The Roman Catechism of Trent - 1566

This catechism was issued by order of Saint Pope Pius V in 1566 and was the universal catechism in use until 1992.


Execution of Criminals:

 "Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord."


Saint Pope Pius V statement

 “The murderer is the worst enemy of his species, and consequently of nature. To the utmost of his power he destroys the universal work of God by the destruction of man, since God declares that He created all things for man's sake. Nay, as it is forbidden in Genesis to take human life, because God created man to his own image and likeness, he who makes away with God's image offers great injury to God, and almost seems to lay violent hands on God Himself !"


In 1992, we get the first new universal catechism in 425 years.


Pope John Paul II writes: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last (1992) and the publication of which I today (October 11, 1992) order by my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.”


Section #2266 on Capital Punishment - "Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. 



In 1997 a revised section on capital punishment is published.


The revised 1997 catechism deleted "not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty" from section #2266 above.


This was added at the end of section 2267 - "Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."


 #2266 states that "Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense" but the #2267 ignores it.


These ambiguous revisions were used by death penalty opponents to distort and confuse 3,000 years of Catholic and Scriptural teaching. Changing the wording in a catechism in order to change the core of the teaching can never be legitimate


Pope John Paul II initiated the 1997 revision of the Catechism by his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae in 1995.


In the nearly 50,000 words of the 1995 encyclical, the following 86 words were included in paragraph #56:

 "It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, (defending public order and ensuring people's safety) the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, (who decides?) and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity (who decides ?): in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. (who decides?). Today, however, (now that I am pope?) as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, (which systems? all of them?) such cases are very rare, if not practically (???) non-existent." . (My italics of course - Don)

Pope John Paul II did something unprecedented by adding prudential judgements to a catechetical text. Those thoughts were the basis for the revision to #2267 of the 1997 catechism.


Yet, Pope John Paul had said that the 1992 Catechism was "a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion”.


Now this in 2018

 The closing words in Pope Francis's 2018 revision to section #2267 of the Catechism:

. . . the Church, in the light of the Gospel, that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attract on the inviolability and dignity of the person", 1 and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide."


Pope Francis's quote at note 1 concerning the justification for this revision refers to his own address to a Pontifical Council on October 13, 2017. And what a curious word, inadmissible.


It seems that Pope Francis believes that the Holy Spirit has been lax for the last 2,000 years in protecting the Faith in this matter.


Catechism #2260 still exists - "They" forgot to delete this section.

"The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence: For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. Gen 9:5-6."
"The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. Cf. Lev. 17:14. This teaching remains necessary for all time."

And the following sections still exist.

 Article 5 - The Fifth Commandment


The claim of death penalty opponents that "All human life must be protected from the cradle to the grave" leaves out the one word that the Catholic Faith has always used in statements about the protection of life, "innocent". Will the next revision eliminate "innocent"?


2270 - … From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.


2273 - The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.


2258 - … no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being


2261 - Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the and the righteous." The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator.


2263 - The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing.


2272 - The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.


2297 - Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

In his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) Pope John Paul II always used the word "innocent" when asserting that human life is be protected.

  •          destroy directly an innocent human being
  •         He is the "goel", the defender of the innocent
  •          You shall not kill" has absolute value when it refers to the innocent person
  •         In effect, the absolute inviolability of  innocent human life is a moral truth 
  •          grave moral illicitness of the direct taking of all innocent human life
  •           killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral
  •          to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil
  •          no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being,
  •          every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others
  •          the direct taking of the life of an innocent human being 
  •          can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. 
  •          in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life"
  •          the deliberate killing of an innocent human being
  •          the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being.
  •          which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings
  •         respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life
  •          a direct participation in an act against innocent human life

Thankfully, Jesus did not wait till the present day to effect our salvation through His crucifixion. The bishops and current pope would strongly protest his execution.


John 19:10

 So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?”

Jesus answered [him], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”


Romans 13:1

Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.

Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.

For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer.