With acknowledgement to the Friend, 16 April 2010, in which this article appeared.
Keith O’Brien, cardinal archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, would like the UK government to use the pope’s September visit to announce the dismantling of Trident. Ken Veitch was there when he said it.
I was present when Keith O’Brien, cardinal archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, spoke on ‘Trident, Viewed with the Eyes of a Twentyfirst Century Faith’, as part of the 2010 series of Hexham Debates originated by local Friends.
The Debates cover aspects of war, peace and democracy. Keith O’Brien’s talk touched on all these, and was well received by a capacity audience. Questions afterwards reflected the deep public concern about Trident.
Notwithstanding our economic plight, and the government’s pledge, back in 1968, to work for general and complete disarmament, Trident is being renewed at a cost of many billions. In September 2009 Keith O’Brien was at the UN General Assembly when Barack Obama vowed to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Gordon Brown supported this Motion – then endorsed the Trident renewal.
The cardinal highlighted this volteface and outlined the work of the Scottish RC Peace and Justice Group, working closely with the other churches and the Quakers in Scotland, to draw attention to the inherent dangers and immorality of Trident.
Describing this as an ‘awesome force’, the cardinal reminded us that just one of our four submarines on constant secret patrol carries the equivalent of 384 Hiroshimas. Trident, far from being ‘independent’ ties us inescapably to the military policies of the United States.
Keith O’Brien referred to the statement of pope John XXIII that ‘justice, right reason, and consideration for human life and dignity urgently demand… that nuclear weapons be banned’. That was nearly fifty years ago. The cardinal labelled the UK’s continuing fixation with nuclear ‘deterrence’ weapons as a moral failure, a sign of weakness and a posture of bullying, a threat of undue force, the use of which would kill the innocents on a massive scale and threaten the very future of our planet.
I heard definite murmurs of approval through the hall as Keith O’Brien outlined the case for the UK to take a lead for real disarmament. Our current nuclear weapons system is already near the end of its life.
Pope Benedict has described the UK’s nuclear weapons policy as ‘ baneful and just plain wrong, based on a false premise of what security really means’. The cardinal asked: ‘Wouldn’t it be something if the UK announced the dismantling of Trident during the forthcoming papal visit to Britain?’ This would be a key move, allowing the UK to speak with authority to other nations now striving to copy our example and deploy nuclear weapons.
Citing one of his favourite texts from Matthew, ‘the people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned’, the cardinal hopes and prays that the light will dawn on our political leadership.
Cardinal O’Brien reminded us that Trident will be a key issue in the coming election. He urges everyone to ‘ stand up and be counted’, ‘ to use the c(C)ross wisely’ and to raise the matter with election candidates. He suggested visiting the website www.endnuclearweapons.org.uk of the ecumenical coalition ‘Now is the Time’ working to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (10 March) to sign their on-line petition.
At this meeting the medium was impressive as the message; one attender told me Keith O’Brien brought love and warmth and humanity to this occasion. I agree. These qualities are the very antithesis of Trident, and call to mind the words of our 1804-5 Yearly Meeting:
‘Guard against placing your dependence on fleets and armies; be peaceable yourselves in words and actions, and pray to the Father of the Universe that he would breathe the spirit of reconciliation into the hearts of his erring and contending creatures.’
Full article published in http://www.thefriend.org