Christopher Rails points to increasing Government worries at the Church's growing support for nuclear disarmament.
WH EN Mgr Bruce Kent addressed the annual conference of the Christian CND in September, he referred to the Churches as "a sleeping giant that must he woken".
M Far Kent has no doubt that if the churches were to commit themselves fully to the disarmament caused. their impact would he formidable.
Bur. he feels a certain sense of frustration that they arc not doing enough.
In a recent interview, broadcast in the United States. he defended himself against the charge, that he was a "Christian front mum" for Communists and Marxitas in CND, and said he was trying to make the movement as representative as possible.
If iii is true that the Church is a sleeping giant, it is also true that t here are signs the giant is stirrinEt. Christian CND's conference in Coventry was attended by more than 900 people. Only 110 attended the year inefore, and a handful two years .ago.
The Government is clearly more than a little worried b the prospect of church leaders siding wholeheartedly with the peace movement.
Last February. Mr John Nott. the Secretary for Defence wrote to Mr Michael Latham MP, in response to the ratters comments on grossing support for disarmament by Dr Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury. and Dr Kenneth Greet, of the British Council of Churche=s at the BCC general assembly of November 1980.
The lassentials of Mr Nott's argument were: that though the possession of nuclear weapons posed "'grave ethical issues" they could not he disinvented: that the Soviet Union is "a huge power of totalitarian ideology" which makes no secret of its determination to take over the western world. "As Christians" he asked "surely we are bound to uphold the essential dignity of individuals against the contempt of human rights demonstrated by the Russian leadership?"
But one of the most interesting sentences read: "I note that in their recent statement (November 1980) the Roman Catholic Bishops were unable to reach a clear copclusion'• (on the possession of nuclear weapons).
Mr Nott must have been immensely gratified and heartened this month to see that the English and Welsh Catholic hierarchy have once again procrastinated on the issue.
Nevertheless, the Government keeps a watchful eye on church reactions to the antinuclear lobby, and the week after the massive CND rally in Hyde Park, I was one of a small group of journalists from Christian newspapers who was invited to meet Mr Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Office minister.
Mr Hurd warned us not to take movements such as CND too seriously. he told us the Government's multilateral strategy was the right way to go about disarmament negotiations, and deplored the unilateral approach.
I suggested that Christians, and others in the peace movement, were disenchanted with the lack of progress in multilateral negotiations, because achievements always seemed to be in the future.
He denied this, and replied that multilateral test ban treaties and agreements on chemical weapons had already been achieved.
I then asked him about public opposition to the proposed stationing of cruise missiles in Britain. If the majority of the people were clearly against such a policy by the time the weapons were due to arrive (in 1983). would the government take note of public opinion and refuse such weapon*; or would they argue: "democracy stops here" and accept them?
He replied that democracy was the business of parliament, not of mass demonstrations and opinion polls. Parliament would decide.
Since then. Presidents Reagan and Brezhnev have clearly taken note of European feelings on a war between the superpowers staged in Europe, and cruise missiles may yet be staved off. The appointment, this week of Mr John Silkin as the Shadow Minister of defence and disarmament will also help to further unilateralists' hopes in Britain.