PLUS: 'A Crime Against God and Humanity'

Spiritual and religious leaders have long condemned the inhumanness of nuclear weapons. In 1983, the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 347 denominations from virtually all Christian traditions in more than 120 countries, rejected the doctrine of nuclear deterrence and unequivocally declared: “That the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned on ethical and theological grounds.”

The Canadian Council of Churches, a community of 20 denominations, stated in 1998: “The willingness, indeed the intent, to launch a nuclear attack in certain circumstances bespeaks spiritual and moral bankruptcy. … Nuclear weapons do not, cannot, deliver security—they deliver only insecurity and peril through their promise to annihilate that which is most precious, life itself and the global ecosystem upon which all life depends. Nuclear weapons have no moral legitimacy.”

In 1999, more than 7,000 people gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, for the Parliament of the World’s Religions and issued A Moral Call to Eliminate the Threat of Nuclear Wea­pons, which states: “The threat and use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with civilized norms, standards of morality, and humanitarian law which prohibit the use of inhumane weapons and those with indiscriminate effects.”

Definitive Catholic teaching on nuclear deterrence is found in the Second Vatican Council and subsequent statements by Pope John Paul II. The council affirmed that any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities “is a crime against God and [humanity].” Pope John Paul II, in a statement to the U.N. Special Session on Disarmament in 1982, said nuclear deterrence could be accepted only as “a step on the way towards progressive disarmament.” The American Catholic Bishops in their 1983 Pastoral Letter on War and Peace adopted this same position.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2008
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