‘Immorality’ doesn’t play into policies

During visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on Sunday, Pope Francis pronounced that, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral.” He added, “As is the possession of atomic weapons.”

For many years, the Roman Catholic Church seemed to sanction policies by the United States and a few other powers to maintain nuclear arsenals to deter use of atomic bombs by other countries — specifically, the old Soviet Union and China. Speaking in the only cities where atomic bombs have been used in war, Francis seemed to be disavowing the church’s previous stance.

One wonders if he has ever read of the horrors of firebombing a city, as the United States did during the closing months of World War II, in attempts to convince Japanese leaders to end the war. More people perished in firebomb attacks than in the two nuclear explosions.

And one wonders whether Francis has considered how many more Japanese and Americans would have died had the use of atomic bombs not ended the war. In all probability, continued resistance by the Japanese would have resulted in far more deaths than occurred in the atomic bombings.

But that was a long time ago. What about now? Should the United States and Russia scrap their nuclear arsenals, in compliance with the pope’s statements?

How would Islamic Iran react? How about atheist North Korea? Or China?

Surely Pope Francis understands that the very last thing Americans — and, we suspect, Russians — want is to see nuclear weapons used again.

But leaders in some other nuclear-armed countries view their weapons, and missiles to deliver them, as means to dominate others. “Immoral” is not a word figuring into their policies.

Sadly, then, the pope’s words reflect hope, not reality.


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