"Revision of the Catechism
in light of Evangelium Vitae"

The following comes from the National Catholic Reporter, September 19, 1997, p. 12, in an article entitled "Catechism takes a harder line on death penalty":

"VATICAN CITY--The definitive Latin edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a hundred adjustments to the original text, including a strengthening of its position against the death penalty.

"'I now entrust this definitive and normative text to the whole church,' Pope John Paul II said during a Sept. 8 ceremony with cardinals and bishops officially promulgating the document.

"The most notable change to the text, first published in 1992, was the section on capital punishment, which was changed to reflect arguments against the death penalty in the pope's 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.

"The 1992 catechism said, 'The traditional teaching of the church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.'

"The new section specifies that Catholic tradition has allowed for use of the death penalty only when the identity and responsibility of the condemned is certain and capital punishment is the only way to protect the lives of others. But it added the judgement made in the encyclical that, with the resources and possibilities available to governments today for restraining criminals, 'cases of the absolute necessity of the suppression fo the offender "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."'

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said, 'It seems to me it would be very difficult to meet the conditions today.'"