Public concern for fallout protection is touching off an intensive debate among American churchmen. Contention is most acute over the question of whether the use of force can be justified to avoid overcrowding of shelters during nuclear attack. But the scope of the debate is raising many other ethical problems and these become ever more realistic possibilities in view of Soviet terrorist tactics as exemplified by the explosion of the big bomb October 23.

“Does prudence … dictate that you have some ‘protective devices’ in your survival kit, e. g. a revolver for breaking up traffic jams at your shelter door?”

The question appears in a widely-quoted America article written by the Rev. L. C. McHugh, S.J., who once taught ethics at Georgetown University.

McHugh maintains that the Christian view upholds one’s right (but not duty) to employ violence in defense of life and that the principle is applicable to the situation wherein “unprepared or merely luckless neighbors and strangers start milling around the sanctuary where you and your family have built a refuge against atomic fire, blast and fallout.”

He lists several conditions, however:

“The situation is such that violence is the last available recourse of the aggrieved party … The violence used is employed at the time of assault … The violence is employed against an attack that is unjust … no more violence than is needed to protect.”

Disagreeing sharply with McHugh was the Right Rev. Angus Dun, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Washington, who said:

“This business of preparing to push your neighbor’s child out of the shelter, or even to shoot down a neighbor who clamors for admission, is the most utterly immoral thing we could do.”

Among evangelicals, who tend to leave such questions ...

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