On the occasion of the protest being staged at the Faslane nuclear base, the Catholic Bishops of Scotland wish to express their support for the objective of nuclear disarmament.
The position of the Church with regard to nuclear weapons is very clear. As far back as 1982, the Bishops of Scotland published a declaration which stated that "if it is immoral to use nuclear weapons it is also immoral to threaten their use".
Almost 20 years on, this remains the position of the Bishops' Conference.
The Church's official teaching, as contained in our catechism states:
"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."
Individual bishops have, over the years, offered their fullest support to efforts to persuade Governments of various hues to think again about the massive resources being swallowed up in maintaining and strengthening our nuclear arsenal. We are on record in recent years, calling for the Government to increase investment in our health service, "spending less on defense of the realm and more on defense of the sick".
Our support, then, for the ultimate objective of nuclear disarmament could not be clearer.
We do, however, have misgivings about the methods of civil disobedience which are likely to be used during the protest and which our presence would appear to condone.
The Catholic Church in Scotland has been very careful not to condone such acts by anti-abortion demonstrators, for example. While we respect the opposite point of view, we do not believe that chaining people to railings, lying down in the street and disrupting life for workers going about their lawful business is an effective means of changing hearts and minds. We have said so in the abortion debate and we must be consistent on this issue too.
In recent days we have written to the Defense Secretary to reiterate our views on the immorality of weapons of mass destruction. Let there be no doubt that the Catholic Church shares the grave concerns of many Scots who are deeply uneasy at the presence of so many nuclear weapons in our land.
14 February 2001