All priests can absolve sin of abortion in Holy Year

Pope Francis has announced that all priests will have the discretion to absolve the sin of abortion confessed by women during the upcoming Year of Mercy.

This power is normally reserved to bishops, who frequently themselves grant priests permission to forgive the sin.

Procurement of an abortion incurs an automatic excommunication under Church law.

The Year of Mercy opens on December 8 and ends on November 20, 2016.

In another gesture emphasising mercy, the Pope has allowed priests of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X to offer absolution of sins “validly and licitly” to those who approach them for confession during the Holy Year.

These moves and an expansion of the indulgences available to Catholics during the jubilee year were announced in a letter by Francis to Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

The archbishop is president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, which is organising the holy year on the Pope’s behalf.

Regarding abortion, the Pope’s letter calls it a “tragedy” and refers to “a widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life”.

The Pope also mentioned the pressures some women come under that can result in a decision to have an abortion, and the suffering and anguish that women can experience afterwards.

The papal decision is aimed at penitents seeking forgiveness with a “contrite heart”.

Priests are asked to express a “genuine welcome” combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion.

Regarding the SSPX, Francis wrote that “This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one.”

“I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the fraternity,” the Pope stated.

Members of the SSPX are considered not to be in full communion with Rome, and, in normal circumstances, its priests and bishops cannot exercise Roman Catholic ministry.

Other acts of mercy during the jubilee year mentioned in the Pope’s letter include an indulgence granted to prisoners who enter their prison chapels.


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