Nuclear Freeze—Yes or No?
IN MAY 1983, in the United States, bishops of the Roman Catholic Church formally urged a reduction in the existing nuclear stockpiles and a halt to “the testing, production and deployment of new nuclear weapons systems.” They explained: “There must be no misunderstanding of our profound skepticism about the moral acceptability of any use of nuclear weapons.”—See Awake! of March 22, 1984, page 4.
In a letter drafted at Lourdes, France, on November 8, 1983, the French bishops of the Roman Catholic Church showed that they were not in full agreement with their American colleagues. “Nations,” insist the French bishops in an explanatory note, “can legitimately prepare their defenses to discourage aggressors, even by a nuclear deterrence.”
In their letter the French bishops stated: “Obviously, for nuclear deterrence to be morally acceptable:
“it should be used only as a defense measure
“stockpiling should be avoided; deterrence is attained when the threat of retaliation makes any outside attack unreasonable
“every precaution should be taken to eliminate the risk of nuclear war being set off by accident, madness, terrorism, etc.
“the nation taking the risk of nuclear deterrence should, on the other hand, pursue a constructive peace policy.”
Many French Catholics disagreed vocally with their bishops’ stand. Mr. Alain Woodrow, religion writer for the Paris daily Le Monde, commented: “The bishops’ arguments were bordering on casuistry. Even if they explain that a ‘threat is not use of force,’ the distinction is very subtle, and they themselves admit that for a country’s defense to carry credibility, ‘that country must be resolved to take action if deterrent measures do not work’.”
Interestingly, the viewpoint of the French Protestant Council of Churches was closer to that of the American Catholic bishops when, a few days later, they declared themselves in favor of a “nuclear freeze as a first step toward reversing the arms escalation, even if only unilaterally.” This statement, in its turn, met with keen opposition from within the Protestant Church. In the opinion of one pastor, such an attitude encourages “aggression and subversion from totalitarian states.”
Why such a diversity of opinions within churches on this important 20th-century issue? Evidently because most church authorities consider the world situation from a political, rather than a Scriptural, viewpoint. It is certainly not in these divided organizations that people can hope to find the truly united disciples of Christ, the “Prince of Peace.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7; John 17:20, 21.