Waiting for Armageddon: Theological and Ethical Aspects of Nuclear Deterrence

Author: Drew Christiansen

June 15, 2020

In this article from Ethics and Armed Forces – Controversies in Military Ethics & Security Policy, Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., discusses religious dimensions of the association between nuclear weapons and the “end of days.” Cases for and against nuclear weapons use have drawn from the same biblical and theological motifs. However, these associations do not provide a consistent assessment of the “nuclear weapons” phenomenon. Despite considerations of technological and political change, the 1983 pastoral letter by U.S. Catholic bishops, “The Challenge of Peace,” reflected skepticism towards declarations that weapons of mass destruction are compatible with Just War principles. Ultimately, moral assessment of a phenomenon in accordance with the Church’s social teachings must incorporate theological, ethical, and social factors. Given present global conditions, the Vatican’s condemnation of deterrence policy makes clear that it constitutes a heightened risk to the future of humanity and the planet.

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