Nuclear Weapons and Christian Conscience. Edited by Walter Stein and with a Foreword by Archbishop Roberts, S. J. The Merlin Press. 12s. 6d.
it is surely true that the revulsion from the use of strategic nuclear weapons in any circumstances which is one of the roots of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is moral and not merely prudential. In the end prudence and morality are not to be divided; but immediately there is an obvious difference between wanting to get rid of nuclear weapons in Britain lest the Russians should be provoked into attacking us and disapproving of the use of such weapons even in circumstances (to make the perhaps absurd supposition that there could be such) where their use could be supposed to bring about some great advantage. Many people have slandered the Campaign, alleging that the agitation was against British and American bombs only. It is true that there have been a few people on the fringes of the Campaign who have wanted to make a distinction between capitalist bombs and socialist bombs; but the swift response of the Campaign to the resumption of nuclear testing by the Russians has shown the
It may seem very strange that, faced with the proclaimed intentions of Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union to use nuclear weapons against great centres of population in certain specified circumstances, we should be asked to give reasons for our moral revulsion. One who seriously, outside the context of an academic discussion, asks for reasons why we should think genocide or the torture of prisoners or the punishment of the innocent wrong we should think to be mad. We are nevertheless faced with just such questions; for it seems to be the case that a great many British, Americans and Russians who are apparently sane think the burden of moral proof rests upon the opponents of nuclear weapons, not upon the defenders. This is a strange fact about the world, but it is a fact; and we have therefore to come to terms with it, to show by argument the moral evil of nuclear warfare and of the intention to wage it.
Mr. Walter Stein and his fellow symposiasts have given us a set of arguments designed to show that nuclear warfare is murder and therefore impermissible in all circumstances. They are all of them Roman Catholics; and because this is so it is important to note that their essays entirely lack the notes of uplift and sentimental moralising that some prospective readers may, with however little justice, expect. The arguments are severely logical, they appeal to principles that many non-Christians will hold to be sound, and in those cases where their theological presuppositions make a difference this is expressed quite straight-forwardly. The book is quite the best analysis so far made of the moral issues that lie behind the primitive certainties of the Campaign.
I will now try to give an account of the substance of the general argument. This will be unjust to the detail of the argument and risks giving a false impression on some points; but I hope to be able to convince the reader that the book is worth close attention.