Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Leading Scientists and Catholic Leaders Call on President Biden to Work for a World Free of the Nuclear Threat

Susan Gunn, Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, signed this statement from a group of scientists and Catholic leaders calling on President Biden to work to reduce the nuclear threat.

Read the statement as a PDF

May 12, 2021

We are scientists committed to protecting health and safety, and Catholic leaders committed to the common good of all people.  We are united in calling on President Biden to reduce the nuclear threat as our nation works with others for a world without nuclear weapons.

Scientific research has provided ample evidence of the devastating humanitarian and ecological consequences of the production and use of nuclear weapons. Testing and production has killed or impaired the health of many thousands. One nuclear bomb dropped on a major city could kill millions; a nuclear war could bring on a nuclear winter and kill billions. Spending on nuclear weapons diverts scarce resources from programs that improve human health and security. 

Catholic social thought, whose principles find resonances in other religious traditions, forbids the use of weapons of mass destruction that would cause indiscriminate harm to civilians and damage disproportionate to any legitimate objective.  The Catholic tradition has condemned the nuclear arms race as a theft from the poor.  The arms race robs humanity of the resources it needs to address basic human needs and aggravates the underlying causes of war.

The year following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Albert Einstein warned:  “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”  During his 2019 visit to Nagasaki, Pope Francis declared, “…[A] world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary…. We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint….”

Together we affirm President Biden’s extension of the New START Treaty with Russia as a solid first step.  We pledge our support for additional steps to reform U.S. nuclear weapons policy, reduce nuclear dangers, and reaffirm a U.S. commitment to pursue a world free of the nuclear threat.  We urge the Administration to:

  • declare that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first;
  • work with Russia and then with other nations to verifiably reduce nuclear arsenals;
  •  redirect spending from new nuclear weapons and modernization programs toward other pressing needs that build human security;
  • affirm the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as complementary to existing agreements, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty;
  • work for a successful conclusion at the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, with nuclear states honoring their disarmament obligations;
  • aim to ratify and bring into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty;
  • promote a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty to prohibit production of weapons-grade materials; 
  • strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance with disarmament obligations; and
  • extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, set to expire in 2022.

We will urge bipartisan support of an ambitious nuclear disarmament agenda.  In his second inaugural address, President Reagan supported “the elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” In his Prague speech, President Obama “state[ed] clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”  We call on President Biden to reaffirm the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and to take concrete steps to realize it.

Dr. Pierce S. Corden, Former Official, Arms Control Agency* and State Department*; Expert Adviser at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN*

Marie Dennis,  Senior Advisor, Co-President (2007-2019), Pax Christi International

Tara Drozdenko, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director, Outrider Foundation

Elise D. García, OP, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Laura Grego, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Co-Director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists*

Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Dr. Gregory Hall, Associate Professor, Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce* 

Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America*; Board Member, Arms Control Association*, Catholic Peacebuilding Network*

Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, Bishop of San Diego

Yuki Miyamoto, Ph.D., Associate Professor, DePaul University*

Most Reverend John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, Bishop President, Pax Christi USA

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark

Aditi Verma, Ph.D., Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School*

Frank von Hippel, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Program on Science & Global Security, Princeton University*, former White House official*

* Organizational affiliation for identification purposes only.