Pope Gives Priests Authority To Forgive Abortion As Church Refocuses On Message Of Grace And Mercy
Pope Clears Path To Grace And Mercy
In an effort to refocus the Catholic Church on grace and mercy, rather than sin and punishment, Pope Francis has extended the ability to forgive abortion to all priests.
The power to absolve abortion, previously the province of bishops, was granted to priests temporarily by the Pope, as part of the Catholic Church’s “Year of Mercy,” which ended last Sunday.
But in a letter released Monday, the pope announced that the change would remain in effect.
Although the pope remains firm in the long-held Church belief that abortion is a sin, he wishes to see the church focus more on mercy, grace and reconciliation. God’s mercy, the pope says simply, is for all.
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is 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 seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”
The Pope’s Move Is Significant
This newfound authority for priests to forgive abortion does not represent a shift in the path the Church has long taken, but instead, is an effort to remove roadblocks for Catholic women.
Jon O’Brien, the president of the group Catholics for Choice, praised the Pope’s move. He stated that Francis understands “the deep chasm that exists between ordinary Catholics – who turn to abortion and birth control with the same frequency as people of other faiths – and their clergy,” the Guardian reports.
The move is significant, not because it signifies a major change in doctrine, but because it signals the Church to look at the issue of abortion with less condemnation – and to focus more on grace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.
That message of mercy came through in clear tones in the Pope’s letter.
“Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness. For this reason, none of us has the right to make forgiveness conditional. Mercy is always a gratuitous act of our heavenly Father, an unconditional and unmerited act of love. Consequently, we cannot risk opposing the full freedom of the love with which God enters into the life of every person.
“Mercy is this concrete action of love that, by forgiving, transforms and changes our lives. In this way, the divine mystery of mercy is made manifest. God is merciful; his mercy lasts for ever. From generation to generation, it embraces all those who trust in him and it changes them, by bestowing a share in his very life.”
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