A CATHOLIC archbishop in America, and an interdenominational group in the Netherlands have figured in a growing vociferousness on the part of Christians against nuclear weapons. As the world this week remembers the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Christopher Rails reports on these developments.
THIRTY-SIX years ago, on August 10. 1945. the Catholic Herald's leading article outlined the Church's immediate reaction to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Vatican, said the article, was "absolutely opposed to the atomic bombing of Japan". The editor called the bombings "utterly indefensible" and added: "Not by merely attempting to internationalise or control this weapon. but by repudiating all warfare and destroying its instruments can safety now be sought."
In the following issue. August 17, 1945, the Herald carried Pope Pius XII's reaction. He said the bomb "could result not only for a single place. but also for our entire planet, in a dangerous catastrophe-.
At this time. when we are remembering the tragedy of those bombings and linking those events with our prospects today under a "nuclear umbrella'', these comments have a familiar ring. The moral debate still rages in a world thousands of times more threatened by the atomic bomb than it was in 1945.
A valuable contribution to this debate was made recently by Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle. He was invited to speak on faith and disarmament at the Pacific Lutheran Conference in Tacoma, Washington State, in June this year.
Recalling his shock at the news of the bombing of Hiroshima, Archbishop Hunthausen commented: "Hiroshima challenged my faith as a Christian in a way I am only now beginning to understand."
Archbishop Hunthausen was quite uncompromising on Christian commitment to disarmament.
"I believe that only by turning our lives around in the most fundemental ways. submitting ourselves to the infinite love of
God. will we be given the vision and strength to take up the cross of non-violence-, he said.
The analogy of the cross recurred throughout his address. "I believe," he said, "that one obvious meaning of the cross is unilateral disarmament. Jesus' acceptance of the cross rather than the sword raised in his defence is the Gospel's statement of unilateral disarmament. We are called to follow ... We must dismantle our weapons of terror and place our reliance on God."
He continued: "I am told by some that unilateral disarmament in the face of atheistic corn
munism is insane. I find myself observing that nuclear armament by anyone is itself atheistic, and anything but sane."
The archbishop's support for American's equivalent of our Peace Tax Campaign is equally uncompromising. Pointing out that a large number of people in Washington State have refused to pay 50 per cent of their taxes "in non-violent resistance to nuclear murder and suicide." he cornmented: "Our paralysed political process needs that catalyst of non-violent action based on faith. We have to refuse to give incense — in our day. tax dollars — to
our nuclear idol.
He said the Pentagon "asks our unthinking co-operation with the idol of nuclear destruction. I think the teaching of Jesus tells us to render to a nuclear-armed Caesar what that Caesar deserves — tax resistance."
Polemics are one thing, action is another. But if Christians in Britain and America opposed to the nuclear arms race feel their protests are not being listened to by the authorities, they may take heart from developments in the Netherlands.
The Dutch InterDenominational Peace Council
(IKV) has made a significant contribution to public awareness on the threat posed by the stationing of Cruise and Pershing missiles in the Netherlands.
IKV was founded in 1967 and has nine member churches. including the Catholics, Old Catholics, Mennonites, Evangelical Lutherans, Quakers, and the Dutch Reformed Church. its present anti-nuclear campaign began in 1977 and by 1980 it had more than 350 local groups. Its opposition to the NATO missile modernisation decision in December 1979 nearly brought down the Dutch government.
IKV's slogan is: "Help rid the world of nuclear weapons; let it begin in the Netherlands". It believes the only nonproliferation policy which is not hypocritical is a policy which does not claim for oneself what one denies to others.
One of 1KV's close associates is European Nuclear Disarmament (END), which is pursuing IKV's line on the 1979 NATO missile decision, and pressing all the governments of the NATO nuclear planning group, to withdraw their consent to the deployment of Cruise and Pershing mis
siles on these territories.
END's co-ordinating committee includes -Mgr Bruce Kent of the Campaign. far Nuclear Disarmament, and Mark James of Pax Christi.
They are only two of a growingnumber of Catholics andotherChristians who believe the churches in this country could yet stave off the threat posed to Britain by Cruise missiles.
• Archbishop Hunthausen's address is available from Pax Christi. Southampton Road. London NW5, or CND, II Goodwin Street. London N4 price lop + postage.