At CNN we find a story about how Pope Francis extended to priests indefinitely the ability to absolve the sin of abortion. He had hitherto given it only for the Year of Mercy, which is now closed.
(CNN)Pope Francis has extended indefinitely the power of Catholic priests to forgive abortions, making the announcement in an apostolic letter released Monday.
It continues a special dispensation granted last year for the duration of the Year of Mercy — which finished Sunday — which gave all priests, rather than just bishops and specially designated confessors, the power to absolve the sin of abortion.
While the practical effect of Francis’ announcement remains unclear, it draws attention to the prevailing theme of his papacy: That the doors of the Church must remain open, just as God’s forgiveness and mercy extend to all those who repent from sin.
That said, the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion has not changed — it is still viewed as a “grave sin.” But it makes it easier for women who have had abortions to be absolved for their actions, and rejoin the church. [They are still in the Church. But if they have incurred the sin of excommunication, they may not be absolved or receive Communion. The censure must be lifted. Then they may be absolved and they can go to Communion. Meanwhile, they are still obliged to all the things other Catholics are obliged to, including going to Mass on days of obligation.]
“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’s letter states.
“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.”
The letter continues: “May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.
“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”
Something needs to be made clear. Every time the issue of confession of the sin of successfully procured abortion comes up, something needs to be made clear.
Priests have long had the power to forgive the sin of abortion. However, procuring an abortion incurs also a censure of excommunication, which is to be absolved in a separate step. Canon law reserves the lifting of this particular excommunication to the bishop. Pope Francis extended this faculty to lift the excommunication to all priests. Most of the bishops in these USA have already given this faculty to their priests as a response to the growing numbers of abortions performed. That speeds up the reconciliation process many times.
ALSO… and this is important. It is not just the women who go for the abortion who commit the sin and incur the censure. Men involved can incur it. Anyone directly involved can commit the sin and incur the censure. There are many ways to participate in the sin of another person: 9 ways! You can be guilty of the sin committed by another
- By counsel (to give advice, one’s opinion or instructions.)
- By command (to demand, to order, such as in the military.)
- By consent (to give permission, to approve, to agree to.)
- By provocation (to dare.)
- By praise or flattery (to cheer, to applaud, to commend.)
- By concealment (to hide the action, to cover-up.)
- By partaking (to take part, to participate.)
- By silence (by playing dumb, by remaining quiet.)
- By defense of the ill done (to justify, to argue in favour.)
One can argue about how directly you must be involved to be guilty of the sin and also to incur the censure. Paying? Driving? Urging? Working in the clinic? Etc. However, if you have any doubts about your own state of participation in such a thing, you should find a good, solid confessor and put the whole thing to him in the context of sacramental confession or internal forum discussion.
You can see how the logic of lifting or absolving censures and absolving sins works by reviewing the older, traditional form of the words of absolution. The priest mentions censures before he absolves sins.
May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) [that “suspension” is used for clerics, in case they did something that incurred suspension a divinis] and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Thereupon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“As far as my power allows” (i.e., if I have the faculty to absolve the thing you incurred… there’s an old adage “Nemo dat quod non ‘got’!” You can’t give what you don’t have.), “and your needs require”, (i.e., whatsoever thing you might have incurred). This language covers all the bases.
The newer form of absolution does not mention censures. There are different forms a priest can use, if memory serves, provided in the Ordo Paenitentiae.
The Church had all this stuff about censures and sins worked out.
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