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There's No Deterring the Catholic Bishops


  • J. Bryan Hehir Th.D.

    1. J. BRYAN HEHIR is the Joseph Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, and is the Counselor for Social Policy of the U.S. Catholic Conference.
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This article uses two episcopal texts published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops during the 1980s as a case study of the role of ethics in the foreign policy process. No longer a topic for theologians, philosophers, and lawyers alone, as in past decades, the morality of foreign affairs is now a matter of public discourse and political strategy. The size and social diversity of the Catholic church, the convergence of its stands on anti-communism and anti-nuclear weaponry, and the cosmic nature of the nuclear threat allowed the bishops to make transnational references reaching into all corners of the globe. The church-state exchange introduced the ethics of consequences and promoted moral debate about strategic foreign policy and deterrence.