ONE RESPECTS Mgr Bruce Kent's recognition of the need to win the Pope over to the doctrine of "nonnuclear defence" as CND has preached it in recent years. For in an issue where the moral imperative is everything, virtually, the movement's dissatisfaction at this latest World Peace Day Message is only too evident.
"We need another message", the Monsignor declares, but can he seriously expect the Pope to reform teaching that is not simply his own, but that of the Popes before him, to make a case for CND?
Thus, the Pope on his own account — it deserves to be said again — gives us as the aim of dialogue "to reduce (the arms race) progressively, as I suggested in the message I sent to UNO last June" (10), by dialogue conducted between nations "on equal terms" (1 I) — the "message" in question having dealt with the legitimate role of deterrence in negotiating "a progressive disarmament".
Whence his appeal to "leaders" at all levels on both sides, "to every man and woman, and also to you, the young", and to "you especially,
Christians, to take your part ." (11 & 12, my italics). A solemn call in anxious times; but is Christian CND to opt out?
Or, as to past teaching, the Monsignor will recall John Paul's words in Lahorem exercens where (at 2) he singles from "the main line of development of the documents of the supreme magisterium" John XXIII's Pacem in terris as setting out "the key position" of the Church on "world peace" — a "must" for Catholic reading and Catholic action, I assume.
To turn therefore to PT: to its first principle that "men have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ" (10), where we become his; to "the rights and duties" that go with it (11-45); among them "the right to worship God according to conscience . . . 'the very condition of our birth' (Lactantius) . . 'that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person' (Leo XIII) . . ." (14).
It is then automatic — from the principle of proportion, it will be allowed — when Pope John goes on later to call for nuclear weapons to be banned (112) that this should be done by "general agreement" viz, not unilaterally — backed by "an effective system of mutual control": or as Vatican II will put it (G.5.82), "protected by adequate guarantees", credible of course.
What Pope, successor to Simon Pete, sustained by the prayer of Christ for just such emergencies (Luke 22:31-32), will fail to see the danger unilateralism presents to this great inheritance and to the Faith itself?
No doubt the suspiciously clovenlooking hoof of CND makes no more than an odd cross to parade around our streets and commons. But the "Satan" Our Lord evidently had in view (v. 31) could hardly hope for better, I imagine, than to see us persuaded that to guard these values effectively henceforth is going to be quite wrong.
Admittedly "effective" defence in the nuclear age seems as agonising a doctrine as any the Church teaches, imposing difficult and unenviable obligations on "statesmen and
military leaders especially . . before God and humanity" (GS80) as to the measures to use from the means available.
Even so the moral difficulty centres evidently for the teaching Church, and so for us, not on whether, but on how: how to do, that is — again before God and humanity, it follows — what, in the last resort, has to be done.
How essential therefore that dialogue should succeed! And Christians without exception should indeed "take (their) part" on principles Pope John Paul has confirmed yet again.
S F. Mackenzie Weybridge.
MGR BRUCE KENT mildly rebukes the Holy Father and invites him to make amends by becoming a script writer for CND. The Pope, however, is aware that a vast number of sincere Christians, after prayerful consideration, are not convinced that unilateral nuclear disarmament is more certain to prevent nuclear warfare than retention of the deterrent. The Pope would be saddened to see that Mgr Kent's disingenuous references to the peace movement (without qualification of capital letters or quotation marks) suggest that thet. conscientious Christians are not sincere in their desire for peace.
If Mgr Kent really wishes unconvinced Christians to be coerced into his way of thinking, his open letter should have been addressed to the Holy Spirit.
James McGibbon Twickenham, Middlesex.
MGR BRUCE KENT'S letter gives the impression that here is some new statement by " the Holy Father supporting multilateral rather than unilateral disarmament, and that Mgr Kent is somewhat incredulous that the Holy Father should have actually said what he said to the point of trying to prove that he did not actually say it.
The following are extracts from addresses the Holy Father made last year on this subject together with an extract from each of Pacem in Terris by Pope John XXIII and Gaudium et Spes.
Solicitude of the Holy See for Nuclear Disarmament 12 December 1981.
'the Holy Father — intends to highlight the complete lack of an alternative to the hypothesis of nuclear war other than the reduction — today — ana the elimination — tomorrow — of all nuclear armaments carried out simultaneously by all parties, by means of concrete agreements and with an undertaking to submit to effective controls'.
Message to Second Special Session of the United Nations I I June 1982.
'For only a real renewal can raise the hope that humanity will commit itself on the road that leads to the goal that everyone so much desires, even if nifty still consider it a utopia:total disarmament, which is mutual and surrounded by such guarantees of effective controls that it gives to everyone confidence and necessary security'.
`The teaching of the Catholic Church in this area has been clear and consistent. It has deplored the arms race, called nonetheless for mutual, progressive and veritable reduction of armaments as well as greater safeguards against possible misuse of these weapons' and 'To reverse the current trend in the arms race involves, therefore, a parallel struggle on two fronts: on the one side, an immediate and urgent struggle by governments to reduce progressively and equally their armaments.
Pacem in Terris Pope John XXIII "Hence justice, right reason and an appreciation of human dignity all Clamour for a stop to be put to the competition in military strength: for a simultaneous reduction by all states in the stockpile of arms, for a ban on atomic weapons and for agreement finally on a suitable form of universal disarmament mutually and effectively monitored."
Gaudium et Spes. "So all must work to see an end of the arms race and a real beginning of disarmament, to see moreover that this disarmament proceeds not unilaterally but part passu and by agreement, and is protected by adequate guarantees".
A J Gates Cheltenham From Mr Michael Brotherton MP IT IS A salutary thought that the day on which you publish Mgr Kent's open letter to His Holiness, and of Archbishop Worlock's announcement of support for unilateral nuclear disarmament should coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Adolf Hitler's coming to power in Germany.
Let us beware lest we commit similar errors to those of the Thirties, and so precipitate and not prevent war.
Michael Brotherton House of Commons