World Youth Day priests may lift excommunications for abortion

World Youth Day priests may lift excommunications for abortion August 16, 2011

The confessionals pictured above are where the sacrament of reconciliation will be celebrated — and where this extraordinary move may now take place.


The Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has granted all of the 2,000 priests attending World Youth Day this week the special power to the lift the excommunication and to grant absolution in confession to those who have committed the sin of abortion.

According to the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, any person who procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the Church (can. 1398).  This penalty – the worst penalty there is under canon law – can only be lifted by the pope and bishops, as well as priests who have been given special permission by a bishop.

“Normally, only certain priests have the power to lift such an excommunication, but the local diocese has decided to give all the priests taking confession at the event this power,” said the pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

Priests hearing confessions at World Youth Day, however, will be granted special permission to deal with such cases from August 16-22.

The archdiocese said they hope that “all the faithful who attend the celebrations of World Youth Day can more easily access the fruits of divine grace, which opens the door to a new life for them,” according to EWTN News.

Madrid has been labeled the “abortion Mecca” of Europe by local pro-life leaders because of the skyrocketing rate of abortions, which grew from 51,000 in 1996 to 120,000 in 2007.  As many as 1 out of 5 of its pregnancies now end in abortion.

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7 responses to “World Youth Day priests may lift excommunications for abortion”

  1. I think that is a great idea, to bring those who wish into reconciliation with God, the Church and even themselves.

    Is it common for bishops in the U.S. to give priest the faculty to give absolution for abortions? I think that someone who approaches the confessional does not take lightly such a serious sin and is sincere about repentance.

  2. A very quiet but very VERY effective ministry of wider Christian “Pro-Life” folks is “post-abortion” ministry. I am a big fan of the “Project Rachel” movement here in the Midwest and I know a priest who ministers in the womens’ prisons in California who also has added “post-abortion healing” to his long list of ministries.

  3. There is a great analysis of the NY Times coverage of World Youth Day on the Get Religion site. It points out how their supposed news article on the event is more like the typical NY Times anti-Christian, anti-Catholic pile of rubbish.

  4. So often we hear people say Jesus said those without sin cast the first stone, but seldom do they go on to say Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more. I hope that the priests are well advised to make sure that message gets through as well. Unless they have a very profound desire and intent to not do this again, their repentence and reconcilliation with God if flawed and the grace that would flow with true reconciliation is missing.

    I recently talked with one of our parishoners who was upset because the priest would not tell him his sins had been forgiven. He did not seem to understand that God gave the priests the power to forgive, but also to retain. This is one place where there should be no doubt of what is expected because of the holocaust of abortion around the world. One woman I talked with at the local Project Rachel was of the mistaken belief that she could have another abortion in the future and get ongoing absolution without the requirment of intent to sin no more.

  5. Good question, pagansister. I’d be curious to hear from some priests how often it comes up in the confessional. If nothing else, this move at WYD might encourage young women to think about confessing this sin, and reconciling with the Church. It lets them know the door is open.

    Dcn. G.

  6. Yes, Deacon Kandra, perhaps it would encourage young women and perhaps even some older women, to think about confessing about having had an abortion. If it achieves that, that is good.

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