Nuclear Deterrent Policy Called Immoral by Bishop

Times Staff Writer

"We are destroying ourselves spiritually" by relying on nuclear deterrents, Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton told an audience of more than 400 people at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange Wednesday night.

"The use of weapons of indiscriminate destruction is never justified," Gumbleton told the gathering and is thus "clearly immoral."

The gathering, the first of a lecture series called "Shalom," the Hebrew word for peace, was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Peace Ministry of Orange County and Loyola Marymount University Orange campus. It included clergy and representatives of various faiths.

Gumbleton, 57, serves as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Detroit and is responsible for inner-city parishes. In 1983, he was one of five bishops who drafted a pastoral letter for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called "Challenges of Peace: God's Promise and Response." Gumbleton now serves as president of Pax Christi--USA, a Catholic anti-war organization.

"The strategy of deterrents involves us in a terrible evil," Gumbleton said, echoing the bishops' pastoral letter. However, he admitted the possibility that the strategy "has a good purpose"--ensuring security and survival--and, until recently, may have succeeded.

But, he said, "the era of armaments is over."

Use of Nuclear Weapons

The intent to use nuclear weapons, which is an integral part of the strategy, Gumbleton said, is "an occasion of sin."

Gumbleton's topic for the evening, "Linking Peace With Justice," tied the issue of war and peace to the bishops' equally controversial pastoral letter published in 1986 on poverty and the U.S. economy.

Gumbleton quoted Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle, saying that the reason the United States must depend on a nuclear arsenal is "in order to protect our privileged place in the world," with 6% of the planet's population and 50% of its wealth. Hunthausen has been disciplined by the Vatican for his controversial positions on the application of Catholic doctrine.

"We must do a moral about-face," Gumbleton said.

A society should be measured, he said, by "how the poor and the powerless are treated" and whether that society "protects or undermines the dignity of the human person."

He asked: "Where is our spirit of generosity and compassion and love? We seem to have become callous and indifferent to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters."

Gumbleton, considered one of the most liberal Catholic bishops in the U.S. conference, is the recipient of numerous awards and several honorary degrees and is adjunct professor at St. John's Provincial Seminary and Mercy College in Detroit. His articles on issues facing the church in the modern world have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Catholic Worker.

See Security Shrinking

In an interview before his speech, Gumbleton said he believes that the church should be concerned with "getting people out of a willed apathy" on the issue of arms control. So far in the arms race, he said, "each major step has made the world less secure."

Those Catholics working in the defense industry, he said, should "take it as a matter of conscience" to re-examine their jobs in light of the bishops' pastoral letter.

For those in the military, the bishop's judgment was less ambiguous. "A person who has the intent of using an indiscriminate weapon," he said, is "evil" and "sinful."

Gumbleton also criticized the upcoming ABC television miniseries, "Amerika," saying it might "cause a lot of people to build up negative feelings about the Soviet Union."

A slender, intense man with thinning silver hair, Gumbleton lives and works in Detroit's inner city, not far from where he grew up. He wears no bishop's ring, he said, because "I'd rather be unidentified.

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