Huge news. This was under embargo till noon, Rome time, which must be honored. [UPDATE: The Bollettino is now available HERE]
The Year of Mercy begins 8 December 2015 until 20 November 2016.
It is about to be announced that the Holy Father has sent a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization about the upcoming Extraordinary Year of Mercy.
In this letter the Pope says that he is granting to all priests the faculty to absolve from the sin of abortion. He writes: “I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Interesting way to word it.
He also says that the faithful may go to … well… read it yourself. Here is a screenshot from the doc:
This is HUGE news.
Let’s examine this.
First, note the language. This letter says that he hopes that the SSPX will be reconciled. He says that he hears good things about the priests of the SSPX. But he says that the faithful may approach the priests of the SSPX for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance) and that they shall validly and licitly receive absolution. He doesn’t say that he is granting the priests the faculty to receive sacramental confessions. He places the emphasis on the faithful. In effect, the priests are being given the faculty to hear confessions, but there is a different emphasis. I have the sense that it is the need of the faithful who otherwise might not go to a non-SSPX priest that the Holy Father is stressing. Think about the case of a person who is dying and there is, say, an ex-priest -a guy who was “laicized” because he committed certain crimes, present, the Church’s laws says that in the circumstances of the person’s danger of death any validly ordained priest automatically has the faculty validly to absolve. The need of the dying person is of such overwhelming importance that the law itself grants the ex-priest (or suspended priest, etc.) the faculty. The stress is on the need of the dying person, not on the priest. I think this is an analogous situation.
Along with this, the fact of Pope Francis’ move, together with the wording, confirms what I have been saying all along about the priests of the SSPX: they do not and have not had the faculty validly to absolve sins! The fact that this is being granted for the Year of Mercy bears out what I have been saying.
That said, if the Holy Father is willing to go this far with the priests of the SSPX, is it hard to imagine that this merciful concession might not be extended beyond the Year of Mercy? I would like to think so!
Next, this concession also underscores a point I have been making all along. If only Nixon could go to China, perhaps Pope Francis is the Pope who will reconcile the SSPX!
Additionally, this could irritate some bishops in, say, France… Germany…. And even though this may not be well received in certain circles, the Pope is doing it anyway.
Moreover, earlier in his pontificate, this Pope was pretty hard on priests. He seemed to be bashing them on a daily basis. This move to grant all priests in the world the faculty to lift the censure which results from procuring an abortion is a sign of his confidence in priests… for a change.
I take heart from this bold move – which makes so much sense (to me at least) – in favor of the access the faithful will have to sacrament of penance. I hope that it will also spark a wider discussion on the positive things that will come from the reconciliation of the SSPX. I hope that discussion takes place even among the SSPXers themselves.
May all the followers of the SSPX , please God, look at this move with joy and with gratitude for the concern the Pope is showing to them.
And… to everyone… GO TO CONFESSION!
But… remember, the Year of Mercy hasn’t started yet and the SSPX does not yet have their faculty. GO TO CONFESSION with priest with faculties!
UPDATE 1020 UTC:
The Fishwrap has posted on this now. They get it wrong, of course. They openly call the SSPXers “schismatic”.
UPDATE 1648 UTC:
The SSPX has issued a statement. HERE It may contain a touch of snark (in the comment about learning about it through the press), and it reveals a consistent (wrong) position, but at least it was polite.
The Society of St. Pius X learned, through the press, [snark?] of the provisions taken by Pope Francis on the occasion of the upcoming Holy Year. In the last paragraph of his letter addressed September 1, 2015, to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Holy Father writes:
«I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Society of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.»
The Society of St. Pius X expresses its gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this fatherly gesture. In the ministry of the sacrament of penance, we have always relied, with all certainty, [wrong] on the extrdaordinary [sic] jurisdiction conferred by the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law. [which Code?] On the occasion of this Holy Year, Pope Francis wants all the faithful who wish to confess to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to be able to do so without being worried. [and without leaving unabsolved]
During this year of conversion, the priests of the Society of St. Pius X will have at heart to exercise with renewed generosity their ministry in the confessional, following the example of tireless dedication which the holy Curé of Ars gave to all priests.
September 1, 2015
UPDATE: I thought I heard a touch of snark in that remark about having heard about this through the press (rather than from Francis himself or one of his minions ahead of time). I dunno. Maybe my antennae are overly extended in that line.
UPDATE: 2 Sept 0024 UTC:
A priest reminded me in an email that John Paul II gave priests the same faculty regarding abortion in 1983.