Renowned peace campaigner, Bruce Kent, has called on the Catholic bishops of England and Wales to condemn the Trident replacement plans.
Speaking to The Tablet at the 27th Ash Wednesday Witness at the Ministry of Defence, at the start of Lent, Mr Kent said: “It’s a time of penance, and prayer. And here is the most awful thing in the world, weapons that can destroy whole cities and thousands of people” (below) and that triggering a nuclear attack is “absolutely impossible, morally”.
He acknowledged that the bishops have condemned nuclear weapons in general, and singled out Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon, for his stance on nuclear weapons.
After urging the Bishops’ Conference to speak out about Trident replacement, that Christian CND has estimated will cost more than £200 billion, he continued: “Now that we’re going to spend £200 billion on more nuclear weapons, I would expect a statement from the bishops about the immorality of it. And I’m still waiting”.
On April 5th, The Times reported that senior clergy are calling on Westminster Abbey to cancel a ceremony to honour Trident submarine crews, planned for May 3, to mark 50 years of Britain’s “continuous at-sea deterrent”, because it appears to “celebrate” nuclear weapons.
Today Dr Julian Lewis, MP, Chairman, defence committee, countered one assertion in a letter:
“Far from being “designed to indiscriminately kill and destroy thousands of innocent civilians”, as (the Bishop of Colchester) asserts, these weapons have been created — and for 50 years successfully deployed by the Royal Navy — to eliminate any realistic possibility of hostile powers threatening to kill millions of British civilians with impunity”. He did not cite the Bishop of Chelmsford’s more accurate reference to an affirmation in July last year by the church’s General Synod, that (emphasis added):
“(N)uclear weapons, through their indiscriminate and destructive potential, present a distinct category of weaponry that requires Christians to work tirelessly for their elimination”.
Lambeth Palace said that there were no plans for the Bishop to the Armed Forces or the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the invitation-only ceremony, which will be attended by Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, Earl Howe, the defence minister, and Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the First Sea Lord.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, also said that he did not doubt Westminster Abbey’s good intentions in celebrating those men and women who serve in the Royal Navy on these nuclear submarines, but saw this service as appearing also to celebrate the weapons, adding:
“I hope the abbey will include other voices in this service which can bear witness to the horror of nuclear weapons and the growing consensus . . . to work for their elimination.”