What can I reasonably expect about a die command in the catch block, or the finally block?
As the documentation suggests, you are responsible for your own error handling in the finally block. That means you need to use eval or try in it (though I shudder at the thought of the latter).
The point of running "server" distributions is known-compatible packages conservatively chosen, right?
I think in truth it's that "Installing software is haaaaaaaaaaard." I wouldn't take RHEL's suggestions on what makes for good Perl.