Roman Catholic Bishop Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo, Tex., is establishing a Solidarity Peace Fund to aid persons who, because of conscience, quit their jobs at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Amarillo.
Last August, Matthiesen added his voice to the growing antinuclear movement in the Catholic Church when he declared the manufacture of nuclear weaponry immoral and counseled Catholies employed in the Pantex plant to quit working there.
He is being joined in the establishment of the fund by the central province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an order of priests and brothers. The Very Rev. Donald F. Bargen, provincial of the province, began the fund with a $10,000 donation.
Matthiesen said the money "will be used as a contingency fund by employes of Pantex... who in conscience resign from such activities as the production, assembling and stockpiling nuclear weapons" while they look for jobs "in peaceful pursuits."
He encouraged others to contribute to the fund, especially heads of religious orders, and suggested founding of similar funds in other areas where "workers will be troubled in conscience by contributing to what Pope Paul VI termed 'mankind's preparation for its own demise.'"
A spokesman for the oblates' central province said that there have been no requests for aid so far, but that "my guess is that once this becomes operative it will encourage people to take that step" of leaving nuclear-related employment.
The fund will be administered through the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Amarillo.
Archbishop James A. Hickey of Washington, who declined last year to support an education tax credit proposal for the District of Columbia, has written every member of Congress urging their support for the Packwood-Moynihan bill to provide tuition tax credits on the federal level.
The proposed federal legislation, Hickey pointed out, "provides for modest tax relief [$500] for parents only, while requiring that they assume at least half of the financial responsibility for educating their children." He said that "a reduction of federal revenue by virtue of a federal tuition tax credit would not require reduction of other federal education funds which benefit public schools."
Opponents of the D.C. tax measure, which voters rejected overwhelmingly last fall, argued that its provisions would bankrupt the city's public schools. The measure would have provided a credit of up to $1,200 per pupil for expenses at either private or public schools. Hickey took no position on it except to urge voters to make up their own minds.
In his letter to members of Congress, he noted that this stance "has occasioned a number of questions concerning my position on federal tuition tax credit legislation before Congress."
He pointed out that the Packwood-Moynihan bill, which is supported by the American Catholic hierarchy, would "provide tax relief to the many low- and moderate-income families who wish to exercise their freedom of choice of education." He said that "nearly 72 percent of inner-city nonpublic school children are from families with income of $15,000 or less."