American Bishop Protests Proposal on Nuke Weapons, Says Some Use Justifiable

119th General Congregation
November 10, 1964

A defense of the possible just use of limited nuclear weapons in self-defense and renewed appeals to ban all use of such weapons were voiced during the second and last day of the ecumenical council debate on war and peace.

Auxiliary Bishop Philip M. Hannan of Washington, at the 119th council meeting, took issue with the statement in schema 13 on the Church in the modern world that any use of nuclear weapons is unjust because of their incalculable disastrous effects. Instead he called for a clear statement on a nation’s right to defend itself from aggression and a thorough knowledge of the various types of nuclear weapons, including those with a known limited potential.

“Certainly we hold war in horror, but we must state with precision what is prohibited in waging war to those who justly and laudably defend liberty,” Bishop Hannan stated.

Pointing out that there are some nuclear weapons “which have a very precise limit of destruction,” Bishop Hannan declared: “Although even a low-yield nuclear weapon inflicts great damage, still it cannot be said that its effects are greater than what can be imagined (or estimated).”

“Its effects are very well calculated and can be foreseen. Furthermore, it may be permitted to use these arms with their limited effect against military objectives in a just war according to theological principles.”

Bishop Hannan complained that schema 13’s section on war and peace “seems to ignore the common teaching of the Church and the norms to be applied to the conduct of a just war.”

On the other hand, Melkite-rite Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh of Antioch urged the council to raise its voice “and change the course of history” by going on record against any form of nuclear warfare. Declaring that national sovereignties must restrict their power because of the dire consequence of nuclear warfare to humanity, he asked for a solemn and clear denunciation of the ABC weapons — atomic, bacteriological and chemical.

After 11 Fathers spoke, debate on schema 13 ended and the council turned to the propositions on Religious. This document was introduced by Bishop Joseph McShea of Allentown, Pa. The only Father to speak on it during the Nov. 10 meeting was Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York, who warned against putting too great a load on the Religious who are already engaged in various apostolates and against underestimating the contribution which contemplative Religious make to the Church.

The meeting opened with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Louis Mathias of Madras, India, on the 30th anniversary of his consecration. The Bible was enthroned by Bishop Thomas Fernando of Tuticorin, India.

Before the debate began, the council secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici, announced that there would be another Saturday session on Nov. 14. This was done because on Friday, Nov. 13, there was to be no regular meeting. Instead there was to be an Eastern-rite Liturgy (Mass) concelebrated by Patriarch Maximos and other Eastern prelates in the presence of Pope Paul VI.

In commenting on the schema 13 section dealing with peace, Bishop Hannan first pointed out the need to distinguish clearly “between the aspirations of the Church for the establishment of peace and the requirements of the moral theology of the Church on conducting a just war.”

After suggesting various changes in the text, Bishop Hannan pointed out the existence of limited nuclear weapons and defended their use in just self-defense. Criticizing the document for ignoring the Church’s teachings on just war, he added that it “would seem to imply that all nations have been equally negligent in securing international peace. This is a cruel injustice to many nations and to heads of governments who have expanded great efforts toward securing peace; it is especially cruel to nations which are now suffering invasion and unjust aggression from that force which has so far prevented peace. The whole world knows the source of aggression.”

In conclusion, Bishop Hannan said “since this schema deals with practical matters, we should at least say a word about the defense of liberty and a word of praise in favor of those who defend liberty as well as those who freely offered their lives so that we may enjoy freedom as the sons of God. Therefore, in my humble judgment, the whole paragraph should be completely revised.”

Speaking in the name of a number of bishops of England and Wales, Archbishop George Beck of Liverpool noted that Popes Pius XII and John XXIII condemned the use of any weapon whose effect cannot be estimated or controlled. He added:

“I would suggest, however, that it is important to make clear that this is not a universal condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons. … If legitimate targets for nuclear weapons may in fact exist, the council should not condemn the possession and the use of these weapons as essentially and necessarily evil.”

Archbishop Beck gave an example of what might be a legitimate target of nuclear weapons. He said: “To attack a ballistic missile or a satellite missile in the outer atmosphere would be, for example, a legitimate act of defense and, with just proportion duly preserved, it might require the use of a weapon of vast power.”

Archbishop Beck said the council “has the duty to express sympathy and consideration to those who carry the heavy burden” of exercising supreme authority of the state and with whom responsibility for the use of nuclear weapons rests.

“Let us not too readily condemn those governments which succeed and which have succeeded in keeping peace, however tentative, in the world by the use of such means” as the threat to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent against unjust aggression, he said.

During the meeting the Fathers voted approval of the commission’s handling of the suggested changes made in the introduction and chapter one of the ecumenism schema. The vote was 2,068 to 47.

Patriarch Maximos, the day’s first speaker, declared the threat of destruction hovers over the human race more heavily than ever because of nuclear weapons. He said the voices of 2,000 bishops could change the course of history and would be listened to by the world’s leaders. Therefore, he declared, the council should declare nuclear warfare absolutely unlawful. The billions now spent on armaments could be better devoted to solving poverty and other world problems, he said.

German Bishop Franz Hengsbach of Essen urged the fostering and encouragement of national and international organizations to work for peace. He noted that many people are discussing peace but do not always share the same principles. If politicians and military men are not guided by moral principles, then in coming years it will be more than difficult to avoid nuclear warfare. Therefore, organizations are needed to promote a dialogue and Catholics should work with those of other faiths to achieve peace.

After Bishop Hannan’s talk, eight other Fathers took the floor to speak in the name of 70 or more bishops. The first of these was Costa Rican Bishop Romano Arrieta Villalobos of Tilaran, who asked the council to approve and bless solemnly any effort to promote culture, especially by drastic reduction of military expenses. He pointed to the example of his own country, whose constitution forbids the formation or maintenance of an army.

After Archbishop Beck’s speech, Bishop Candido Rada Senosiain of Guaranda, Ecuador, reminded the Fathers that in its dialogue with the modern world, the Church is often talking with atheists and therefore it is necessary for the Church to insist with them on the affirmation of the human values of freedom.

Bishop Rada said that all Christian dialogue must show how Christianity helps to liberate man, not always in the terms of earthly values but at least in the light of a supernatural ideal. This entails a spirit of poverty in the Church to maintain the primacy of the supernatural, he added.

Melkite-rite Bishop Georges Hakim of Acre, Israel, called for a condemnation of practical as well as theoretical materialism and atheism. This condemnation should not include all socialistic governments, he said. He also called for a council condemnation of ABC weapons.

French Bishop Maurice Rigaud of Pamiers also insisted on the importance of international organizations, but called for an overhauling of the structures of many of them to increase their effectiveness. International Catholic organizations should be encouraged to a greater spirit of mutual cooperation and priests should be trained in these movements and to form public opinion within the Church, he said.

It is not enough to preach charity when people have an urgent need for the basic necessities of life, said Bishop Luis Yanez Ruiz Tagle of Los Angeles, Chile. Fundamental justice is needed, he said, and it should be admitted that many have forgotten the social teaching of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.

Bishop Marco McGrath of Santiago de Veraguas, Panama, told the council Fathers that while they were discussing in the council hall, the world was letting them know what it thinks. Noting that in the past, the world has been deaf or indifferent to the Church’s actions, he said that this has changed because from Pope Leo XIII on, the popes have continually spoken out on human values. The council should continue this and avoid preaching and moralizing, he said. The Church cannot be passive in the presence of the day’s problems. Marxists know history and they also know how to act here and now, he stated.

The last speaker on schema 13 was Vietnamese Bishop Michel Nguyen Khac Ngu of Long-Xuyen, who complained that many students who go abroad for higher studies lose their faith and become indifferent to their national tradition and heritage.

Prof. Juan Vazquez of Argentina, president of the International Federation of Catholic Youth Organizations, addressed the council in Spanish. He expressed the lay auditor’s satisfaction that the debate on schema 13 showed the Fathers affirming the positive natural and supernatural values of man’s vocations.

Vazquez said laymen had been used in the preparation of the schema and that they would cooperate in its revision and in implementing its final results in the Church throughout the world.

Following Vazquez, Bishop Emilio Guano of Leghorn, Italy, read a report concluding discussion of the schema. He said that at some later date a series of declarations will be submitted to the Fathers to be voted on so that the commission on revising schema 13 will have some guidelines for future work.

Bishop McShea then introduced the propositions on Religious. He noted the text had been boiled down to four pages from an earlier draft of 30 pages, which in turn had been drawn from the original text of 100 pages.

Cardinal Spellman was the only speaker on the propositions because of the press of time. He expressed satisfaction with the text.

The following is the full text of the council press bulletin report on the Cardinal’s talk:

“However caution must be observed in any discussion of this ‘renovation’ of religious life and activity because renovation is not infrequently used as a pretext for the introduction of elements which could eventually lead to a weakening of the religious life.

“There are some people today who want all Religious without exception to be engaged in the external apostolate.

“They forget that the whole life of a Religious is an apostolate. We cannot ask our teaching Sisters and our nursing Sisters after their difficult days in their respective apostolates to go out and engage in other works. If we want Religious to take over direction of Catholic Action, to visit the sick, take the parish census, visit families and the like, then special institutes must be founded or individual Religious must be provided with special formation.

“These are worries which are of concern to many Mother Superiors today. Nothing which would ultimately tend to the weakening of religious discipline and spirit would produce any lasting good for the Church. In the United States, traditionally known for its activism, contemplative Religious are making tremendous contributions to the effectiveness of the apostolate of the Church. Without unduly lengthening the text, a passage could be inserted at the beginning of proposition 5 to make it very clear how much the council counts on the contribution of contemplative Religious.”

James C. O’Neill
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

* * * *

Bishop Joseph McShea of Allentown, Pa., introduced the commission report on the document on Religious to council Fathers with an apology for its brevity.

This brevity was the result of strict order from the council’s directive organisms, he said.

Religious are discussed in several council documents because they belong so intimately to the life of the Church, he said. Nevertheless, he declared, a separate schema was thought necessary to consider religious life, in and by itself, in a more practical and up-to-date way.

He remarked that many bishops had been astonished by the schema’s brevity. But in view of the directives from above, he stated, the commission had set forth brief propositions of the religious life as essential points.

The original text had covered 100 pages. This in turn was cut to 30 pages, while the present text covers five pages, he noted.

Much of what was omitted will be of use to the commission revising canon law, he told the Fathers.

The actual implementation of the schema’s recommendations is up to Religious superiors and to Religious themselves, he pointed out.

Bishop McShea said the title had been changed to “On Religious” from “On the States of Perfection to be Acquired” because this was considered in fuller keeping both with tradition and with the other council documents.

Under the headings of religious life and of Religious, he said, the schema includes all those pursuing perfection through the profession of an evangelical counsel.

To forestall confusion among societies of common life and secular institutes, the schema specifies that every institute is to carry out the schema’s provisions “without prejudice to its own character,” the bishop said.

The schema, as summarized by the council press office, consists of an introduction and 19 propositions.

The introductory paragraph states that in keeping with the teaching of the schema on the nature of the Church, the pursuit of perfection through the profession of the evangelical counsels derives from Christ’s teaching and example.

The first proposition — on the basic principle of renovation — asserts that the spiritual and religious renovation of every religious institute and their adaption to modern requirements are to be pursued under the Church’s guidance, with the Gospel and the imitation of Christ as the supreme rule, and with due consideration for the aims of their founders.

The second proposition says that renovation must be reconciled with loyalty to the institute.

The third is on the competent authority for this renovation and states that no effective adaption can be achieved without the cooperation of all the Religious of an institute under the guidance of legitimate authority.

The fourth says that perfect love of God and neighbor is the chief goal.

The fifth is on contemplative institutes and says they retain their role in the Mystical Body of Christ and produce rich fruits of holiness for the Church and that they too are to see to their own renovation.

The sixth is on the coordination of the active institutes. The seventh is on renewal in the spirit of the evangelical counsels.

The topic of the eighth is renewal in individual poverty, meaning poverty in spirit as well as dependence upon superiors for the use of temporal goods.

The ninth deals with renewal in collective poverty, saying that property of religious institutes is a sacred patrimony to be used for the benefit of the Church and the needy, avoiding every suspicion of luxury, excessive profit or accumulation of wealth.

The 10th is on common life. It says that those known as “lay Religious” should be given a close share in the life and activities of the institute while the institutes of women should work toward the elimination of class distinctions.

The 11th deals with the cloister. It declares that aside from strictly contemplative nuns, other nuns engaged in outside activities should be exempted from enclosure and should be governed by special constitutions.

The 12th says the religious habit should be simple, modest, poor, yet becoming, hygienic, up-to-date and practical. Habits which, in the Holy See’s judgment, do not conform to these standards will be changed.

The 13th treats of the training of candidates. It states that Religious not destined for the priesthood should not be assigned to the apostolate immediately after the novitiate, but should be assured of special training in special houses.

The 14th is on new institutes and notes that the future usefulness and prospects of growth should be considered.

The 15th topic is the preservation, adaptation and abandonment of works. It says institutes should preserve works proper to the institute, adapt them to needs, use whatever new methods are called for, and drop whatever activities are not in keeping with the spirit and authentic character of institutes.

The 16th deals with decadent monasteries and institutes. It says that when the Holy See sees no hope for growth, no further novices shall be admitted and the monastery or institute shall be united with a more flourishing establishment of similar character.

The 17th is on furthering union among institutes. It encourages federations or outright union.

The 18th treats of conferences of major superiors. These are encouraged by the council for their potentialities of help to individual institutes and more effective cooperation for the Church’s interests.

The 19th — on recruitment of vocations — says priests, teachers and preachers should foster religious vocations and that parents, by providing the proper kind of education, shall nurture and safeguard vocations among their children. It says institutes have the right to publish information on themselves and their activities and to recruit vocations, provided this is done with due prudence and in obedience to the Holy See’s directives.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

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