Can priests be on capital punishment juries, or is this interdicted as an irregularity by canon law?

  • A thing to note which may complicate answering this question is that juries are largely a common law (English/American) thing whereas Canon Law is based upon Roman law, so while there is a good question here, it's quite possible finding an answer may be challenging
    – eques
    Sep 25, 2023 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


The 1917 Code of Canon Law can. 984 lists the following as irregularities to receiving (or continuing the exercise of) Holy Orders:

6.° A judge who passed a sentence of death;

7.° Those who take up the task of [execution] and their immediate and voluntary assistants in the execution of a capital sentence.

The corresponding 1983 Code can. 1041 does not mention these irregularities.

Integralism ch. 7, n. 18:

the shedding of blood by the one who offers sacrifice is unfitting and traditionally causes the person inflicting death to incur irregularity. “His a quibus Domini sacramenta tractanda sunt, iudicium sanguinis agitare non licet” (“those who are to handle the Lord’s sacraments may not carry out the judgement of blood”); 11th Council of Toledo, c. 6.

  • A jury does not pass a sentence, and, thus, neither does a juror. A judge might pass a sentence of death, but if a jury is involved in a trial, they only determine guilt. The jury may know that capital punishment is a possible or likely outcome of their guilty verdict, but they cannot be held responsible for the death sentence rendered by a judge. I see absolutely no reason why serving on a jury which comes to a guilty verdict resulting in the execution of the person on trial should be considered having "carr[ied] out the judgements of blood."
    – jaredad7
    Sep 26, 2023 at 21:54
  • @jaredad7 Yeah, Dom Augustine says it's only the executioner, not even those who pass a capital punishment sentence, nor the priests who witness the execution.
    – Geremia
    Sep 29, 2023 at 0:07

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