l car caravan to Bellevue, Nebraska and witness and support a line crossing at SAC’s gate. It is not enough to say SAC’s mission is immoral. People wi11 need to act out their belief as well.
I am reminded of the words of Bishop Dingman following the first Faith and Resistance Retreat, which he hosted in Glenwood, Iowa, February 1985. Six hundred people attended the three-day retreat that ended with 226 of them ‘crossing the line’ at SAC. Bishop Dingman wrote, “l am beginning to understand that in order to defend ourselves nonviolently we must begin by disarming ourselves nonviolently…Through a discipline of nonviolent direct action we can develop whole new ways of thinking and action that will one day help us break free of our dependency on deterrence.”
We are not going to think our way out of the arms race. We are not going to educate our way out of the arms race. We are going to act our way out of this nuclear peril with a nonviolent activism at personal risk and sacrifice, knowing minds will change only after hearts are touched. What is needed is a path to conversion. Those crossing the line at SAC on May 9th will be showing us a path, a way out of our nuclear bondage.
I urge all to consider coming to listen to Bishop Gumbleton on May 8th at Creighton and joining us at the gate at SAC on May 9th.
FRANK’S ROLE IN MAY: I do not plan on crossing the 1ine at SAC in May. I will be doing much of the organizing for this event. Plus I will get to introduce Bishop Gumbelton at Creighton on May 8th.