“As a world leader and a major arms exporter, our nation should set a positive example for other nations to follow in efforts to reduce the flow of weapons into situations that violate human rights and cause terrible suffering,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa in an April 11 letter.
In an April 2 vote at the United Nations, the U.S. joined a large majority of countries worldwide in agreeing to adopt a treaty that would regulate international trade in conventional weaponry.
But, come June 3 when the treaty opens for signature, President Obama will still need sign it and it remains unclear if U.S. will ratify it – a move which would need two-thirds of the senate's approval.
Bishop Pates, who serves as chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. bishops' conference, urged Secretary Kerry “to expedite a thorough review of the Treaty so that the President can sign it in early June.”
The bishop noted that the treaty is not perfect, but called the measure “an important step.” He said he agreed with the position of the Holy See, which noted that there are flaws in the treaty.
This can be seen, the Vatican has said, particularly in “the predominance of commercial or economic considerations, and an inadequate elaboration of the principles of sufficiency, of victims’ assistance and of the need to reduce demand for arms.”
However, accepting the treaty would still be “a positive step in promoting human rights and dignity and in building a more peaceful world,” Bishop Pates said.
“My hope is that our nation will give further impetus to this process by joining other leading countries as a signatory in early June.”
The bishop also echoed earlier statements by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, saying that the Vatican “viewed its adoption as constituting a step towards establishing in the world a culture of responsibility and accountability.”
The bishop also appealed to the teachings of the Catholic Church – of which Secretary Kerry is a member.
He emphasized that the “Catholic Church has a longstanding commitment to protecting human life and dignity,” pointing to church teachings to explain how reducing the presence of firearms within the population is “a means to this end.”
Bishop Pates also referenced his own travels in Sub-Saharan Africa and meetings with local leaders who “repeatedly expressed profound concerns for the untold human suffering that result from the unregulated flow of arms.”
In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, a representative of the U.S. bishops' conference asked that the Obama Administration hasten to review and sign a treaty to decrease arms trade.
US Bishops, Arms trade