Here’s another sign that the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons is already changing the dynamics around nuclear weapons. Last Friday (10th November) Pope Francis made a hugely significant speech about nuclear weapons. Up to now the Catholic Church has allowed some wriggle room for nuclear-armed states and some credence for “deterrence” but in his speech to a Vatican disarmament conference Pope Francis said: “ . . the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned .
The Pope has been an enthusastic supporter of the new UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons and his statement last week is in line with the heart of that Treaty which is that nuclear weapons must be eliminated. It is clear that it was the Treaty that gave him the confidence and opportunity to take this new step.
People in the UK who have gone to court after taking part in direct action against the UK’s nukes and who argue that Trident breaches international humanitarian law are used to being told that “mere” possession of nuclear weapons is OK. We are so used to regarding our nuclear weapons as somehow normal and acceptable that we cannot see the criminal absurdity of that stance. After all we would not be relaxed about ready-built extermination camps and gas chambers and ready-dug mass graves littering the countryside. What’s the difference?
It is great that the Catholic Church, with all its global and cross-national reach, is playing its part in extending the zone of compliance with the Treaty and with the international law on which it is founded. The Treaty is changing the norm.