Most Rev. John C. Wester is the Roman Catholic archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M.

Posts By This Author

Nuclear Weapons Disarmament Is a ‘Pro-Life Issue’

by John C. Wester 12-26-2022
Three ways people of faith can advocate for a nuclear-free world.
An illustration with a red backdrop of two hands wrapped around a nuclear missile that's been broken in half.

wenjin chen / iStock

IN NOVEMBER, a stray missile from the Russia-Ukraine war landed in Poland, killing two men in their 60s who worked at a grain warehouse. It took several emergency meetings with NATO officials to determine whether Russia had intentionally escalated the war into the region of the Western military alliance. All parties deemed it an “accident.” (The missile came from Ukraine.)

What if that stray missile had a nuclear warhead?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine must be firmly condemned, as well as his cruel and illegal war with its continued escalation. But accidents happen. Even a limited or regional use of nuclear weapons could have planetary effects, blocking the sun enough to cause a global temperature drop, collapsing crop production, and resulting in massive starvation, according to a report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

As the Poland example shows, today we are facing the most serious nuclear threats since the Cuban missile crisis 60 years ago, which then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said we survived only by luck.

Nuclear weapons raise biblical issues. The continuing survival of God’s creation and the human race cannot rely on just “luck” but instead needs providential intervention. A few weeks before the November missile crisis in Poland, Pope Francis said, “Today, in fact, something we dreaded and hoped never to hear of again is threatened outright: the use of atomic weapons, which even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued wrongly to be produced and tested.”