A world free of the threat of nuclear weapons...

Dance Around the Dove of Peace by Picasso

Here are some excerpts from a talk given on July 29 by Archbishop Edwin O'Brien at the 2009 Deterrence Symposium sponsored by the U.S. Strategic Command. The complete text of O'Brien's talk is very much worth time to read it. (O'Brien, now Archbishop of Baltimore, is the former head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.)
My task tonight is to reflect on the moral questions that face our nation and world as we seek to build lasting peace in the shadow of nuclear weapons with all their massive destructive potential. I have been asked to offer more challenge than comfort. This is not an easy role for me. Within our Bishops’ Conference I am often a defender of the proper role of military action and a skeptic of easy and na├»ve hopes. I know our world remains a dangerous place. I have been on battlefields. I know the moral struggles that come with battlefield decisions. But I also have great respect for military institutions and for the men and women who serve in them. In this talk I will offer hard questions and directions, not easy answers. I bring the voice of a pastor and teacher, not an expert analyst or policy maker...

In Catholic teaching, the task is not to make the world safer through the threat of nuclear weapons, but rather to make the world safer from nuclear weapons through mutual and verifiable nuclear disarmament. This will require both bilateral and multilateral cooperation...

In Catholic moral teaching, the end does not justify the means, but the end can and should inform the means. The moral end we seek ought to shape the means we use. When it comes to issues of war and peace, and nuclear weapons and deterrence, the end is the protection of the life and dignity of the human person through defending the tranquility of order. Tranquillitas ordinis is peace built on justice and charity.

So in this moral analysis of nuclear weapons and deterrence, let us start with the end and work backwards. The moral end is clear: a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. This goal should guide our efforts. Every nuclear weapons system and every nuclear weapons policy should be judged by the ultimate goal of protecting human life and dignity and the related goal of ridding the world of these weapons in mutually verifiable ways.



  1. Here, here, I really appreciate hearing the Catholic viewpoint on this important life issue. I couldn't agree more with the tenor of his statements.

  2. A hearty amen from here - a strong and prophetic voice about an essential issue.


  3. How do we as a Church reconcile the concept of "just war" with Jesus' command to love your enemies, turn the other cheek, and do good to those that harm you? I struggle....


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