Text of U.S. Bishop Citing Defects in Draft on Nuclear Weapons

This is a translation of an intervention by Auxiliary Bishop Philip M. Hannan of Washington, D.C., delivered Nov. 10 as the Second Vatican Council debated Schema 13 on the Church in the Modern World.

Paragraph 25 should be corrected and rewritten so that it clearly distinguishes between the aspirations of the Church for the establishment of peace and the requirements of moral theology of the Church on conducting a just war. If there is a treatment of the moral theology of conducting warfare, it should be written by very competent moral theologians; these theologians must be acquainted with the facts about modern weapons, including nuclear weapons, or they must be willing to secure the facts. With all our heart we desire peace — peace with justice and complete liberty. 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.

The following are defects in the Paragraph:

1. In Section 1, the first sentence fails to mention the most important foundation of peace, namely, justice — “peace, the work of justice” (the motto of Pius XII). Thus, the first sentence ignores the definition of peace in Paragraph 2 where it righty defines peace.

2. In Section 1, the following erroneous sentence occurs, “Therefore, everything that unfortunately divides rather than unites must be adjudged as opposed to peace.” The sentence should read, “Therefore those things that are unjust or evil must be adjudged as opposed to peace.” Injustice is the cause of divisions.

3. In Section 2, there is a grave mistake of fact in regard to nuclear weapons, and therefore a false conclusion is reached. In the second sentence of this section it is stated, “the use of arms, especially nuclear weapons, whose effects are greater than can be imagined and therefore cannot be reasonably regulated by men, exceeds all just proportion and therefore must be judged before God and man as most wicked.” Contrary to this statement, there now exist nuclear weapons which have a very precise limit of destruction. Some of these weapons are mobile; obviously, if they did not have a limited field of destruction they would kill the soldiers who fired them. There is a weapon now in use which has a range of 1.3 to 2.5 miles whose missile has a force of 40 tons of TNT. These weapons were developed to avoid the huge destruction of larger nuclear explosions and to destroy individual military targets.

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.

The whole paragraph therefore seems to ignore the common teaching of the Church and the norms to be applied to the conduct of a just war.

4. The whole paragraph would seem to imply that all nations have been equally negligent in securing international peace. This is a cruel injustice to many nations and heads of governments who have expended great efforts toward securing peace; it is especially cruel to the 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.

The question of the greatest importance now and for the future is to avoid war and to defend liberty, both national and personal. We must have complete and actual liberty to carry on a dialogue with militant atheists. No dialogue is possible if we fall into slavery. Because liberty is the foundation of human life, those who defend liberty should be praised.

Therefore, 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 the freedom of the sons of God.

Therefore, in my humble judgment, the whole paragraph should be completely revised.

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