During his brief visit to the USA Pope Francis mentioned three prophetic individuals whose words might penetrate the consciousness of a nation that is considered “weak and vulnerable” by several candidates for Commander-In-Chief. The BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS posts a “Doomsday Clock” on every cover. In 2015 the long hand was moved to three minutes before midnight (the hour of nuclear conflagration). 2015 is a perfect moment to review what three prophets were trying to warn about.
DOROTHY DAY pointed out: ”Take the people to the fire (Nazi concentration camps); take the fire to the people (Dresden fire bombing, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen) it is still the same incineration and murder of children, women, men.” Day who died at 80 years of age was called “the single most significant, Catholic lay person of the 20th century.” (Commonwealth)
MARTIN LUTHER KING was appalled over US slaughter and dropping tons of Agent Orange during the Vietnam debacle. Columnist Anthony Lewis of THE NEW YORK TIMES was also critic of US foreign policy but not so forceful as King who said: ”The US is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
THOMAS MERTON wrote frequently from his Trappist monastery, criticizing our war in Vietnam. Letters poured into his Kentucky place of peace telling the abbot to silence Merton’s prophetic condemnation of our war based upon a Gulf of Tonkin lie. Merton did not write directly to magazines but sent personal letters urging peace to W.Ping Ferry (1910-1995) in Scarsdale, NY. Ferry in turn gave the letters to magazines so Merton could obey his superior yet continue denouncing warfare. In 1984 Ferry published only 500 copies of a book entitled Letters from Tom.
Pope John XXIII urged abolition of nuclear weapons fifty years ago. Pope Francis cannot be demoted by repeating calls for nuclear abolition in December 2014 and again in September 2015. Biblical logic is extremely simple: If it is wrong to kill someone, the very thought of wanting to do so is also evil.
Dorothy Day, ML King and Thomas Merton pose an innocent question to Mr. Obama and the entire government of the USA: For what purpose has the Pentagon submitted plans for the B-61-12, the most lethal, expensive nuclear weapon in our arsenal? Mr. Obama once talked about reductions in city/country-destroying armaments. UN Resolution 1653(1961) and Vatican Council statements (1963) have clearly condemned any country that uses such weapons. In an age striving for a degree of sincerity, do we qualify as a nation?
Military historians note that every weapon ever made in history has eventually been used on an “enemy.”
In 1968 Merton called for formation of an ecological consciousness – “and fast.”
Emphasis by Pope Francis on protecting “our common home” drew anger from some observers. A nuclear exchange would certainly be the worst ecological disaster possible. The USA in 2012 had only 123 burn units to treat victims who might survive nuclear warfare. UN chief Koffi Anan quoted Kruschev who said, “The living would envy the dead.”