Nuclear Deterrence Is Morally Acceptable
Your editorial (and John Finnis’s article) supporting unilateral nuclear disarmament in the July-August issue distressed me.
Neither the Magisterium nor Pope John Paul II requires a people to commit national suicide in order to be sinless. In opposition to your editorial (and to Finnis), the Pope has said that nuclear deterrence is under present conditions “morally acceptable.”
Ed. Note: The difference between the Pope’s and Finnis’s position is a matter of factual assessment. Briefly, Finnis contends that Western nuclear arsenals are directed at civilians “as such,” contrary to what Western leaders claim. If and when the papacy comes to share the factual assessment of Finnis and others, we do not doubt that the papacy will, in harmony with Catholic moral teaching that what it is wrong to do it is wrong to intend, declare nuclear deterrence morally unacceptable. (Finnis is a member of the Pontifical Theological Commission, so stay tuned!)
Holiness, the American Way
I strongly disagree with your July-August editorial which, if it did not come right out and say it, endorsed a Soviet takeover of the U.S. as the consequence of a “Catholic” and “moral” decision to unilaterally disarm our country of nuclear weapons. You seem to say that the suffering brought about by such Soviet domination should actually be accepted as a blessing, a way to be “squeezed out like lemon” and arrive at Heaven’s gate purified and holy.
Forgive me, but give me whatever time necessary in Purgatory to arrive at Heaven’s gate holy if the alternative is for us to surrender to an atheistic totalitarian regime that seeks only to dominate and satisfy its lust for power. I’m only recalling the Soviet Union’s track record.
We can and will be squeezed out like lemons in many other ways here in this (to use your indisputable adjectives) consumeristic, hedonistic, decadent, and materialistic society of ours without the “help” of the Soviets, but rather in obedience to the Gospel. Accepting sickness and our weaknesses, rejecting sin and ancient temptations in modern disguise, praying regularly and fervently — these are means to be “squeezed out” too. These are the everyday means, possible and expected of all Christians. On the face of it these means are not considered extraordinary or heroic, but they could also be described as the means to a slow martyrdom resulting from attempting to truly be faithful to Jesus Christ today.
The early Church martyrs were slain by a secular power that would not allow them religious freedom. These were great saints who would rather be true to Jesus Christ than to disavow him. No doubt there are today great saints all over the world being true to Christ at great personal expense and suffering. No doubt there would be many saints born here from the suffering endured if the Soviet Union were to dominate us after we laid down our arms. You perhaps? Perhaps even me?
But to ask for it? To volunteer our country for such a fate? This flies in the face of countless thousands who have paid with their lives the cost of our present freedom (abused as it has been). And this flies in the face of the hundreds of thousands who have served and sacrificed in countless ways in the armed forces for our protection and security from just such Soviet domination. Were these sacrifices also examples of God’s “squeezing”? I think so.
Douglas J. Fine
New Orleans, Louisiana
Ed. Note: The point of the editorial and the Finnis article was not that we should seek out martyrdom. The argument for unilateral nuclear disarmament was based on moral reasoning in the context of perceived reality. That some sort of martyrdom might well follow was faced squarely — and, we hope, in a Christian spirit.
The Christian Position: Kill Everyone Only Once?
My first impression of the Christian position on nuclear war was that we must be against nuclear overkill, which seemed to me to mean that Christians can only have enough weapons to kill everyone once. In the July-August NOR, John Finnis ends this nonsense. He also points out something which I find difficult to convey to my liberal friends: that nuclear disarmament must be unilateral and that this will be followed by Soviet domination. My conservative instincts rebel against this, but it is clear that the Babylonian captivity didn’t destroy the Jews. Soviet domination probably wouldn’t last more than a hundred years and I suspect it would benefit Christianity. I would like to think that even if I am a conservative and usually vote Republican, I am still an aspiring Christian, though a hundred years is a long time.
Haddon Heights, New Jersey
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