A reader thinks JPII’s “reversal” of Catholic teaching on the Death Penalty is a strong case against papal infallibility
The Pope’s “reversal” isn’t even a reversal, much less a danger to papal infallibility. There is a wide range of prudential judgment options for applying capital punishment. That range lies between “Always” and “never”. JPII tends to push the needle toward “never” as a rule of thumb but he does not say capital punishment is intrinsically immoral and does not deny Caesar the right to his sword. If he did, then you could start talking about a “reversal” of Catholic teaching and a serious case against infallibility. As it is, John Paul is simply saying that, given the wide range of options, applying capital punishment as infrequently as possible would be preferable.
Infallibility does not mean “Two Popes can never disagree about a question of prudential judgment.” In order to argue against infallibility it is necessary to argue against what the Church actually means by the term and not merely to argue against what a phantom Straw Church of one’s own imagining means. For a handy discussion of what infallibility actually means, consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church.