EVIDENCE of Government concern at the churches' support for unilateral disarmament was shown this week, when it circulated a written reply from Mr John Nott. Defence Secretary, to Mr Michael Latham, a backbench Conservative MP. and a member of the British Council of Churches international affairs committee.
Mr Nott said he was "keenly aware of the grave ethical issues raised by nuclear weapons, with their appalling power." But such weapons could not be disinvented. He described the Soviet Union as "a huge power of totalitarian ideology, with a massive and growing military strength and a proven willingness to use that strength when it thinks it can get away with doing so."
He said Western governments were "positively bound" to protect their people. and he added: "As Christians, surely we are bound to uphold the essential dignity of individuals against the contempt of human rights demonstrated by the Russian leadership?'
Mr Nott referred to the statement made by the Catholic Bishops' Conference in November, and noted that "the Roman Catholic Bishops were unable to reach a clear conclusion" on unilateral disarmament. He was referring to the statement issued by the Bishops' Conference last November which admitted: "we are not yet able to give a comprehensive and authoritative judgement on this."
Mr Nott said that, like the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr Kenneth Greet. President of the Methodist Conference. he deplored the amount spent on arms.
Mgr Bruce Kent, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. said Mr Nott's letter contained a number of inaccuracies, and CND would welcome the chance to meet him in order to put the record straight. He said "We have already asked Mr Nott to take part in a public debate, but so far he has not responded."