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Prison term for 84-year-old nun who broke into nuclear weapons complex

Prison term for 84-year-old nun who broke into nuclear weapons complex

An 84-year-old nun was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a U.S. nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws.

CBS News has the full story of Sister Megan Rice.

In her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, even though sentencing guidelines called for about six years.

“Please have no leniency with me,” she said. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.”

If you are of a certain age, you grew up with small groups of activists, often radical nuns and priests, breaking into nuclear weapons facilities or military bases and symbolically defacing something or other. At times in my life I have thought of these activities as acts of courageous witness, and at other times as pointless, if not self-defeating. If there are ways to galvanize public opinion against the incredible amounts of money that our country spends on its defense, no one has found them yet.

While I admire Sister Megan, I don’t know whether what she and her friends did is helpful. I would be interested in what people think about these kinds of protests. (At a minimum this one demonstrated that nuclear materials at this facility weren’t secure.) Beyond that, what you make of your own response to the protest? Even if you think breaking into bases is pointless, what are the rest of us doing about our nation’s distorted budget priorities?


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Thoughts similar to others here: I don’t know whether Sr Megan’s (et al) is necessarily “effective”, in a political sense.

But in the Christian Tradition, there have always been “Holy Fools” among us. Whether pouring your own blood on nukes, or (back in Vietnam days) trying to “levitate the Pentagon”, I think such Holy Foolery (across religious traditions) Is/Does Something to the Universe. Something that can’t be quantified, but enriches the Universe greatly.

JC Fisher

[Honestly don’t know how *I* would have sentenced Sister, had I been her judge. The desire for life-in-prison” vs what her “crime” should deserve?]

Paul Woodrum

I agree with MacKaye. If anything the authorities ought to give Sister Megan and her confederates a medal (the Snowdon Medal?) for demonstrating how insecure these maximum security nuclear waste stockpiles are if they can be broken into by an 84 year old nun and two seniors in their 70’s. They had time to spray paint their protests and sit down for lunch before anyone found them.

William R. MacKaye

To me, it is self-evident that the U.S. nuclear arsenal has not protected us from the moment that its accumulation began. It has been and continues to be a source of ever-increasing danger, but most of us–including me–spend most of our time paying it no mind. Beyond that, it is a prodigious waste of money and resources. It takes Sister Megan and her kind to remind us what fools we are. I honor her.

David Curtis

Jim: I would disagree with you. Sometimes, we need the ardent activist in our midst to shock and move us out of our comfortable, orderly, neat and tidy areas, so that we can risk much. One of my most lasting memories of activism ceoms from ACT-UP interrupting mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and one man yelling, over and over, “Stop killing us! Stop killing us!” That protestor didn’t stop the Catholic Church from its opposition to contraception and AIDS/HIV prevention. But he did do one amazing things for me: to this days, that image helps motivate me when I get tired and I want to give up.

We are called to preach the Good News with words and actions to the world around us. Sister Megan’s actions won’t have me storming the Bastille anytime soon, but they do provide an opportunity for me to reflect on what I am willing to do and to risk. Her actions are a shining example of what it means to risk much in the name of Christ. May I be so brave!

Will Sister Megan’s jail term stop nuclear arms? No. Will it solve the budget problems we have? No. Will it help to inspire others to work to change those things about which we feel passionately? I hope so. She has inspired me.

Jim Naughton

Thanks, Donna. Your comment is, um, helpful to me.

My concern about protests like Sister Megan’s is that they may enforce a stereotype that I think works against long term change. I understand that they come from a place of deep conviction, but to the general public I suspect they read like a backwards glance at lefty glory days.

Moral Mondays, on the other hand, seem smart, well-organized, well focused.

I hate to be so utilitarian in my analysis, but if we want change to happen we need to do the things that advance change and refrain from doing the things that don’t advance change.

Obviously if one thinks Sister Megan is advancing change, well then one would respond differently. Maybe there will be a response to her sentencing that proves me wrong.

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