A Debate Among Catholics Over America’s Use of the Atom Bomb


Last week Josh Mercer reminded us of the tension (to put it mildly) between the traditional Catholic understanding of just warfare and America’s decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan during WWII.  This prompted me to revisit some of the various statements made on this question by various Catholic authors.  Here are some of the more interesting brief ones that I know about, for those who wish to think about this matter further.

Back in the 1950s the English Catholic philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe wrote against the use of nuclear weapons in WWII and condemned the allied policy of unconditional surrender, which she thought contributed to the ferocity of the warfare that was waged.  Her article is available online here.


Recently, Fr. Wilson Miscamble has written a book in defense of Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Philosopher Christopher Tollefsen wrote a critical review of it (available here), arguing that the bombings were violations of the absolute moral prohibition on deliberately killing the innocent.

Here is a positive review of Fr. Miscamble’s book by Fr. Michael Orsi, in which he defends Miscamble’s defense of Truman.  And here is Fr. Miscamble’s response to Tollefsen’s critique.

Finally, here is Christopher Tollefsen’s rejoinder.


The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press), The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion, and the Future of Democracy (Spence Publishing), and All Shook Up: Music, Passion and Politics (Spence Publishing), and the editor of a collection of essays entitled Magnanimity and Statesmanship (Lexington Books). His articles have appeared in the Review of Politics, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, Perspectives on Political Science, and First Things. He is a regular contributor to the online journal The Public Discourse. Holloway was a 2005-06 William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

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