Bishop Hubbard Howard (Albany, NY) and Bishop William Murphy (Rockville Centre, NY) share leadership for the United States Catholic Bishop’s Conference Department of Justice, Peace, and Development. “It is a bifurcated committee,” said Hubbard, “where my staff focus on international issues and Bishop Murphy’s staff look at domestic issues within our own country, and the title indicates that if you want to work for peace you have to addresses the injustices underlying conflicts as well as examine structural problems such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and other festering conditions that often lead to conflict and warfare. Each month I write two or three letters to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that represent the Bishop’s Conference on different international issues in view of Vatican diplomacy and the social teachings of the Church.” Several important and ongoing tasks of this department were reviewed last week at the bishop’s meeting.
The entire Bishops Conference is endorsing a new DVD and study guide, "Nuclear Tipping Point," for use with adolescents and young adults. This film was produced by General Colin Powell and includes interviews with former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Senator Sam Nunn. Each of these experienced United States leaders come together and talk about the compelling need for a world free of nuclear weapons. The Study Guide is replete with discussions questions as well as an annotated bibliography of church teachings including encyclicals and statements including the 1983 Bishops Pastoral Letter on War and Peace, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.” Hubbard hopes these materials will be welcomed in Catholic high schools, CCD classes, parishes, and colleges. “This teaching tool teaches Catholic social doctrine including landmark social encyclicals and tries to unpack these rich teachings in an interesting way to reach our young people,” said Hubbard.
Another task of Hubbard’s committee is to create greater freedom and exchanges between citizens of the United States and Cuba--these countries for decades having a significant barrier between each other while being with 90 miles of each other geographically. “Last week I communicated with Cardinal Ortega of Havanna and we spoke of efforts to open up tourism between the two countries and to bring forth aid from the United States that will support agriculture and help improve the lives of millions of people,” said Hubbard.
The 1983 Pastoral Letter on War and Peace is arguably one of the most important Catholic documents of the last century, and new challenges confront the equilibrium of peaceful regions around the world in the form of “drone” aircraft which may be piloted by remote control from places of safety thousands of miles away. These devices bring a new psychological dimension to warfare in that there is no personal risk to the operator of the system. There are three types of systems: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs); Remote Piloted Vehicles (RPVs); and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). There are even insect-sized Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) envisioned in the near future.
Hubbard noted that this topic was brought up at the last meeting as well as recognition of the eventual need for moral consideration and/or judgment of these devices. “I don’t feel we know enough about the technology of these weapons as they are cutting-edge breakthroughs requiring more study and understanding. However, this is something that we as bishops will be examining in the very near future,” said Hubbard.
Your comments on these topics today are greatly appreciated.
Free copies of the DVD "Nuclear Tipping Point” are available here.