BRUCE KENT, Vice Chairman of CND, has decided to retire from active ministry in the Catholic Church, and has this week informed the Diocesan authorities of his decision.
In a personal statement he said: "With great regret I have decided, after consultation with my Diocesan authorities, to retire from the clerical ministry of my Church of which I remain a member. I no longer find it possible to cope with the strain resulting from the tensions between my pastoral role which means so much to me, and what is thought to be an unacceptable political role. That strain can only increase as a General Election approaches. Already I have been asked to speak, in opposition to present Government "defence" policies, in a long list of constituencies and I think it my Christian duty to do so to the best of my ability.
"As a Christian I believe that it is immoral to pursue policies which depend on an ultimate willingness to commit mass murder. Nuclear deterrence is an evil and dangerous relationship. It can only be tolerated on a temporary basis while active steps are being taken to remove weapons of mass destruction from the world and the policies and perceptions which produce them.
"In this connection it seems to me inexplicable that the Pope has not urged the other nuclear ,powers to follow the Soviet lead by halting nuclear weapons testing and that he has even allowed a Pontifical Academy report critical of "star wars" to be suppressed.
"Our present Government, far from demonstrating a genuine interest in reducing nuclear stockpiles, increases the size of its own arsenal, supports policies involving risk of nuclear first use, and has opposed a long list of possible practical disarmament initiatives. It could not even bring itself to support the United Nations Year of Peace in 1986.
"The pain that my decision to retire will cause to some I bitterly regret. However I simply cannot continue in my present dual role. To do so is to force my superiors into an impossible situation since I cannot offer them the obedience expected. Perhaps this decision may play some small part in the process of helping other Christians to decide where they stand on these issues of such consequence for the future of God's family already damaged and deprived in so many ways by the militarisation of our world."
ON hearing the news of Mgr Kent's decision, Cardinal Basil Hume issued the following statement. "I deeply regret that Mgr Kent has come to his decision to retire from the 'active clerical ministry'. Many will share my personal distress that he should have chosen to renounce for any reason the exercise of his priesthood. It is not my wish that he should do so.
"I and many others understand and share his very strong conviction that nuclear disarmament is essential for the long-term survival of the human family. Like him, many of us would oppose the arms race and the escalation or proliferation of nuclear weapons. I, however, hold that, as the Pope stated in 1982, it is morally acceptable in the current conditions of a divided world to maintain a nuclear deterrent, certainly not as an end in itself, but only as a temporary step on the way towards a progressive disarmament which must be mutual and verifiable.
"I believe Mgr Kent is right to conclude that he cannot continue in his present dual role. He has decided to involve himself more vigourously in the run-up to a general election by speaking in constituencies to advocate, in effect, the policies of one particular party. That is clearly incompatible with the traditional pastoral role of a priest, which, obviously, I would prefer him to have chosen".