by our Rome correspondent MORE than half of the Italian clergy do not agree with guidelines on the death penalty contained in the Vatican's new Universal Catechism. As many as 26 per cent said the new text left them "perplexed" and only 22 per cent supported it.
In the first survey of clerical views on the new Catechism, which was leaked last week [our months ahead of its official publication, 52 per cent of Italy's priests said they opposed the death penalty on principle and were unable to back the view outlined in the text.
Despite papal condemnations of the recent spate of executions in the United States, the Catechism speaks of the death penalty as legitimate in the context of a state's lawful defence of society.
On the question of whether killing is legitimate in war, 53 per cent of the priests questioned said that in principle they believed there was such a thing as a "just war".
The majority of priests agreed with other controversial parts of the new text. Almost four in every live were in favour of "accepting homosexuals within the Church provided that they respect chastity". Just four per cent said they would reject homosexuals.
Asked which of the "new sins" listed in the Catechism was most harmful to society, 29 per cent were concerned with the manipulation of public opinion. 17 per cent felt corruption was worse and only seven per cent dted tax evasion and pornography.