I was struck by an articleat Catholic News Agency that reported how the Russian Orthodox Church is considering ending their practice of blessing large weapons including nuclear bombs:
Last month, a committee on ecclesial law met in Moscow and recommended ending the practice of blessing missiles and warheads, and suggested that priests should instead bless only individual soldiers and their personal weapons.
Bishop Savva Tutunov of the Moscow Patriarchate, said in an interview that “one can talk about the blessing of a warrior on military duty in defense of the fatherland.” However at the moment large weapons, including Topol-class intercontinental ballistic missiles, are routinely blessed by Russian Orthodox clergy during military parades.
But there are other voices in the Russian Orthodox community, including Fr. Vsevolod Chaplain, former spokesman for the Patriarch of Moscow, who said in an interviewthat the nuclear weapons are the “guardian angels” of Russia that protect the country from “enslavement by the West.”
For Western Catholic the idea of blessing a nuclear warhead is a little extreme. How ought we to evaluate this practice? The General Introduction to the 1984 Roman CatholicBook of Blessingssays that the root of liturgical blessings comes from the fact that God “who is good has made all things good” (#1). Yet I cannot find a blessing for nuclear bombs in the current ritual and other than a “blessing of anything” I can’t find one in my 1964 edition of the Roman Ritual. However the blessingof different weapons was part of the liturgical patrimony of the West.
So the question today is, are we allowed to bless everything? Is there a valid theological reason to bless a nuclear warhead? For example, would blessing it perhaps make it less likely to be used? What are the theological and pastoral concerns that we should take in this matter? There is a strong anti-war movement in certain quarters of the Catholic Church. So should we stay as far away as possible from any hint of blessing military activities? Or is it the case that any, even superficial, Christian presence is an opportunity to catechize and that we should take advantage of any opportunity to be near people who might not agree with the fulness of the Christian message following the example of St. Paul who says that “to all people I became all things, so that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22)?