-- Catholic News Agency
Elderly Nun Found Guilty Over Nuclear Site Break-in
KNOXVILLE, TENN., May 10 (CNA) .- Sister Megan Rice of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus was convicted May 8 for breaking into and causing damage at a Tennessee nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.
The 83-year-old nun was accompanied in the July break-in by Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, all of whom are members of Transform Now Plowshares. The three were convicted after two-and-a-half hours of jury deliberation.
On May 4, Sr. Mary Ann Buckley, head of the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, said the order "would like to express our deep concern" over the trial.
"It should be noted that Sr. Megan was arrested as she and two others engaged in a peaceful protest, offering prayer for the thousands who have lost their lives as a result of nuclear weapons," Sr. Buckley, representing the Society, said.
On July 28, the three protestors cut through security fences to enter the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, which enriches and stores uranium for nuclear weapons.
They hung banners and crime-scene tape, and hammered small chunks off a wall, spending about two hours in the complex before being approached by a guard.
They also sprayed baby bottles, filled with human blood, on the wall of the facility.
"We would like to point out that Sister Megan has dedicated her life to ending nuclear proliferation," said the statement from her religious community, while also noting that "we do not condone criminal activity."
Boertje-Obed said the human blood they sprayed on the facility was symbolic of "the blood of children (that) is spilled by these weapons."
The three perpetrators said while testifying, according to the Associated Press, that they have no remorse for their act and were pleased to have reached such a secure part of the security complex.
Sr. Rice said "my regret was I waited 70 years. It is manufacturing that can only cause death."
The three all indicated they felt "guided by divine forces," the Associated Press reported.
After they refused to plead guilty to trespassing, they were charged with sabotage and damaging federal property. The sabotage charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The more than $1,000 of damage which they were also convicted of carries a 10 year maximum sentence.
Sr. Buckley stated that "Sister Megan has accepted personal responsibility for her actions."
The statement also said that Sr. Rice believes, "with the Catholic Church," that "nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace so desperately needed throughout the world and therefore cannot be justified."
"Our Society has a history of standing up for those in need," Sr. Buckley added. "We are dedicated to helping women, children and families by providing educational, spiritual and social programs across four continents and throughout the United States."
"We intend to stand by Sister Megan and our Church's clear teaching against nuclear proliferation as the current situation is resolved. In similar fashion, we will continue to provide the opportunities, skills and commitment that allow those in need to overcome obstacles and lead productive lives."
Since the July 28 breach, security officials have introduced numerous security changes at the Oak Ridge facility.
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