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Nuclear strategy and Catholicism : a reappraisal

Lonsdale, David J.


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Dr David Lonsdale
Senior Lecturer/ Programme Director, BA War Studies/ Programme Director, MA Strategy and International Security


During the Cold War sections within the Catholic Church reached an uneasy compromise on the moral validity of nuclear strategy. As an ‘interim ethic’ the dominant Catholic position accepted the legitimacy of nuclear deterrence, but rejected many of the doctrines that underpinned nuclear strategy at the time. Since the end of the Cold War this position has come under increased scrutiny from within the Church. Some commentators claim that the time has come for the Church to officially jettison any vestiges of the interim ethic and reject nuclear strategy outright on moral grounds. Others argue that the Church's position is unsustainable from a strategic perspective. This paper presents a reappraisal of the Catholic position on nuclear strategy. In particular, the work assesses whether there is any common ground between the Strategic Studies approach to nuclear strategy and the Catholic position. The paper concludes that, with evolution in both perspectives, limited congruence can be expanded to produce a new nuclear strategy that satisfies both strategy and Catholic teaching.


Lonsdale, D. J. (2012). Nuclear strategy and Catholicism : a reappraisal. Journal of Military Ethics, 11(3), 186-207.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Nov 22, 2012
Publication Date Nov 22, 2012
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Journal Of Military Ethics
Print ISSN 1502-7570
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 3
Pages 186-207
Keywords Nuclear strategy; Catholic; Christian ethics; Deterrence; Just war
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