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Pope to Change Church Teaching: Nukes Are 'Immoral'

Francis warns that an 'accident of possession' or 'insanity of a leader can destroy humanity'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 27, 2019 8:57 AM CST
Pope Francis speaks during a news conference Monday on the papal plane on his flight back from a trip to Thailand and Japan.   (Remo Casilli/Pool Photo via AP)
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(Newser) – Pope Francis is planning to change official Catholic Church teaching to declare the use and possession of atomic weapons as "immoral," a move that makes clear that his rejection of the Cold War-era doctrine of deterrence is to be official church policy. Francis had declared the possession of nuclear weapons immoral on Sunday in Hiroshima during an emotional encounter with survivors of the US atomic bomb. On Tuesday, during a press conference on the papal plane headed home from Japan, Francis indicated his Hiroshima address should be considered part of his magisterium, or official church teaching, per the AP. "This must go in the catechism of the Catholic Church," he said. "Not just the use, also the possession. Because an accident of possession, or the insanity of a leader or someone, can destroy humanity."

The shift has upended three decades of the Vatican's tacit acceptance of nuclear arsenals. Starting in 1982, Pope John Paul II had held that deterrence could be morally acceptable in the interim as long as it was used as a step toward mutual, verifiable disarmament. In the ensuing years, however, the Holy See has watched as arms control treaties collapsed, new nuclear powers emerged, and the policy of mutually assured destruction resulted in a permanent stockpiling of bombs. Francis added Tuesday he would rule out the use of nuclear energy until scientists can offer "total security" to ensure accidents, natural disasters, and "crazed" individuals won't destroy humanity and the environment with nuclear fallout. The Japanese government, meanwhile, strongly backs nuclear energy, despite the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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