Abortion’s forgivable but still a grave sin says Pope

Abortion’s forgivable, says Pope Francis.

Any priest can now forgive women who have had abortions.

This is a significant change in direction.

The new direction was signaled during the Holy Year of Mercy which finished last Sunday.

Francis gave all priests temporary ability to absolve women who had abortions during the Holy Year.

Until then, women were excommunicated. Only a bishop or a designated special confessor could absolve a woman of an abortion and lift excommunication.

The same applied to all Catholics involved in an abortion, including the medical staff.

There are three aspects to Francis’s ruling.

The first is about the sinfulness of abortion. It is still a serious sin.

In this respect Francis says, “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 second part involves a statement about God’s universal mercy.

He says “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”.

The third part is about his concern for priests.

“May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation,” he said.

Some bishops in developed countries like the US and the UK had already delegated this authority to parish priests.

However in most of the world this was not the case.

“Not only is this a change in Church policy, it changes Church law,” said Father James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College.

“I think it’s very significant in the context of Pope Francis’ theme of his pontificate, which is going to go down as the pontificate of mercy; he sees mercy as absolutely the key.”



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