By Bernie Survil
The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 (KBP7) are due to be sentenced over the course of three sessions on June 8, 29, and 30, 2020. Most likely, they will be sentenced to serve several years for their felony conviction as they opposed the existence of Trident Sub nukes. This is what Molly Rush and others began as the King of Prussia Plowshares in 1980 has been replicated over 100 times. Parallel to what the apostles argued in defense of their witnessing in the Jerusalem temple, The Seven argued they were exercising the right described in the “Freedom of Religion Restoration Act” of 1993.
Further, they explicitly based their defense on Catholic theology. Witnesses Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, MS and Prof. Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Theology Department, Fordham University, both testified before the court to the orthodoxy of the defendants’ position. The defendants’ use of the theological term “sacramentality” of the action resonates with the universal church’s understanding: A sacrament is a symbolic rite – an outward sign — in the Christian religion, in which an ordinary individual can make a personal connection with God.
The Seven’s entry into the Trident Base’s perimeter, and then defacing the memorial identifying the Base, constituted a sacrament, bringing God’s condemnation down upon the base. In effect, The Seven were smashing the idol which nuclear weapons were perceived to be. An idol is that which proposes to deliver what it cannot deliver. Nuclear Weapons cannot provide security. A road-side poster north of Bradford, PA on Route 219 reads: “Everyone needs a Savior.” Worshippers of Nukes consider the Tridents their savior. The court agreed when it decided that the U.S. government has an overriding obligation to SAVE the nation by maintaining in readiness the Trident Fleet. The court saw Trident as an appropriate means, despite the defendants’ belief and behavior to the contrary.
The Seven are all professing Catholics, as was their lead defense attorney, Bill Quigley of Loyola School of Law. As have been MOST of Plowshare action perpetrators. The members of the jury were most likely Christians but not Catholic. There is a single Catholic parish in Brunswick, GA where the Federal Courthouse is located, but numerous, large Christian Churches. The jurors most likely were not aware that all recent Popes have said what Saint John XXIII said in his 1963 document “Pacem in Terris,” that nuclear weapons must be abolished.
Pope Francis upped the ante by asserting: The very possession of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. If not the Brunswick GA jurors, should not one expect Pittsburgh Catholics to be aware that even possession of nukes is unacceptable?
Despite the fact that the KBP7 emerged from a solid Catholic tradition regarding nuclear weapons, Southwestern Pennsylvania Catholic leadership and faithful hardly consider the KBP7 witness parallel to that of the apostles saying to the Jewish religious establishment: “We must obey God before men.“(Acts of the Apostles). Otherwise, the current pickets of PNC Bank Headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh should have attracted Catholics by the thousands, besting the number of fans filling PNC Park for a big game. As Joyce Rothermel has reminded us, writing in the NewPeople about Stop Banking the Bomb, the DoomsDay Clock is at its closest to midnight as it has ever been. It’s even closer than when Nike missile bases surrounded Pittsburgh in the 1960’s to protect the steel industry from a Russian nuclear attack.
Let me suggest that readers take on this mission: WAKE UP CATHOLIC PITTSBURGH. I base it on recent conversations I’ve had with Catholic Peace activists nationally. Typical are the Dallas people who have been trying to simply sit down with the bishop – a Pittsburgh native — or his assistant to organize Dallas Catholics to oppose nukes. The bishop’s office is unwilling to set up such a meeting. Is that conceivable?
Try it yourselves. No need to be a Catholic yourself. Just arm yourself with papal statements about abolishing nukes. Two by two, arrange to sit down with the pastor, a parish priest, a parish deacon to see what this or that parish can do to help Pope Francis abolish nukes. Be courageous. Start with the pastor of St. Kilian, Cranberry Township or Saints John and Paul, Franklin Park. If you prefer the South Hills, there’s St. Bernard’s, Mount Lebanon, St. Louise de Marillac, Upper St Clair or St. Benedict the Abbot, McMurray. St. John Fisher, Churchill has a pastor with a Ph.D. Try him.
Phillip Berrigan’s widow, Liz McAllister, age 79, is one of the KBP7. Phil once remarked: It’s not where your head or your heart are, but where your ass is that matters. Phil put his body on the line time and again. He spent years in prison for protesting nukes. To participate in WAKE UP CATHOLIC PITTSBURGH would at most mean you’d be subjected to rejection when you try to put your behind on a chair in a room with a Pittsburgh Catholic leader, such as a priest or deacon.
Fr. Bernard Survil, bsurvil@ uscatholicpriests.us Ph: 724-523- 0291 30 April, 2020
Background and updates about the KBP7: KingsBayPlowshares7.org/
Fr. Survil attended these Plowshares trials: Willow Grove, Philadelphia, “Here they are Plowshares,” Bismarck, ND; KBP7, Brunswick, GA, in addition to visiting Molly Rush & Sr. Anne Montgomery, detained in Berks County jail, fresh from perpetrating the Sept, 1980 King of Prussia action damaging nuclear missile nose cones. He and Molly attended the 30th Anniversary of that at Oak Ridge, TN, site of the Y-12 Nuclear Complex.