40th anniversary of Scottish Bishops’ historic declaration on nuclear weapons

As war and conflict rage around the world, we think first and foremost of what is happening in Ukraine, and in recent weeks we have become increasingly aware of the threat posed by nuclear weapons. on our world. Justice & Peace Scotland, in conjunction with Sancta Familia Media, has produced a video featuring four of our Scottish Bishops with many young and lay people representing every diocese in Scotland to reaffirm our opposition to nuclear weapons and to mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark event of 1982 for the Scottish Bishops. declaration on nuclear weapons.

Archbishop Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow and President of Justice and Peace Scotland, said: “In March 1982 the Scottish Bishops issued a Pastoral Letter on Peace and Disarmament. In this letter they not only challenged the use of nuclear weapons, which the Church has always condemned. , but they also challenged the very notion of deterrence and the morality of deterrence. This challenge was not accepted then, but now more than ever, the Church has come to recognize that deterrence is something unacceptable, and also unacceptable is the fact that 40 years later these weapons still exist, but also that countries are spending huge sums of money to build new and worse weapons of destruction – money, resources and personnel that could all be better used in building peace rather than in weapons of war 40th anniversary of this document re-reading it today and seeing that el point it is relevant to our world today.

Additionally, as part of this nuclear weapons campaign, posters illustrating the consistent message of popes past and present on nuclear weapons will be sent to all parishes and secondary schools in Scotland and can be downloaded from our website at a near future. A new addition to our Fratelli Tutti educational resource sheets on the subject of nuclear weapons has been added here and Bishop Nolan will speak on the issue of nuclear weapons in two online webinars that you can register to attend here:

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/pn7GrhK6h60 (this video uploaded at 00.01 March 16)

Monday 3/21/22 – 6:30 p.m.
Register to join: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEkcO2hqjItE9w2mBsJopJBhICk79-jikjU

Monday 3/28/22 – 5 p.m.
Register to join: https://uofglasgow.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIvf-CppzgjHNHdv9nuger-YHkCWgytFczK

The 1982 Declaration on Peace and Disarmament reads:

It was with words of peace that the risen Christ greeted his disciples on the first day of Easter.

Peace is at the heart of the Christian message of redemption and responds to basic human aspirations.

On this Easter, we call on all men and women to work for real peace in the world. We currently have an atmosphere of precarious peace in which a nuclear holocaust remains a permanent threat. Can we who proclaim Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace remain unfazed by the fearful arms race of the superpowers? Are we willing to risk the future of our world playing for peace with a nuclear deterrent? Yet, while we share the moral awe and deep bewilderment of this choice, no easy solution is in sight. The Christian does not have special access to instant political wisdom nor yet any indisputable answer to this complex moral problem. There are particular reasons for our perplexity in this respect.

First of all, we have inherited from the Catholic tradition the idea that, for reasons of justice, war can be undertaken in extreme circumstances and carried out under certain conditions.

But such justification evolved at a time when warfare was vastly different in nature and degree from what it is today. Pope Paul VI said in 1978 to the UN: “The question of war and peace arises today in new terms. It is not that the principles have changed, but today war has means at its disposal which have disproportionately amplified its horror and its wickedness. “Our current Pope, John Paul II, spoke in Hiroshima of “a new worldwide conscience against war”. The Church has long affirmed that “any act of war aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of entire cities or vast regions with their inhabitants is a crime against God and against nature which deserves firm and unequivocal condemnation” (Gaudium et Spes 80). Moreover, there are weapons which, through their genetic effects, are capable of inflicting damage even to unborn children, as happened in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. increasing consequences of their use and their long-term effects would make their use morally unacceptable.

Another cause for perplexity is the lack of verifiable information on our government’s preparations and intentions.

We know the policy is one of deterrence, but we don’t know what retaliatory action is contemplated if deterrence appears to be failing. Although it is not policy for the government to release certain information, we should know whether a threat of retaliation with such weapons is likely to be implemented in the event of an attack or only in the event of an attack nuclear. Everything that will be done will be done in our name and, in a democracy, with our presumed consent. The conscience of a nation must not be forced to hazard guesses against the background of an indefinite number of possibilities.

It is true that as long as there is no effective international authority capable of maintaining peace, a legitimate government cannot be deprived of the right of self-defence.

However, we are convinced that if it is immoral to use these weapons, it is also immoral to threaten to use them. Some argue that the threat can be justified as the lesser of two evils. The crux of the matter is whether, in foreseeable circumstances, a policy of self-defence based on the use or even the threat of use of these terribly destructive weapons can ever be morally justified.

However, when all these reasons for hesitation and perplexity have been examined, certain questions become clear to us as questions of Christian faith and become a sign of hope for all people of good will.

Our faith teaches us that God is the source of our salvation. Therefore, we hope and work for the realization of justice and peace in the world.

Our faith also teaches that God loves and offers salvation to all. We therefore do not accept a division of human beings into “allies” and “enemies”. We are brothers and sisters and the land is our common heritage; we have the responsibility to share this world with everyone, to pass it on uncontaminated, unlooted, unspoiled, to future generations. So we have to get rid of prejudice and mutual suspicion. We must totally reject any “arms race”, any policy of vengeful slaughter, any greed and self-preservation at the expense of others.

The Church is already engaged in the work of disarmament. In an intervention at the UN, the Holy See urged that the arms race “be condemned without reservation” because it is “a danger, an injustice, a theft from the poor and madness”. The Vatican Council urged that “all should work to end the arms race and make a real beginning of disarmament” (GS 82).

Moreover, the Church sees in the arms race “one of the greatest curses of the human race, and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be tolerated” (GS82). Vast resources of materials, manpower and technology are devoted to the production of increasingly terrible weapons of destruction, while at the same time millions of people are deprived of the most basic needs of human life, largely because of the inability to deploy these resources in solving their problems. Too much energy has been spent on preparing for war, too little on making peace. We have to restore the balance.

The Church has called upon its members and all men of good will to cooperate with the international bodies created to facilitate cooperation between nations in the cause of development and peace in the world. “These stand”, declared the Council Fathers, “as the first attempts to lay the international foundations under the whole of the human community for the solution of the critical problems of our time, the promotion of world progress and the prevention of any form of war. (They) deserve well of the human race” (GS84).

We do not find it surprising, in the circumstances of today’s world, that there is a growing acceptance of pacifism and conscientious objection within Catholic thought. For our part, we join with those Catholic hierarchies in Europe and North America who urge a breakthrough in disarmament through a specific reduction in armaments. We also wish to join the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church in the views they have expressed on recent decisions regarding the deployment of weapons in that country. We urge Catholics to be fully informed, to reflect on these serious questions and to discuss in their communities how best to proceed in this difficult question of disarmament. Furthermore, we encourage them to work with movements genuinely committed to the pursuit of peace. We demand that peace education be considered an integral part of preaching in parishes and teaching in schools.

Together with all men and women of good will, we will work and pray for peace. All may not be able to accept our vision of faith, but we stand together in this agonizing situation.

Let us make ours the prayer said at each mass:

“Lord Jesus Christ. you said to your apostles: ‘I leave you peace. my peace I give you’. Look not at our sins. but at the faith of your Church. and grant us peace and unity of your kingdom where you live forever and ever:’


Key words: Nuclear weapons, Pope Francis, Justice & Peace Scotland, Sancta Familia Media

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