Pope ex­tends rul­ing that al­lows priests to for­give abor­tions


Al­bu­querque Journal, N.M.

— Pope Fran­cis on Mon­day ex­tended in­def­i­nitely a pro­vi­sion that al­lows any Catholic priest to for­give abor­tions, while he re­it­er­ated that the church con­sid­ers the prac­tice a “griev­ous sin.”

The ac­tion makes per­ma­nent a change Fran­cis an­nounced last year that made it eas­ier for Catholics to ob­tain for­give­ness for abor­tion dur­ing the Holy Year of Mercy, which ended Sun­day.

Priests in the Arch­dio­cese of Santa Fe have had the author­ity for more than 20 years to ab­solve abor­tion, said the arch­dio­cese’s vicar gen­eral, the Rev. John Daniel, in a writ­ten state­ment is­sued Mon­day.

“This has pro­vided many in the Arch­dio­cese with an op­por­tu­nity to heal and ex­pe­ri­ence God’s for­give­ness with­out any de­lay,” Daniel said. “May this ac­tion of Pope Fran­cis pro­vide a path for­ward for those who are strug­gling with find­ing heal­ing and for­give­ness.”

The Rev. Stephen Im­bar­rato, a priest in the arch­dio­cese and an anti-abor­tion ac­tivist, said priests in the United States and much of the de­vel­oped world have had the author­ity for decades to for­give abor­tions.

“In the United States, priests have had the power to ab­solve the sin of abor­tion, and lift any ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion at­tached to that sin, since the 1970s,” Im­bar­rato said Mon­day.

Abor­tions be­came in­creas­ingly com­mon in the U.S. af­ter the 1973 land­mark U.S.


Supreme Court de­ci­sion Roe v. Wade le­gal­ized abor­tion, “so bish­ops ex­tended their author­ity to ab­solve abor­tions to priests in the con­fes­sional,” he said.

The pope’s an­nounce­ment will have the big­gest im­pact in na­tions where bish­ops have not given priests the author­ity to ab­solve abor­tions, Im­bar­rato said.

“Now you don’t need the per­mis­sion of the bishop any­where in the world to for­give an abor­tion,” he said. “You have it through the author­ity of the pope.”

Pope Fran­cis wrote in his Apos­tolic Let­ter that the church con­sid­ers abor­tion “a grave sin, since it puts an end to an in­no­cent life.”

“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,” Fran­cis wrote.

The pope in­tended the let­ter as a mes­sage to Catholics that they can seek mercy through the church, Catholic lead­ers said.

“Pope Fran­cis, with this let­ter is re­mind­ing us that we have a lov­ing and for­giv­ing God, that wishes us to walk close to him,” Daniel wrote.

Im­bar­rato said the pope’s let­ter is in­tended to en­cour­age Catholics to seek for­give­ness from the church.

“The pope, mak­ing this an­nounce­ment now, sends the mes­sage out to peo­ple that abor­tion is a for­giv­able sin and that every­body should seek Christ’s mercy,” he said.


Pope Fran­cis waves to the crowd dur­ing the can­on­iza­tion of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II at the Vatican in April 2014.

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