On Tuesday, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, and William Perry, former U.S. secretary of defense, addressed the importance of nuclear disarmament.

Cardinal Mahoney focused on nuclear disarmament’s incompatibility with “the life and dignity of the human person,” which he described as the starting point for the U.S. bishops’ consideration of the matter. He has served on a number of different councils that drafted documents which detail the position of the Catholic bishops in this moral debate.

Mahoney stated that the Church opposes nuclear weapons because their proliferation increases the likelihood that terrorist groups will acquire a nuclear weapon. If this were to happen, he stated, the lives of countless civilians would be endangered and the Catholic Church’s Just War doctrine would be violated.

Another argument against the use of nuclear weapons is that any resulting evil would surely outweigh the good achieved. In addition, the use of nuclear force does not have a high probability of success. Mahoney clarified, “The use of force must have serious prospects of success. But what would success look like in a nuclear war? It is hard to imagine.”

Mahoney criticized nuclear arsenals as a long-term method of deterrence, stating that they would not produce a “sure and authentic peace.” He offered several specific steps that should be taken to move towards “nuclear zero,” that included ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting the production of nuclear weapons materials, and supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In closing, he stated that the world must “move toward a mutual, verifiable ban on nuclear weapons” and that the U.S. has an especially heavy moral burden to bear and should take the lead in this process.

Perry discussed the political implications of the use or disuse of nuclear weapons. As under-secretary of defense for research and engineering under President Carter, he oversaw the creation of many of the most powerful nuclear weapons that the U.S. has possessed. As secretary of defense under President Clinton, he also orchestrated the dismantling of many nuclear weapons in post-Soviet Ukraine, which at one time had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world and is now entirely non-nuclear.

Speaking of his experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War, Perry said, “I saw all too clearly the risk of these weapons, but I believed that they were necessary for deterrence.”

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, however, he stated that he took the road less traveled and began to believe that the proliferation of nuclear weapons was no longer worth the risk of nuclear terrorism. Together with three other prominent statesmen, Perry has championed the political advancement of nuclear disarmament by meeting with key politicians worldwide and producing a movie called NUCLEAR TIPPING POINT, which premiered in President Obama’s White House and can be ordered free online. Perry stated that the biggest challenge facing the world today is to find a way of preventing Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear armaments. Perry plans to travel worldwide to promote disarmament.

Kate Smith is a bleu cheese-loving senior who is excited to live in Bean Town next year.  Contact her at ksmith26@nd.edu.