Letter to the Pope
Patrick Carolan of the Franciscan Action Network encouraging Pope Francis to read the letter sent to him by the Kings Bay Plowshares
Letter To Pope Francis
April 7, 2018
Warm regards in the blessed hope of Easter. We are a community of seven North American Roman Catholics, long-haul friends, and fellow laborers, each of whom have dedicated our lives to the practice of the works of mercy, Gospel nonviolence, and holy struggle with God’s poor in places throughout the United States and across the world.
For decades we have gathered to collectively ask the question that each of us continually struggles with individually in our home communities: What is God asking of us now, at this moment in history, in light of what we have seen and heard and witnessed in the attempt to love as Jesus loved? The fruit of this discernment has illuminated many paths for us toward a deeper solidarity with those who suffer directly from the myriad forms of state-sponsored violence and social sins of racism, militarism, and economic injustice.
We reach out to you today, from the Camden County, Georgia jail, in a spirit of humility and love. Our request is simple: We ask only that you hear, bring to prayer, and share with your brother Bishops a lament that we hear rising more profoundly and urgently each day, not only from the hearts and neighborhoods of those to whom Jesus sends us, but from the very Earth itself. Our nation, its land and its people are rapidly reaching a breaking point. Mother Earth bleeds from the unabated assault of extractive industries that pollute and desecrate her beyond repair, while the exponential rush toward extremes of wealth and poverty now appears to have become the guiding principle of public policy in the United States. White supremacy continues to fracture our nation. Overarching all of this is the ever-present specter of nuclear annihilation, which stands closer to becoming reality than at any time since the mid-1950s.
On April 4th, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., we seven entered the Kings Bay Trident Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, in an attempt to nonviolently enflesh the prophesy of Isaiah:
“They shall hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not lift the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Is. 2:4)
Kings Bay is home to six of our nation’s fleet of fourteen Trident submarines, each of which carries missiles that possess the destructive capacity to end all life on Earth. Moreover, as you and several of your predecessors have been teaching for decades, the mere building and possession of these weapons represent not only a direct and immeasurable theft from the poor; they are an idolatrous blasphemy against God and all of creation.
We went to Kings Bay with a message that we believe to be completely aligned with the message you have been tirelessly teaching and proclaiming for as long as you have been leading the Church. That message as we have articulated it is, in part, as follows: The existence of nuclear weapons is an ongoing, relentless assault on the human community and the planet itself. They are built in outright violation of both U.S. Constitutional and international law, and the standing threat to use them gives authorization to every other form of violence, eviscerates the rule of law, entrenches white supremacy, perpetuates endless war and environmental destruction and ensures impunity for all manner of crimes against humanity. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s public life was centered on exposing what he called the “triplets of evil” in our society: racism, militarism and extreme materialism. Near the end of his life, he said, “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” Nuclear weapons are not only a mortal threat to our future. They are used every day. They kill, every day. They are the ultimate logic of the delusions to which we as a nation are addicted.
In the faith that we share as sisters and brothers, we sincerely ask you to redouble your efforts to see that this message reaches the faithful of our beautiful continent. Please exhort our Bishops and priests to courageously proclaim it in our churches, and to insist that it finds ample voice in the formation of public policy. Recent initiatives by American lawmakers are calling for the expenditure of an additional $1.2 trillion to upgrade and increase the arsenal of these terrible weapons over the next thirty years. Clearly, your message of peace, hope, and faith in the unarmed Christ has never carried more urgency for us than it does at this very moment. We would be greatly encouraged by any intervention that your heart and conscience might move you to provide.
Gratefully in Christ,