Maryknoll leadership calls for alternatives to nuclear power

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan on March 21. (CNS/Tokyo Electric Power Co. via Reuters)

The production of nuclear power poses threats to the health of people and the well-being of the environment and should be abandoned in favor of alternate forms of energy, says a statement from Maryknoll leadership.

Released today, the statement also connects the development of nuclear energy to nuclear weapons proliferation, which has been opposed by church officials worldwide, including Pope Benedict XVI.

“At this time, we know that the end of fossil fuel power for our energy is dwindling. As this dwindles people are looking for alternatives. What we’re saying is that nuclear energy is not the alternative to go for,” says Kathy McNeely, interim director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns in Washington.

“We think we need to start looking at alternatives. That really means living more simply that others might live,” she explains.

The statement is backed by a 16-page backgrounder that explores the dangers posed by nuclear energy.

McNeely told Catholic News Service this morning the statement was issued to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in northeast Japan. Three of the plant’s four reactors were disabled by the giant wave after a catastrophic magnitude 9 earthquake. The plant was damaged so severely that high doses of radiation were released, contaminating nearby communities and adjacent areas of the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

Maryknoll sisters in New Mexico ministering alongside uranium miners routinely exposed to radiation in the course of their work as well as sister in ministry in Japan pushed the society to research the issue and publish a statement, according to McNeely.

The Catholic Foreign Missionary Society (Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers) and Maryknoll Lay Missioners also supported the statement.

The fact that Maryknoll’s headquarters in Ossining, N.Y., is located less than 10 miles from the Indian Point nuclear power plant also influenced the order’s leadership, the statement says.

While the statement does not explicitly state which alternative energy forms must be developed, McNeely says it is prudent for the world to explore “things that don’t exact such a high cost on people and the earth.”

Plans call for distributing the document to key members of Congress, Maryknoll supporters and faith-based organizations for study, reflection and action, McNeely adds.

Setting the record straight

Cardinal Dolan

Yesterday the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights complained that we had downplayed last Friday evening’s letter from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to his fellow bishops. The cardinal’s strongly worded letter charged that the White House was ignoring the bishops’ religious freedom concerns in the rules that would mandate contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans.

Here’s what the Catholic League initially said about our coverage:

Catholic News Service never commented on, or posted, Cardinal Dolan’s letter in its “News Stories” section; instead, it relegated it to its blog postings, never highlighting the USCCB-America dispute.

As we advised the Catholic League shortly after the news release was issued yesterday, this seriously misrepresented our coverage of the cardinal’s letter.

Cardinal Dolan’s letter to his fellow U.S. bishops on Friday was an expanded version of his Thursday blog post. We reported on the cardinal’s blog item (More ‘confusion than clarity’ about HHS mandate, Cardinal Dolan says), but Friday’s expanded letter came too late for us to update that story.

Since we had already closed the wire for the week when the letter arrived late Friday afternoon, our solution — which we often do when news breaks at odd hours — was to write about the cardinal’s letter on our blog for Catholic readers over the weekend. We also posted a link to it on our Facebook page describing it as breaking news that evening.

Monday morning after we reopened the wire we wrote and posted for our clients a 650-word story on the cardinal’s letter. You can read that story here.

Our public website only includes a fraction of the stories, photos and other material we provide to our paying clients. This is why the Catholic League presumably assumed in issuing its release yesterday that we had not done a detailed story on the cardinal’s letter. (Our Monday story also prominently mentions the USCCB dispute with America magazine’s editorial, which the Catholic League says we never highlighted.)

The Catholic League’s initial misrepresentation of our coverage of the cardinal’s letter has spawned other errors. Spero News ran the Catholic League’s release under the ludicrously silly headline Catholic News Service spikes Cardinal Dolan.

Catholic League communication director Jeff Field did respond to CNS’s concerns today and amended the original post to note that “while there was no CNS story on this issue posted to its website, there was one that was sent to its client list.” We appreciate the Catholic League’s willingness to set the record straight. Unfortunately in a digital world, the original remains in places like Spero and other news aggregators.

Finally, no other news organization — Catholic or secular — has covered the U.S. bishops struggle on religious liberty issues, including the HHS mandate, more than Catholic News Service. Nor has CNS taken any editorial position, even benignly, against the work of the USCCB. As a wire service, CNS does not take editorial positions. It is too busy covering the daily news of a global church.