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Citing just-war theory, Archbishop O’Brien urges pursuit of nuclear disarmament

April 27, 2010

In a brief April 26 talk at the Catholic University of America, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, former Archbishop for the Military Services, cited traditional just-war theory as well as Church documents in calling for nuclear disarmament.

“The aims of just war teaching are to reduce recourse to military force and to restrain the damage done by war,” he writes. “Some of its principles are particularly applicable to nuclear weapons: The use of force must be discriminate. Civilians and civilian facilities may not be the object of direct, intentional attack and care must be taken to avoid and minimize indirect harm to civilians. The use of force must be proportionate. The overall destruction must not outweigh the good to be achieved. And there must be a probability of success.”

“Nuclear war-fighting is rejected in Church teaching because it cannot ensure noncombatant immunity and the likely destruction and lingering radiation would violate the principle of proportionality,” he continued. “The real risks inherent in nuclear war make the probability of success elusive.”


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  • Posted by: Anselm - Apr. 28, 2010 2:49 PM ET USA

    @Pseudodionysius: Archbishop O'Brien spoke against nuclear weapons during his tenure many times when he was at the AMS, along with other weapons of mass destruction. He spoke often about just-war and peace IAW the teachings of the Church as well. Most of the addresses were given during his vists to service-members and the Memorial Day Masses, hence why the media never covered it, although some were posted to the AMS site. Also he did not retire, he was reassigned to Baltimore.

  • Posted by: FredC - Apr. 27, 2010 11:35 PM ET USA

    Is the archbishop thinking only of nuclear bombs big enough to destroy cities? How about tactical nuclear weapons such as bunker-busters?

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Apr. 27, 2010 2:37 PM ET USA

    Odd how he only thought of this rationale AFTER he retired as Archbishop for the Military Services.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Apr. 27, 2010 6:45 AM ET USA

    Let's tell this to the North Koreans and the Iranians. That should take care of everything.