The arms race


In 1965, at the Second Vatican Council, Catholic bishops from throughout the world voted on and adopted what they called the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.”

It began with this bold statement: “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of people who, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards toward the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation with the human race and its history.”

We know from the Acts of the Apostles and the testimony of St. Paul that it took time for the Apostles to understand that they were literally supposed to share the message of salvation with people of every nation. It took time to understand that in Christ there was neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, but all were human, made in the image and likeness of God.

If we learn anything from history, it is that Christians seem so quickly to forget that they are “bearers of a message of salvation intended for all people.” The night before he died, we seem to think Christ prayed that his followers would be one to protect themselves and his message from non-believers, when in fact he prayed that our unity might give us the courage in love to share “the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way” so we could share with them that Christ’s salvation is intended for all people.

In this “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” the Catholic bishops in 1965 named “the arms race as one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured.” This obviously is not the opinion of the military industrial complex and the Bush administration. Clearly more and more money, in their minds, must be spent on developing and continually improving weapons of war. At least the administration seems to admit this could create more poverty because they want to put some money into so-called “faith” ministered social programs to help the poor.

Let’s hope that this offer of financial aid to “faith” ministers social programs and the “carrot” of vouchers to help parochial schools do not deter our religious leaders from condemning the arms race with renewed vigor.

I may be mistaken, but condemnation of this stepped up arms race doesn’t seem to be on the agenda of any of the major Christian churches in the United States. Come to think of it, not many religious bodies in the United States seem to be encouraging its members to make their own “the grief and anguish” the people of Iraq suffer because of U.S. policy.

The new arms race may be something most taxpayers feel they can afford; it might even result in big profit for some, but will the poor be able to endure it?

Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy is pastor of St. Michael Church in Garden City and dean of the Pee Dee Deanery.