Anti-nuclear activists and Catholic peace protesters gathered separately on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima , Japan , in an effort to bring greater accountability to the nation’s first nuclear weapons laboratory and to call on the country’s Catholics and religious leaders to adhere more closely to the anti-war teachings of Jesus Christ.
Detroit Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton said the country’s Catholic bishops have failed in their role as moral leaders by not speaking out against violence, the war in Iraq and nuclear weapons.
“I believe that the Catholic bishops need to go back and review their own teachings and recommit themselves to it,” he said. “Modern warfare, whether nuclear or conventional, is unacceptable.”
Asked how he would counsel Catholics working at LANL, the birthplace of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II, Gumbleton said “every person needs to look deeply into his or her conscience” to follow the Gospel of Christ, which could include giving up a job to stand for what one believes in.
He also said that “participating in the development of these (nuclear) weapons is participating in something that is evil.”
Gumbleton, the co-author of the 1983 U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference Pastoral Letter and an early opponent of the Vietnam War, spoke to a gathering of Pax Christi New Mexico members at Santa Fe ‘s Santa Maria de la Paz Church on Thursday afternoon.
The state chapter of the national Catholic peace group was formed by Jesuit priest and peace activist John Dear, who until recently served as pastor for several northern New Mexico towns before stepping down from his position after a tumultuous two years.
Gumbleton and Dear called for an immediate and total abolition of all nuclear weapons by the United States and the world, saying that is the only way to ensure the future of world peace.
Dear, controversial for his views that people can’t be Christian and support war, and that LANL’s work is evil, was prohibited last year from attending a peace vigil at LANL by Santa Fe Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan without the permission of Los Alamos’ Father John Carney. Dear says Carney didn’t give him permission to attend.
Dear said he plans to participate in today’s peace vigil in Los Alamos because he is no longer a practicing pastor in New Mexico and doesn’t need Carney’s permission. The group of peace protesters, which Dear expects to number about 100, plans to meet LANL workers on their drive to work near the center of the town of Los Alamos , where they will hold a silent prayer vigil for the end of war and weapons of mass destruction.
Later in the day, Dear and others will participate in the sixth annual Peace Day on the Santa Fe Plaza , sponsored by the Cranes for Peace Project.
Earlier Wednesday, about 15 anti-nuclear activists from Santa Fe and as far away as Wichita, Kan., gathered in Los Alamos for a “citizens inspection” of the laboratory, led by Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, a local anti-nuclear nonprofit organization.
He said the inspection- which consisted of the group walking on public sidewalks outside top-secret facilities- was meant to be symbolic of the effort to shed light on and uncover information about what happens behind the walls of the nation’s nuclear facilities. The inspection was also meant to remind people of their right to ask questions, he said.
Santa Fe City Counselor David Coss and former Green Party gubernatorial candidate David Bacon were among those who joined the inspection.
The inspection was the group’s fourth since it was formed in 1989, Mello said, but the first that included a series of workshops designed to educate the public on LANL and Albuquerque ‘s Sandia National Laboratories. He said the Study Group plans to increase the frequency of citizen inspections to four times a year.
“It’s very important to step up the oversight at Los Alamos and at Sandia because the nation is making some critical decisions about nuclear weapons,” such as the Bush administration’s push to develop new types of nuclear weapons, he said.
Trish Williams-Mello, the operations director for the Study Group, said the laboratories and the U.S. government are using the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an excuse to make it more difficult for the public to access information about nuclear weapons and their development, as well as environmental data.
“It’s really a very difficult process for any citizen to get any information from the government, and now it is even harder,” she said.