What is President-elect Biden's responsibility as a Catholic in relation to the nuclear weapons in his control after January?

So we have heard a lot about what people think President-elect Biden’s responsibility is in relation to laws on abortion.

But what about Church teaching on nuclear weapons - which I understand to be that their use is never justified?

As a Catholic should he state clearly that he will never order their use? Or is it ok for him to publicly pretend he might do so, as a deterrent? And if so, why would that not be a matter of scandal for a Catholic president?

Might he be denied communion as has happened in relation to his abortion law views?

That doesn’t matter to most here, it would seem.

Nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal are on alert and being used every day. They are being used as a deterrent. Is deterrence a violation of Catholic teaching? If a president were to disarm and eliminate all nuclear weapons on alert while other nations maintain a nuclear capability, would that be morally acceptable?

Edited to add: There are Catholic launch control officers and nuclear weapons technicians on duty every day and they are not being denied communion.

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Yes. Yes it would.

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Sure, it would all be fine until the first North Korean missile strike, or the Russian or Chinese nuclear blackmail. Lack of defense can invite offense and start a war.

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If you honestly think those are possibilities…

Yes, they are. China would love for the U.S. to disarm. So would Putin. So would North Korea, and others. But Europe might worry.



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Hopefully, he would work toward the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a terrifying evil and there is no “winning” a nuclear confrontation. If a nuclear weapon is used, the whole world will suffer.


The question about the use of nuclear weapons doesn’t come up in ordinary public discussions with the US president, although the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral in of itself.

It is very unlikely that a public figure would be denied communion unless they were to use them.


I can imagine a president going to confession: "Bless me Father for I have sinned, I nuked North Korea today.

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He or any President takes an oath to defend the Constitution and fulfill the duties of the office.

One of the duties is the commander and chief of the military. Which entails that he keep America, its people, our allies, and other nations safe to the best of our countries abilities. Our nuclear arsenal, along with our other military weapons are designed to do that.

If a President, regardless of faith stated that he would never consider using nuclear weapons, or other weapons in our arsenal, that would immediately put Americans and our allies in a greater danger. A President should never do that.

We do have smaller tactical nuclear weapons which can be used strategically short of starting an all out nuclear armageddon.

Would it be a worthy cause for the President to work towards total nuclear disarmament for the entire world. Yes. Is that realistic for our adversaries agree to it? No.

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I mean honestly, this sort of question is why I’d personally never pursue a career in politics.

Unless I was super clear upfront that “Here’s the religion I make literally every decision by, guys. Be aware of implications X Y and Z” and the population still somehow decided to elect me.

Personally I struggle significantly with the intersection of religion and politics, because from my perspective religion tends to call for virtue ethics – whereas politics tends to call for consequentialism.

I mean, unless there was not one atheist in the country I was governing, I’d be really uncomfortable with sacrificing their life along with the remaining country of believers (suppose for this thought experiment that all those believers are fine with potentially dying or being conquered because of losing the nuclear deterrent).

It’s one thing to make decisions that call for sacrifices for myself. It’s another to ask someone else to potentially sacrifice their life for a cause they don’t believe in. And that seems to be a huge weight that political leaders bear, so… I guess I have no real answer to your question except to say that for reasons related to those you raise, I’d never pursue the job.

I don’t think that a leader is morally required to say that. Rather than say he will or he won’t, he could well not say, or say something else.

I also struggle greatly with this idea.

Democracy largely operates with appeal to the lowest common denominator. Saying unpopular or fringe things (and certain Catholic teachings are fringe, relative to mainstream views) disqualifies you for the presidency, minus an actual real life miracle. People don’t like politicians that seem fake or inauthentic, and yet it appears to me that the design of the democratic system itself is precisely what creates that lack of authenticity. You have to always be likeable and say likeable things or you’re probably not getting elected. It is a paradox.

:woman_shrugging:t2::sweat_smile: I think it’s only a paradox in the first place if we presuppose that a practicing Catholic should be able to get elected president of a secular country.

By all means I’m not saying they can’t run. But they should have to tell the truth about how they’ll govern, and they should be as morally uncompromising in how they perform their daily work as other Catholics strive to be (e.g. doctors and nurses sometimes have to make huge career sacrifices to avoid participation in grave evils like abortion and euthanasia), and the voter’s should have the right to not vote for the Catholic unless the voters happen to really like the idea of those Catholic-consistent policies being acted upon.

In practice I reckon Catholics wouldn’t get elected much. But at least the whole thing would be honest.

Just my $0.02.

Does the Church teach that nuclear weapons are intrinsically evil? If so, why does she teach this, when did she begin teaching this, and on what grounds? Would this also apply to massive non-nuclear weapons such as the MOAB (Mother of All Bombs)? If not, why not?

They are just a technology like any other technology — able to be used for horrifying and unjust purposes, but still, in and of themselves, just a form of technology.

It is my understanding that neither the US nor Russia have each other’s cities targeted anymore. Thank God.

“Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation”



And yet, I have no doubt that God calls people to the life of public service in politics.

Again, it baffles me. I don’t know how a person pulls it off, but our laws are decided by politicians and we need them to be holy as much as any other profession.

Oh, I agree that we need holy politicians.

It just baffles me right now as to whether certain countries are ready (or still fit) for them, or would consider themselves betrayed if they got them. Because if a certain country elects a leader on the presumption that he won’t be holy – by the standard of Catholicism – then I can see how they might feel misrepresented if he turned around and acted holy.

I guess I sort of wonder whether a democracy can even cope with a holy politician, before the population themselves are holy. Like, until a population is ready to elect a dude knowing his moral convictions, I wonder if a holy politician could even be of much effective help to them.

I mean, maybe though. Again, politics is a sphere I stay out of because I don’t have confidence in my own judgments on it.

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