Pope Francis will allow priests to forgive the sin of abortion during the upcoming Holy Year, from December 8 to November 26. Normally, abortion incurs automatic excommunication. Bishops must give special permission before a priest can absolve a penitents of that particular sin.
That abortion cannot be forgiven, apart from an elaborate bureaucratic process, is another example of the Gospel-denying effects of the Roman Catholic penitential system. Christ died for all sins, including abortion, and He bore every woman’s abortion in His body on the Cross. So every woman who has committed this sin can know that she has forgiveness in Him. Now for one year, such women can find forgiveness in the Roman Catholic Church.
But this action by Pope Francis is being interpreted as another example of the pontiff’s “tolerance” and will be taken as a weakening of the church’s position on abortion.
Pope Francis will give all priests discretion during the Roman Catholic Church’s upcoming Holy Year to formally forgive women who have had abortions, in the Argentine pontiff’s latest move towards a more open and inclusive church.In Church teaching, abortion is such a grave sin that those who procure or perform it incur an automatic excommunication. Usually only designated clergy and missionaries can formally forgive abortions.
But from Dec.8 to Nov. 26, during an extraordinary Holy Year or “Jubilee” on the theme of mercy announced by Pope Francis in March, all priests will be able to do so, he said in a letter published on Tuesday by the Vatican.
In the letter, Francis described the “existential and moral ordeal” faced by women who have terminated pregnancies and said he had “met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision”.
Francis is the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and has marked himself out for his tolerance regarding taboo topics. Although he has shown no intention of retracting the Church’s opposition to abortion, he has alarmed conservatives by taking a less forceful tone than his predecessors.
“This is by no means an attempt to minimize the gravity of this sin but to widen the possibility of showing mercy,” Vatican chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters.