Jan 25, 2018
"We are at the limit of what is licit." In early December Pope Francis offered that assessment of nuclear deterrence during a question and answer session with reporters on the plane back to Rome from Bangladesh.
A month before, the Pope had strongly suggested that the "limit" had already been exceeded. "The threat of their [nuclear weapons'] use, as well as their very possession, is firmly to be condemned," he said in a message to a Vatican-sponsored conference on nuclear disarmament.
This wasn't the first time a pope has challenged the morality of nuclear deterrence. In a message to the United Nations General Assembly in 1982 Pope John Paul II granted only a grudging interim toleration to deterrence ("may still be judged morally acceptable") as a stage on the way to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The American bishops relied on that judgment of conditional, temporary toleration of deterrence in their 1983 collective pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace.