The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir to deliver Drell Lecture on nuclear weapons politics, ethics

J. Bryan Hehir, a Catholic priest and leading thinker on ethics and foreign policy, will deliver the annual Drell Lecture on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Oak Lounge at Tresidder Union. Sponsored by the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), the talk is titled "The Politics and Ethics of Nonproliferation." The event is free and open to the public.

Hehir, the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at Harvard University and the secretary for social services and president of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston, has provided ethical insight on political issues throughout a career of religious and academic leadership.

"Father Hehir has been a leading voice promoting clarity and consistency in our thinking about the complex ethical dilemmas created by nuclear weapons in the modern world," said CISAC Director Scott Sagan. "I am thrilled that he has accepted CISAC's invitation to present this year's Drell Lecture."

Perhaps the best-known example of Hehir's influence in bringing ethical considerations to bear on strategic foreign policy concerns is the 1983 pastoral letter on war and peace issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As secretary of the USCCB's Department of Social Development and World Peace, Hehir led the bishops in writing the letter, titled "The Challenge of Peace--God's Promise and Our Response." Amid the escalating U.S.-U.S.S.R. arms race, this pastoral letter went beyond the tradition of giving guidance on such issues as war and military service to make an unprecedented statement on nuclear weapons policies.

Criticizing the arms race as "a folly which does not provide the security it promises," the U.S. bishops called for a "moral about-face" and urged "immediate, bilateral, verifiable agreements to halt the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons systems." The bishops urged the world to "summon the moral courage and technical means to say no to nuclear conflict; no to weapons of mass destruction; no to an arms race which robs the poor and the vulnerable; and no to the moral danger of a nuclear age which places before humankind indefensible choices of constant terror or surrender."

Hehir continues to address ethical and political aspects of war and nuclear weapons. In his talk at Stanford he will probe the changed context of proliferation, as he discusses ethical and strategic challenges inherited from the past and now reshaped in this century. His writings include The Moral Measurement of War: A Tradition of Continuity and Change; Military Intervention and National Sovereignty; and Just War Ethic Revisited.

Physicist Sidney Drell, CISAC's founding co-director and namesake of the Drell Lecture, described Hehir as "one of the most thoughtful and articulate analysts of the ethical and political challenges presented to humanity by nuclear weapons capable of unparalleled destructiveness." Drell added, "I have never heard these profound issues addressed more sensitively and thoughtfully than by Father Hehir, a brilliant scholar and speaker."

The Rev. William L. "Scotty" McLennan Jr., dean for religious life at Stanford, said Hehir "is able to bridge politics, religion and the academy in a seamless way." At McLennan's invitation, Hehir spoke to an audience of 3,500 at Stanford's 2003 baccalaureate, a graduation event celebrating the place of spirituality in graduates' education.

"One of the most striking things about Bryan Hehir is his capability to think clearly and articulate brilliantly very difficult, complex material without missing a beat," McLennan said. Hehir speaks without notes, McLennan added, and "his presence to the audience is palpable."

The Drell Lecture is an annual public event sponsored by CISAC and endowed by Albert and Cicely Wheelon. Each lecture addresses a current and critical national or international security issue that has important scientific or technical dimensions.