Pope extends Jubilee mandate on abortion – Grants all priests faculty to absolve sin of abortion
Acknowledging and sharing God’s mercy is a permanent part of the Christian life, so initiatives undertaken during the special Year of Mercy must continue, Pope Francis said.
“Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the church,” the pope wrote in an apostolic letter, “Misericordia et Misera,” (“Mercy and Misery”), which he signed Nov. 20 at the end of the Year of Mercy.
The Catholic Church’s focus on God’s mercy must continue with individual acts of kindness, assistance to the poor and, particularly, with encouraging Catholics to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and making it easier for them to do so, the pope wrote.
In his letter, Pope Francis said he formally was giving all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion. While many bishops around the world, and almost all bishops in the United States, routinely grant that faculty to all their priests, Pope Francis had made it universal during the Holy Year.
According to canon law, procuring an abortion brings automatic excommunication to those who know of the penalty, but procure the abortion anyway. Without formal permission, priests had been required to refer the case to their bishops before the excommunication could be lifted and sacramental absolution could be granted to a woman who had an abortion or those directly involved in the procedure.
“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 pope wrote. “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.”
Speaking to reporters during a Vatican news conference Nov. 21, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said procuring an abortion still results in automatic excommunication the very moment the procedure is carried out.
Sacramental absolution, therefore, is not just forgiving the sin of abortion, but also means “the excommunication is removed,” he said.
Now that all priests have been given the faculty to lift the excommunication and grant absolution, the Code of Canon Law will have to be updated, said the archbishop, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the office that organized events for the Year of Mercy.