St. Pope John Paul II condemned the death penalty and urged government leaders to end it.
Pope Benedict XVI did the same, in language just as strong as that used by his beloved predecessor.
Now Pope Francis has gone one step further, saying that the church can now say that the faith of the ages has evolved, allowing the Catholic Catechism to condemn the death penalty in strong, but somewhat unusual language. Is use of the death penalty now a mortal sin, like abortion and euthanasia? Well, the word is that it is "inadmissible."
This is, of course, a major news story and, no surprise, host Todd Wilken and I discussed the early press coverage in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.
But what does this change really mean?
Did Pope Francis simply take the work of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI one step further? Thus, Catholic traditionalists can chill.
Or is this an example of Pope Francis the progressive, moving one piece on the Jesuit chessboard to prepare for further shifts in the future on other doctrines? If the church was wrong on the death penalty for 2,000 years, who knows what doctrine will evolve next?
So, is this doctrinal shift a big deal or not?
It appears, after looking at lots of commentary on social media, that the answer to that question depends on whether someone trusts Pope Francis or not.