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Freeze!The Grassroots Movement to Halt the Arms Race and End the Cold War$
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Henry Richard, III Maar

Print publication date: 2022

Print ISBN-13: 9781501760884

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2022

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501760884.001.0001

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From the Streets to the Pulpit

From the Streets to the Pulpit

The Catholic Challenge to the Arms Race

(p.70) Chapter 3 From the Streets to the Pulpit

Henry Richard Maar III

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB, which later became the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB) provided the moral backbone to the Freeze movement after debating and publishing a pastoral letter that condemned the arms race and lent support to the campaign. This created a major dilemma for the Reagan administration in that whereas it could publicly dismiss members of the broader antinuclear movement as “freezeniks” or “unilateral disarmers,” using the same terms to describe Catholic bishops could potentially alienate Catholic voters—a major voting bloc. To fend off critics, the administration pushed a new image of the president struggling with the morality of nuclear war, just as the Catholic bishops were. In so doing, it managed to evade the bishops' serious criticisms. In the larger picture, the bishops' intervention in the public dialogue surrounding the arms race underscored how the Reagan administration engaged its arms control critics and subsequently the Freeze movement.

Keywords:   Catholic bishops, Freeze movement, arms race, Reagan administration, antinuclear movement, Catholic voters, arms control

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