In the new set of pastoral guidelines for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has made some moves that are very momentous, allowing all priests to forgive the sin of abortion and granting SSPX priests the capacity to forgive sins.
The Pope said in a Sept. 1 letter addressed to Archbishop Rino Fisichela, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, charged with organizing the jubilee, “One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life.”
In society today, “a widespread and insensitive mentality” has become a hindrance to the welcoming of new life, with many who do not fully know the deep harm done by the “tragedy of abortion,” he wrote. But, the pope also noted that there are some women who, despite thinking abortion is wrong, feel that they had no other choice.
“I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” he said.
Any woman who has an abortion automatically incurs a “latae sententias” excommunication, along with any who assisted her in the process. Due to this excommunication, the sin of abortion normally can be absolved by a bishop or some priests appointed to that bishop. For some occasions like Lent or Advent, some bishops extend this faculty to all priests within their diocese. In the United States, the ability to absolve abortion has already been delegated to all priests.
But Pope Francis is taking this to a universal level. He said that God’s forgiveness cannot be deprived of any person who has sincerely repented, especially when the person comes to the Sacrament of Confession in order to be genuinely reconciled with the Father.
Due to this, Francis stated, he has allowed all priests for the year of Jubilee of Mercy “to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it”.