Thursday, March 17, 2011

A problem

The Catholic Whistle reflects on the problems arising from the natural disasters in Japan. If I get it right, and please correct me if I've missed the mark, the particular problem seen is the apparent silence of the Church on the question of the morality of technologies and industries that can so easily cause serious harm to general well being when they fail to be safe. Today's newspapers seem to make the imminent threat to the population of Japan a very real possibility. The bishops of Japan are meeting at the moment to consider an appropriate response to the situation.

At the outset I would suggest that the first response should not be one of contemplation but rather of direct action. The reflection can come later when the very real needs of those affected are addressed. And there the Church will be, no doubt, at the ground level doing what it can to alleviate the suffering of those through housing, food and medical care. Note that the first reponse from the Holy Father was to provide immediate financial assistance. (see here) The first response of the Japanese bishops has been practical. (see here) Then, and only then, can we move to appropriate reflection. That reflection will concentrate on preventative measures to ensure that such a thing does not happen again.

Unfortunately such reflection will get mixed up with political axe grinding. The whole nuclear question has generally been a cause of a particular political stance, at least they make the most noise. Unfortunately a lot which is not Catholic tends to travel with that noise. But back to the Catholic Whistle's original question. Is there a question of Catholic Moral and Social teaching to be answered here? Should there be a clear statement of the essential immorality of technologies that can so easily threaten the common good? I think so but it may take time to remove all the extraneous debate and get back to some sort of universal principle.


  1. Thank you Father for your reasoned reflection. There is also a situation arising in some Catholic circles that claim this is God's judgement. See This deeply worries me.

  2. There has been much discussion and hand-wringing over the situation with the reactors in Japan. Here in the US, reporters warn breathlessly that “there are 23 of those same reactors in the US…!” While the Japanese occurrence is worrisome and there is need for great efforts at containment and lessons for the future, there is also a need for perspective.

    Those reactors have worked well for 40+ years. They withstood the earthquake. The problem was caused by the Tsunami taking out the power needed to cool them. The combination of the two was something that no one had anticipated, despite backup systems in place. Now they will need to take that into account with future designs.

    Is there a moral issue with nuclear power that is different from other advances in technology? Is it a difference in kind or degree? I suspect that mutatis mutandis in earlier times there were similar concerns about other technologies - trains, automobiles, airplanes, not to mention dams and bridges – all having the potential for disasters. But we still drive, ride the train, fly and enjoy the benefits of dams and bridges.

    But you’re right, Father. There will be time for reflection and contemplation. Now is the time for action to help all those affected by this particular disaster.

  3. Father, the Church is not silent in this regard. In Germany Archbishop Marx of Munich already criticized the atom power industry. And didn't Pope Benedict tell us to be responsible towards the creation?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.