When used as an instrument of deterrence, nuclear weapons hold innocent people hostage for political and military purposes. Therefore, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence is morally corrupt. It loses sight of the inviolable connection between means and end by failing to recognize that just ends cannot be achieved through wrongful means.
During the past 50 years the production and testing of nuclear weapons has proven grievously harmful to individuals and the environment in the vicinity of mining operations, processing plants, production facilities, and test sites. Numerous locales are burdened with lingering radioactivity and deadly waste products that will take decades to clean up. Some sites may never be restored to safe occupancy.
Psalm 24 teaches, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." The First Book of Moses, also known as Genesis, indicates that God made Earth available to humankind to till and keep, that is, to use for mutual benefit and to preserve. Because production and use of nuclear weapons causes grave harm to Earth and its inhabitants, we as good stewards of God's Earth have an obligation to rid the world of this perilous threat.
Numerous religious bodies have condemned nuclear weapons and have called for their abolition. Thus, the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1983 stated: "We believe that the time has come when the churches must unequivocally declare that the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned on ethical and theological grounds. Furthermore, we appeal for the institution of a universal covenant to this effect so that nuclear weapons and warfare are delegitimized and condemn as violations of international law."
Speaking for the Holy See before the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on October 15, 1997, Archbishop Renato Martino stated: "Nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. They cannot be justified. They deserve condemnation. The preservation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty demands an unequivocal commitment to their abolition....This is a moral challenge, a legal challenge and a political challenge. That multiple-based challenge must be met by the application of our humanity."
In principle the nations of Earth agree on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons. Indeed, they have made a strong commitment in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) "to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." After reviewing this article at the request of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice unanimously agreed that "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."
Now is the time to take this obligation seriously. We call upon the members of the NPT Preparatory Committee to make the 1998 session a notable landmark in the journey toward the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
First, we ask the delegates to call resolutely upon the nuclear weapon states to embark upon a series of steps along the road leading to nuclear abolition. There is broad consensus among study commissions, retired generals and admirals, scientists, and other civilian experts on what these steps should be. They include:
Declare a policy of no first use amongst themselves and non-use in relation to non-nuclear weapon states.
Cease all research, development, production, and deployment of new nuclear weapons.
Refrain from modernizing the existing nuclear arsenal and increasing the number of deployed nuclear weapons.
Take all nuclear forces off alert and remove warheads from delivery vehicles.
Achieve faster and deeper bilateral reduction of nuclear weapons by the United States and Russia.
It would be appropriate for the NPT Preparatory Committee to require the nuclear weapon states to provide annual progress reports on how they are carrying out such measures.
Second, we ask the delegates to take the lead in commencing the process of developing a nuclear weapons convention to outlaw and abolish all nuclear weapons. One appropriate method would be to establish a working group of the NPT Preparatory Committee for this purpose. Although the nuclear weapons states should be part of this process, other nations need not wait until they are willing to become engaged. Rather as stewards of God's Earth, non-nuclear weapon states can begin the task of developing a nuclear weapons convention that specifies a fair and effective program to abolish all nuclear weapons.
We appeal to delegates to the NPT Preparatory Committee to consider what is best for the whole Earth and its inhabitants when they vote on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Loyalty to all humankind exceeds that of loyalty within political blocs of nations. We urge delegates to act now decisively and courageously for the benefit of all the peoples of Earth.
Godfried Cardinal Danneels , President Pax Christi International Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser , General Secretary World Council of Churches