I’ve read a great many articles about the change made by the Pope in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Many apologists, who seem to want to stay both loyal to the Pope and the tradition of the Church’s teachings for the past 2000 years have made attempts to create a bit of ambiguity about what the Pope means by the death penalty is ‘inadmissible.’ What does Pope Francis mean by ‘inadmissible’? Well, in his newly released book titled, A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society, he states quite clearly what he means by this particular language:
“And you French have a lovely phrase from the fifth century–it’s from Vincent de Lerins, a French monk and theologian–which says that “tradition is a movement.” I’m sorry. He say’s that in Latin: “Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempure, sublimetur aetate” “Even the dogma of the Church must follow these laws, consolidating over the years, developing over time, deepening with age.” Tradition moves forward, but in what ways? So that, over the years, it consolidates itself to grow over time and be sublimated with age. The principles of tradition don’t change, the essence doesn’t change, but it grows, it evolves.
For Example, about the death penalty. We bishops decreed the death penalty in the Middle Ages. The Church says more or less–and we are working to change the catechism on this point–that the death penalty is immoral. Does that mean tradition has changed? No, but conscience evolves, the moral conscience evolves.”
– Pope Francis, A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2018), 222.