On the issue of deterrence, the Methodist and Catholic viewpoints differ. Methodists reject the concept as unacceptable; Catholics accept deterrence but only as a transitional strategy on the route to disarmament.
Although the principal thrust of the Methodist letter is on man's ability to undo Creation by his never-ending acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, the Roman Catholic letter focuses on the weapons themselves:
We do not perceive any situation, in which the deliberate initiation of nuclear war, on however restricted a scale, can be morally justified. . . . Under no circumstances may nuclear weapons or other instruments of mass slaughter be used for purposes of destroying population centers or other predominantly civilian targets. . . . The whole world must summon the moral courage and technical means to say no to nuclear conflict; no to weapons of mass destruction; no to an arms race which robs the poor and the vulnerable.
Admittedly, neither the two church letters nor the Episcopal statement on nuclear war have made any difference in the formulation of U.S. nuclear policies. They have influenced the Kremlin's policies even less. But for millions of Catholics, Episcopalians, and Methodists, the three documents represent official statements of moral principle. To date, the church statements have posed no major moral dilemma to our citizens, probably because no specific action is required of them other than opposition to the arms race, which most of them share anyway. By addressing the moral and theological dimensions of the nuclear arms race, however, the churches of America in effect are warning the U.S. government that they are urging their faithful in formulating their positions on nuclear issues to consider religious convictions along with official policy. Pushed to extreme, this may confront citizens with a major religious--political clash when they must choose between loyalty to their nation and having to uphold the dictates of their faith.