Can Catholics hold the position that some homosexual (=any sexual relation to the other man) priests should be punished by the death penalty? (What about homosexuals in general?)

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    "Sodomite" is usually considered an offensive slur. Please be clearer about what you mean: priests who had sex with men, paedophile priests, priests who had anal sex with women?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 23:06
  • Your lack of empathy is not good. Don't use slurs if people are offended by them. There are lots of things Protestants refrain from calling Catholics because it would offend them. And your question still isn't clear enough: are you including priests who only have oral sex with men, or only those who have anal sex with them? Please just edit the question and be crystal clear.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 23:11
  • @Thom IMO, pederasty and/or child sex abuses maybe the bigger sin for Catholic priests. Or an even bigger issue for your question is how death penalty ITSELF may no longer be an option for antyhing. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 23:49
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    FYI: currently you have 2 upvotes and 2 downvotes. I suspect the downvotes are from politically correct people that object to the existence of the term "sodomite". Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 0:55
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    It may not be an offensive slur from where you all are from, but generally in the Anglosphere it is an extremely offensive term. It is not appropriate in this forum. Further, the term is not necessary to formulate the question. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


In his Book of Gomorrah, the Doctor of the Church St. Peter Damian

notes the severe penalties historically attached to such offenses in the Scriptures as well as the canons of Church councils, and argues that such penalties should be even stronger for members of the clergy, who are to be held to a higher standard than the laity. The strongest punishments in the Church’s historic legislation are reserved for those who abuse children and adolescents. They are to be “publicly beaten” and humiliated, “bound in iron chains, worn down with six months of imprisonment, and three days every week to fast on barley bread at sundown,” and confined to a monastery in perpetuity under constant guard.

The Book of Gomorrah: St. Peter Damian's Struggle Against Ecclesiastical Corruption, introduction by translator Hoffman

St. Peter Damian writes in ch. 6 of his Book of Gomorrah that such priests are worthy of death (cf. Rom. 1:32):

May idle prelates of clerics and priests hear! May they hear, and although they might be secure from personal guilt, may they fear themselves to be participants in the guilt of others! Undoubtedly, those who turn a blind eye to the sins of their subjects that they are obligated to correct, also grant to their subjects a license to sin through their ill-considered silence. May they hear, I say, and wisely understand, that all are uniformly worthy of death, indeed, “not only they that do them, but they also who consent to them that do them.”

But, as Hoffman notes (fn. 179),

Damian is not, as some hostile commentators have claimed, recommending the death penalty for sodomy. He is quoting part of Romans 1:29–32, in which the St. Paul lists a large number of sins, including pride, disobedience to parents, dissoluteness, contumely, avarice, sodomy, and others, and concludes that “they who do such things, are worthy of death: and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.” The reference is to the gravity of the sin, not a recommendation for capital punishment by the state.

St. Thomas, commentating on Rom. 1:32, seems to agree it is a spiritual (not corporal) death, because he cites Rom. 6:23: "The wages of sin is death."

However, Pope St. Pius V's 1 April 1566 constitution Cum primum treats clerical sodomites similarly to incorrigible heretics:

§. 11. Si quis crimen nefandum contra naturam, propter quod ira Dei venit in filios diffidentiæ, perpetraverit, Curiæ sæculari puniendus tradatur, & si clericus fuerit, omnibus ordinibus degradatus simili pœnæ subiciatur.

[Engl. transl.:] §. 11. If someone commits that nefarious crime against nature that caused divine wrath to be unleashed against the children of iniquity, he will be given over to the secular arm for punishment [of death?*]; and if he is a cleric, he will be subject to the same punishment after having been stripped of all his degrees [of ecclesiastical dignity].

*I don't know what the secular punishment for sodomy was at the time, but, like with heretics, it doesn't seem the Church is opposed to capital punishment of clerical sodomites.

What he says is reminiscent of St. Thomas saying that excommunicated, obstinate, incorrigible heretics should be delivered "to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death".


Can a Catholic hold the position that some sodomite priests should be punished by the death penalty?

One could imagine that this would go the same for pedophile priests!

What a wonderful can of worms this question is about open!

This answer does not reflect the opinion of the one answering this post.

At a moral perspective, a Catholic could hold such a position, but I doubt many would in today’s modern culture.

Starting in the 12th Century, the Roman Catholic Church launched a massive campaign against sodomites, especially homosexuals. Between the years 1250 and 1300, homosexual activity was radically criminalized in most of Europe, even punishable by death.

In England, Henry VIII introduced the first legislation under English criminal law against sodomy with the Buggery Act of 1533, making buggery punishable by hanging, a penalty not lifted until 1861. - Sodomy law (Wikipedia)

We all know the story of Sodom and Gomor’rah from the Book of Genesis and how God dwelt with the evil inhabitants of these cities.

The sin of sodomy is mentioned in Genesis chapter 19.

4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter. 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: 'Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.'

Lot refused to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom and, instead, offered them his two virgin daughters "which have not known man" and to "do ye to them as [is] good in your eyes". However, they refused this offer, complained about this alien, namely Lot, judging them, and then came near to break down the door. Lot's angelic guests rescued him and struck the men with blindness and they informed Lot of their mission to destroy the city. Then (not having found even 10 righteous people in the city), they commanded Lot to gather his family and leave. As they made their escape, one angel commanded Lot to "look not behind thee" (singular "thee"). However, as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with brimstone and fire from the Lord, Lot's wife looked back at the city, and she became a pillar of salt. - Sodom and Gomorrah

Now if a Catholic were to hold the opinion that sodomy could be punishable by death, then priests who were guilty of this same crime could in fact be punishable with the same consequences.

One of the first papal executions was of a Cardinal of the Catholic Church:

The first known persons directly ordered to be executed by the a pope himself seems to be the brothers Cardinal Carlo Carafa and Giovanni Carafa, Duke of Paliano, nephews of Paul IV, sentenced to strangulation in prison and beheading, respectively, by Pius IV, as his first public act (March 5, 1561).

Carlo Carafa (29 March 1517 - 6 March 1561) of a distinguished family of Naples, vicious and talented3 was successively condottiero in the service of France and of Spain, vying for their protectorates in Italy until 1555, when he was made a cardinal,3 to 1559 the all-powerful favourite and Cardinal Nephew of Pope Paul IV Carafa, whose policies he directed and whom he served as papal legate in Paris, Venice and Brussels. According to the Jesuit, later Cardinal, Francesco Sforza Pallavicino, writing the history of the Council of Trent, his subtlety of spirit and grace of address, physical courage and instinct for glory were overridden by his insatiable thirst for power.

In June 1560, Paul's successor, Pope Pius IV arrested the leading members of the family - Carlo, his brother Duke Giovanni, and their nephew the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, seizing their papers, and levying a range of charges relating to abuses of power during Paul's reign. Carlo was charged with murder, sodomy, and the promotion of Protestantism. After a nine-month trial, he was condemned along with his brother, and was executed by strangulation at Castel Sant' Angelo on the night of 6 March 1561. His execution was considered at the time to have been motivated primarily by political factors such as his pro-French, anti-Spanish policies.

On September 26, 1567, the sentence was declared unjust by Pope Pius V. The memory of the victims was vindicated and their estates restored. Carlo Carafa

If a Cardinal could be executed, it stands to reason that a sodomite priest could perhaps be executed for this crime. However, in our modern climate dealing with capital punishment, I doubt it would happen.

Did Pope Francis declare that according to the teaching of the Catholic Church capital punishment is intrinsically evil?

The short answer is no. The choice of words regarding the Roman Pontiff's decision to try to abolish the death penalty is not strong enough to raise the death penalty to the fact that it is intrinsically evil in all situations.

The pope stated the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

According to the Cambridge Dictionary inadmissible is defined as the following:

Unable to be accepted, esp. in a law court:

The lie detector test was inadmissible as evidence in the case.

Or if one prefers the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Not able to be allowed or considered in a legal case : not admissible.

What is an intrinsic evil?

Intrinsic evil is something which is always evil, no matter the circumstances or rationale. If an act is intrinsically evil, it cannot be justified by the intention or by the circumstances (the environment, social pressure, emergency situation, etc.)

Historically speaking the Church has allowed the use executions as a means for courts to protect its' citizens against serious evil doers.

What is the Catholic Church's historical position on capital punishment: how did we get here?

Some issues allow for a diversity of opinion, and Catholics are permitted leeway in endorsing or opposing particular policies. This is the case with the questions of when to go to war and when to apply the death penalty. Though the Church urges caution regarding both of these issues, it acknowledges that the state has the right to employ them in some circumstances (CCC 2309, 2267).

Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, spoke of this in a document dealing with when Catholics may receive Communion:

"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the -application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia" (WRHC 3). - Five Non-Negotiable Issues.

Pope Francis has yet to state that capital punishment is grounds for a Catholic not being to able to receive Holy Communion if one partakes in some legal form with a lawfully convicted criminal's execution. Therefore capital punishment is not an intrinsically evil act.

Even the new wording of the Catechism, as approved by Pope Francis, does not quite require Catholics to disapprove of the death penalty in all circumstances. The Pope’s new language does not contradict the time-honored Church teaching that the state has the authority to invoke the death penalty in appropriate circumstances. (That traditional teaching was clearly upheld, in the same section 2267 of the Catechism, even after Pope John Paul II called for a tighter restriction on executions.)

Nor does the revised Catechism teach that the use of capital punishment is intrinsically immoral. - Pope Francis and the death penalty: another dose of confusion


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