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

“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”!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church -1992

  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".) 


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.


And there is this in the catechism in paragraph #2260

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. This teaching remains necessary for all time. Cf. Lev 17:14.

Time line


October 11, 1992 - Pope John Paul II, On The Publication of the Catechism of the The Catholic Church - "I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith ..."


1994 - The Catechism of the Catholic Church is published. The first new universal catechism in 450 years.


March, 1995 - Pope John Paul's Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae is published. It has 96 pages, 595 paragraphs, and 48,400 words.


1997 - Another edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is published. One sentence of 50 words from Evangelium Vitae were added to paragraph # 2267 of the catechism - "Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.' [John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]
After the first new universal catechism in 450 years, we get a revised section on capital punishment in 2 years. The 50 ambiguous words that were added are used by death penalty opponents to distort 2000 years of Church teaching.

In his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) Pope John Paul II always uses 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