Pope Francis Grants Priests Authority To Absolve Abortions

  • December 11, 2016
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Pope Francis Grants All Priests The Authority To Absolve Abortions

Pope Francis has declared that abortion, which remains a “grave sin” in the eyes of the Catholic Church, can be absolved by ordinary priests for the foreseeable future — instead of requiring the intervention of a bishop.

The change was implemented on a temporary basis, for one year only, as part of the Catholic Church’s “Year of Mercy,” which began last December and ended on Sunday.

In a letter released on Monday, the pope announced that the change was being extended indefinitely.

“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” the pope wrote in the letter. “In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”

“Because the Roman Catholic Church holds abortion to be such a serious sin, it had long put the matter of granting forgiveness for it in the hands of a bishop, who could either hear the woman’s confession himself or delegate that to a priest who was expert in such situations,” The Associated Press explains.

In the U.S., Catholic News Service reports, most bishops have routinely granted the faculty to their priests, but the Year of Mercy made the permission universal.

In the letter, the pope indicated he was extending the ability to absolve abortions “lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness.”

Back in January 2014, Pope Francis, criticised by some conservative Catholics as not speaking out forcefully against abortion, said Monday that the practice is “horrific” and evidence of “the throwaway culture.”

In an annual speech known as the pontiff’s “State of the World” address, Francis told diplomats and journalists gathered at the Holy See that it “is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”

Hunger, he said, is a threat to world peace, noting that food, like human life, is being discarded as unnecessary.

“We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed ‘the throwaway culture,’ ” Francis said.

“Our life, with its joys and sorrows, is something unique and unrepeatable that takes place under the merciful gaze of God,” he said. In counseling couples priests must use “a careful, profound and far-sighted spiritual discernment, so that everyone, none excluded, can feel accepted by God, participate actively in the life of the community and be part of that People of God which journeys tirelessly toward the fullness of his kingdom of justice, love, forgiveness and mercy.”

“Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness,” the pope wrote. “For this reason, none of us has the right to make forgiveness conditional.”

Some conservative Catholics were alarmed when Francis said in September that the church must end its “obsession” with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality or risk falling “like a house of cards.”

As the Two-Way reported last year, when the change for the Year of Mercy was announced, allowing priests to grant absolution for abortion does not constitute a “doctrinal shift” for the church.

“Forgiveness has always been available — albeit through more formal channels,” Candida R. Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, told NPR at the time. “That message wasn’t out there because the rhetoric that accompanies abortion is so elevated that it eclipses the Church’s teaching on forgiveness and mercy.”