Ed Peters on the ‘sin’ of abortion, the ‘crime’ of abortion, and excommunication

The distinguished canonist (and commentator here) Ed Peters has a useful post at his fine blog In The Light Of The Law about the distinction of the sin of abortion and the crime of abortion and the sanction/censure that can be incurred when committing the act.

He doesn’t have a combox, so you might post here.  Do visit his blog for this and other good posts.

Pope Francis on reconciliation for abortion
by Dr. Edward Peters
I am sorry to have written a long post on this matter. I did not have time to write a short one.

Abortion has long sat in the middle of a three-street ecclesial intersection, namely, those of Sin, Crime, and Sanction. The meeting of any two of these factors would make for a perilous perch but the confluence of all three is fraught with opportunities for confusion. At the risk of serious over-simplification, let me sketch the basic situation and then address Pope Francis’ comments thereon.  [Pope Francis has extended faculties regarding abortion to all priests for the Year of Mercy  HERE]

1. Abortion has always been recognized as a sin and a grave sin at that. Like other grave sins the path to reconciliation is basically by sacramental Confession.

2. Like some (but not all) sins, abortion has long been treated as a crime under canon law. [Get that? Sin and crime.] As is true of other crimes, however, a host of legal factors must be considered in determining whether one who has become involved in the sin of abortion is also guilty of the crime of abortion. Not all persons sinning in this regard are guilty of the crime. [All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.]

3. The canonical sanction levied against those canonically guilty of the crime of abortion has long been excommunication (a surprisingly complex institute), and latae sententiae (or, automatic) excommunication at that (ironically, a complex procedure for incurring and living under certain censures). I have long held that the automatic character of certain sanctions in the Church does more juridic and pastoral harm than good these days, but I won’t debate that matter here. [He doesn’t like that “automatic” censure result.]

This already-complex intersection of sin, crime, and sanction has, I am sorry to say (sorry, because I think the canon law on abortion is too complex to meet some urgent pastoral needs facing us), been further complicated by at least two factors: [NB] first, an easy-to-overlook procedural change in the abortion crime norm itself, namely from 1917 CIC 2350 to 1983 CIC 1398, whereby the former express limitation that only “ordinaries” could lift the excommunication for the crime of abortion was dropped, introducing confusion as to whether and if so how the sin of abortion (which was too casually identified with the crime) could also be absolved by priests; [two step process?  In the older, traditional form of absolution there is such a two step process.] and second, due to another easy-to-overlook change in the abortion canon (matre non excepta), a powerful argument exists (to which I subscribe*) that excommunication for the crime of abortion cannot be automatically incurred by pregnant women (as opposed to abortionists themselves) if the penal law of the Church is applied according to its express terms. Thus, upon noting that there are zero examples of women being formally excommunicated for their abortion, this second factor, if correct (and I think it is) means that no women (again, as distinguished from blood-soaked abortionists) have been excommunicated for abortion at least since the 1983 Code went into effect. [The jury is out on that.]

Now, given the inherent complexity of the law itself in this area, the disputes about that law among qualified experts, and the pervasive ignorance of canon law among rank-and-file faithful brought about by 50 years of ecclesiastical antinomianism, no wonder people are confused about what Pope Francis’ recent statement means. I’m confused, if perhaps less so than some others.

Francis writes: “For this reason too, 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.” Canon law is not mentioned and we must parse such implications as best we can.  [I suspect that a juridical document will be issued which spells out what Francis intends.]

A) I think the pope’s statement reflects a mistaken assumption, common among those who were trained under the 1917 Code, that priests with normal faculties for Confession still cannot absolve from the sin (let alone from the crime) of abortion. I and others, however, hold that all priests with faculties can absolve from this sin. [The sin.] The pope’s comments resolve this debate admirably (at least for the period of the Jubilee Year) as I happen to think it should be resolved.

B) The pope’s statement seems to assume that the sin of abortion and the crime of abortion are concomitant realities. I, however, and I’ll wager nearly all other experts, hold sin to be distinguishable from crime, and that this crime is rarely, if ever, committed by women (again, as opposed to abortionists). Now, nothing in the pope’s comments addresses the crime of abortion though maybe he intended to address the crime as well as the sin (I cannot imagine that Francis meant to leave women in peril of excommunication for their abortions—though I stress again that I do not think women are excommunicated for undergoing abortion). But, plainly, the pope’s text itself does not address the crime of abortion or its canonical consequences and so I see no change in canonical discipline in this regard. If, by the way, the pope’s text does address the crime of abortion, then it seems to allow abortionists to have their excommunications—sanctions much more likely to have been incurred under current canon law—addressed as well. Maybe Francis intends that outcome though he speaks exclusively of women suffering in this regard and not of abortion profiteers. Perhaps Rome will clarify this point.

Et poenae latae sententiae delendae sunt. [See above!]

* See my “Canon 1324: exemption from a penalty” and “Canon 1398: Excommunication for procured abortion” in 2010 CLSA Advisory Opinions 169-174 and 178-182 respectively

Thanks for this, Dr. Peters!

For further clarity, folks should have recourse to Dr. Ed Peters’ book, Excommunication and the Catholic Church.

Ed Peters Excommunication

Remember, there is no sin that we little mortals can commit that is so bad that God will not forgive,provided we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.  God’s mercy is magnificent and it is ours for the asking.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RobS says:

    Very illuminating. Thanks, Fr. Z, and Dr. Peters.

    Question: what about abortion by prescription drugs, not just the insidious “plan B” or “morning after pill,” which are potential abortifacients, but RU-486 and the like. At this point, is the woman acting as abortionist, by knowingly and voluntarily ingesting the pill, and as such being guilty of the crime? Or is it still on the prescribing “doctor” in this case?

  2. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    RobS,that is a great question. I would think that as a physician, I am personally responsible for every prescription I write as though I am personally completing the effect of the medication. There is a reason why doctors place “orders” in patients charts and “dictate” notes…physicians have authority to order someone and therefore are culpable for the order’s effect.

    In the case of the directly abortifacient pill, even with the physician prescribing, it remains the act of will of the mother in taking the pill that is efficient in producing the effect of abortion. I would think the mother would be guilty of the crime and sin of abortion for abortion pills. While perhaps only the sin of abortion in the case of surgical abortion or Plan B pills which are not “supposed” to be “directly” abortifacient.

  3. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Thanks, Pater. RobS: No, but on forensic grounds, not canonical. See my 2011 CLSA Adv. Op. 109-111.

  4. johnmann says:

    It’s hard to believe that Pope Francis didn’t run this by the canonists first. I don’t think anyone would doubt that the pope intended to grant priests the faculties to lift the excommunication. For all practical purposes, that has the effect of abolishing the crime altogether. Maybe that’s the intention.

    I also can’t see Pope Francis not extending today’s groundbreaking policies beyond the Year of Mercy. He may not say so yet which is good. It would motivate people to confess within the year and it can also be used as leverage in negotiations with SSPX.

    Peters points us to gated articles on why mothers who procure abortions don’t incur the canonical penalties. Does anyone know the argument? I know there are lots of exceptions to latae excommunicaiton which may apply but which one covers all mothers procuring abortions?

  5. gracie says:

    Rush Limbaugh read the news blurb about this and then asked “a simple question as one who is not a Catholic” – why only *this* year can priests forgive the sin of abortion? He said he thought it would every year.

    His radio program is heard by millions of people and now millions of non-Catholics see further proof that the Catholic Church is nuts. Of course, the Church isn’t nuts, but why oh why can’t the Pope explain things that will be understood by the entire audience that hears his words? Wouldn’t that be in the service of the ecumenism he promotes?

  6. OlderCatholic says:

    “Of course, the Church isn’t nuts, but why oh why can’t the Pope explain things that will be understood by the entire audience that hears his words?”

    I heard Rush ask why just this one year too, and the way he said it it was a reasonable question. Even I thought so. (I’m driving around in my car with the radio on, I don’t have my copy of the Canon with me and couldn’t read it anyway because driving.)

    I can’t think of any way the Pope could have addressed this legal morass in a speech that would not have left everyone shaking their heads. In fact Dr. Peters’ post has me shaking mine, just because there is so much dispute and strange legal stuff in there. (And I’m a lawyer though not a Canon Lawyer!) Still, I think the Pope could have at least alluded to some of it just to give the non-Catholic audience some hint that no, forgiveness for this sin has not been and never will be restricted to just this one year, and yes, there has always been a way to do it but the point is, I’m making it easier.

    As it is, we do sound like lunatics to the non-Catholics. “What?!? You have to confess just in this one 12 month period (crazy Catholics can’t even use real years!) or you’re damned forever? That’s a crazy idea!”

    Yes it is a crazy idea, but of course that’s not what the Pope is saying….

  7. OlderCatholic says:

    Thank you for raising this question, Father, and providing a forum for our discussion.

  8. Veritatis Splendor says:

    Gracie, I see the same thing. This issue connects the general public to a confusing area of Canon Law. Without the background in why Canon Law is necessary at all, though the decision itself is amazing, it brings up issues that are rather difficult to explain, as demonstrated by the people who understand it having at least two doctoral degrees. Oh well, the laity better get up to snuff and understand this a little so that they can explain it, as well as to help coax others back to Penance.

  9. SharonB says:

    Gracie, Pope Francis gets a lot of discussion on Rush’s show lately! Unfortunately Rush gets his news from secular sources and doesn’t research enough before commenting, so he doesn’t get the story right. However, it’s really not his fault that he got this wrong. The Holy Father did call it the “sin” of abortion and it looks like Rush is right, priests always could forgive that sin, as Dr. Peters says in point 1 above. That’s what I thought was true, too. Rush ought to read Dr. Peters’ and Fr. Z’s blogs before commenting. Actually I hope he looks into it further. He’ll end up wanting to be Catholic himself.

    [I’m fairly sure that he (or one of his aides) has in the past.]

  10. Augustin57 says:

    I thought the bishops already had permission to delegate their authority to priests to forgive abortion in the Confessional? Did I misunderstand? I was told this some years back.

  11. chantgirl says:

    Considering that there are, most likely, women in every parish who have had an abortion at one point in the their lives, and men who either contributed to one or watched helplessly as a girlfriend had one, hopefully this announcement will draw souls back to the confessional. I wouldn’t be surprised if just the mention of this statement in the press didn’t have a deluge of people calling priests in the next few days, or lining up outside the confessional. Perhaps during the year of mercy additional times for confession could be made available in every parish.

    Fr. Z, I agree that no sin is too great for God to forgive, but when I think about the tech in the latest PP video discussing cutting through a baby’s face with a scissors while the heart was still beating, it impresses me that God must be much more merciful than I can even imagine to forgive such a thing. My first emotional response to such barbarity is to desire justice for the tiny infant who had to die such a death.

  12. LionsDenn84 says:

    Very confusing. So Dr. Peters is saying that according to the current Canon Law, any priest can absolve from the sin of abortion (right now, not taking into account this new document). Fr. Z, if a woman came to you today and confessed to having an abortion, would you give her absolution? If so, did you need a special authorization to do so?

  13. jacobi says:

    May I add two things Father, to this excellent article.

    We all think of abortionist as the man with the knife cutting out a visibly formed human body.

    But then there is the foetocide. The pill which kills up to 7, probably more days, after conception.

    This must be taken in to the equation.

    And then in-vitro fertilisation procedures, astonishing ly common these days with harassed late mums and dads, judging by the number of twins, often identical, seen in my local supermarket. Each of these represents, I believe, a number of aborted perfectly viable foeti.

    The Church really has to come to terms with this enormously growing tragedy – but as usual is holding an embarrassed silence.

  14. Jason Keener says:

    This is a very interesting topic but also a very confusing topic. I was always under the impression that any woman who successfully procured an abortion was automatically excommunicated. I was also always under the impression that most canonists interpreted the law to also mean that anyone who aided the woman in successfully procuring an abortion was automatically excommunicated. For example, a doctor performing the abortion, a nurse assisting in the procedure, or a boyfriend providing the financial means for the abortion would not only be guilty of the grave sin in helping bring about an abortion but also be automatically excommunicated for their role in the successful procurement of an abortion. Having said that, to actually incur the automatic excommunication, the mother, doctor, nurse, and boyfriend must know that procuring an abortion is an excommunicable offense, choose to do the act freely, be over the age of 16, etc. I am pretty sure almost no Catholics know that the penalty of automatic excommunication is attached to the sin of abortion. Here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, every priest has been delegated authority by the diocesan bishop to lift any excommunication that has been incurred by any person who has in some way cooperated in the act of successfully procuring an abortion.

    I think the Holy See will have to make it clear that priests have always had the ability to forgive the sin of abortion in the confessional but that the authority of the priest to lift the excommunication has not always been delegated to him by the diocesan bishop. Frankly, I think most Catholics will be shocked to even learn that being involved in obtaining an abortion leads to automatic excommunication if one knows it is an excommunicable offense, etc.

  15. Giuseppe says:

    If a woman signs a consent form to have an abortion, how is she not culpable in the crime of abortion? The destruction of her child would not happen but for her consent.

    If I sign a contract with a hit man to pay a visit to my mother-in-law, and the hit man delivers, I should hope that God would judge me as having committed murder. Otherwise….. (just kidding, she’s not that bad.)

  16. johnmann says:

    Like Jason Keener, I think the knowledge of the penalty requirement for excommunication would exclude most mothers who abort but given that many surely must know and many abortion providers may not, I don’t know if that’s why Ed Peters is relying on when he says the providers are guilty but the mothers aren’t.

    As for pills, many probably think it’s not abortive and in many cases there is in fact no abortion or no way of knowing either way. Given that, excommunication would be rare.

  17. Nonus Centurion says:

    Setting aside this speaking to my comment on the other post regarding how the poor wording of Pope Francis’ announcement has created great confusion…

    What Mr. Peter’s comments do not speak to is what Can. 1331 §1 states:. An excommunicated person is forbidden: 2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;

    Without any clarification, if none of the Sacraments can be received how can the Sacrament of Reconciliation be given? Nor is there any such clarification in the Catechism.

    I know that there is much more to this. However the point was and is, if an educated Catholic proficient with the internet cannot find a clear answer from the Vatican’s own web site or through Google to an authoritative source….then how can the Church be said to be fulfilling its role and obligation to teach? This is not a matter of technological capability or resources – it’s a matter of commitment.

    Just as importantly. Do the Bishops and Cardinals in the Catholic Church realize those who are not faithful Catholics look upon such a dearth of transparency and clarity, on things claimed to be so important and “intrinsically evil”, as a clear indication of the Catholic Church being dishonest – like a politician or the Jewish priests in the OT. I’m not saying that is a fair conclusion, but it is certainly understandable for those who grow up either ignorant to Catholic teaching or in an anti-Catholic environment….

    Here’s a link to the best web page I know of that explains the history and intricacies of excommunication; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm

    My assertion remains, Pope Francis, has again, created more confusion and scandal regarding the Catholic Church, the Catholic Faith, and the Catholic Faithful, while elevating his popularity….but really, to what end? What is worth such confusion and scandal? What is worth destroying so much of the “heavy lifting” work done by so many priests and Popes JPII and BXVI?

  18. iamlucky13 says:

    “Get that? Sin and crime”

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure I get it. My catechesis, which I thought until a few minutes ago was pretty good for lay person, has never explicitly covered the concept of a canonical crime, much less how it is distinct from sin.

    This excerpt from Dr. Peters stands out to me:

    “I think the pope’s statement reflects a mistaken assumption, common among those who were trained under the 1917 Code, that priests with normal faculties for Confession still cannot absolve from the sin (let alone from the crime) of abortion. I and others, however, hold that all priests with faculties can absolve from this sin.”

    So before 1983, priests with normal faculties definitely could not forgive the sin, nor could they lift the excommunication, assuming it was actually incurred?

    Then post 1983, priests with normal faculties may or may not have been able to forgive the sin, but can not lift the excommunication, assuming it was actually incurred? In that case, grace is restored to the soul and they are saved (baring further unforgiven sin) from hell, but they are not allowed to receive Communion or participate in ministerial roles until the bishop lifts the excommunication?

    Digging deeper, what if two people properly confess abortions to two different confessors – one who believes only the bishop can absolve the sin or grant a one-time faculty on a case-by-case basis, and the other who ascribes to Dr. Peter’s theory that the 1983 law grants him the faculty?

    The former will obviously inform the penitent of his limited faculty related to both the sin and the crime, take the case to the bishop, and as long as penitent bears the pastoral issues Dr. Peters raised concerns about patiently, they can have confidence the bishop both granted valid absolution and lifted their excommunication.

    The latter is granted absolution by the priest, but the priest, not being a canon lawyer and having forgotten instructions on the topic from seminary, remains silent on the excommunication. Upon learning this is not settled law, the penitent now wants to first of all know if their absolution was valid and effective, and secondly, if they are still or even ever were under the penalty of excommunication.

  19. Gratias says:

    Nice to be merciful of abortions, remarried, gays, transgender, lesbians and gender spectrum marriages. This will greatly enhance the Church approval rating in the world media. We were talking too much about abortion anyway, and not enough about poverty, agrarian reform, sustainable fuels and global warming.

    Thinking of the fetus that had its brain removed cutting through face while its heart was beating, you may be curious about what the U.S. Legal System allows to do with it. Go to: cellapplications.com and click on neurons and then on Human Brain Neurons. You can purchase 1,000,000 frozen cells for only 800 Dollars, derived from human fetuses during the second trimester, brought to you by Cell Applications, Inc. Excellent model for neuroscience studies of neurodevelopment! And it does not even hurt! Maybe.

    The Church is cool with Society, but Western Civilization is on the wrong track.

  20. oldconvert says:

    Please could the Pope (having consulted with his medical advisors; I assume he has someone medically qualified to advise him on this topic) give us a definition of abortion? It’s simple enough to say “killing an unborn child”, but modern technology has given us so many ways to do this. Take the case of that poor Indian dentist in Ireland a while back. She’s having a miscarriage, bleeding through the cervix, but the foetus’s heart is still beating. Now, a woman in that state is at enormous risk of infection resulting in septicaemia ascending via that open cervix, so the normal procedure is to give high dose antibiotic cover to protect her life. But the effect of such drugs will probably kill the foetus. So the hospital holds off. By the time they do decide to administer antibiotics, once the heartbeat has stopped, presumably, she’s already septicaemic and it’s too late to save her either.

    What about the thousands of young women annually who conceive in the Fallopian tube? If that pregnancy proceeds, the tube, not being elastic like the uterus, will rupture (this happened to me) and even with the most up-to-date medical care, the woman is more likely to die than not from massive internal bleeding (only once the tube has ruptured will the embryo die). In order to save the woman’s life, gynaecologists must operate, either removing the affected tube or injecting it with a drug which kills the embryo in situ. (The embryo will then be gradually reabsorbed into the mother’s body).

    Now these are all procedures which are abortions in that they kill an unborn child.

  21. Imrahil says:

    Dear Giuseppe,

    the reason seems to lie in the following arguments:
    1. If I follow Dr Peters correctly, the words “matre non excepta” were cut from the CIC in 1983 (that in itself doesn’t prove anything, I’d say).
    2. According to law,
    a) you don’t get a penalty if you’re under sixteen (can. 1323 no. 1) or lack use of reason without being guilty for it (no. 6)
    b) you get a mitigated penalty if you’ve got a mitigated, or entirely lacking but culpably so, use of reason (can. 1324 no. 1 and 2),
    c) in a heavy passion, though not entirely excluding willful consent (no. 3),
    d) if you’re under eighteen (no. 4),
    e) if forced by grave fear or pressed by a state of need or grave difficulty (no. 5),
    f) if not knowing that abortion is an excommunicable offense (no. 9 – virtually all know that it’s a grave sin and must not be done according to the Church, but can you expect people to, as it were, “know the details”)

    and in all these cases, people are not punished latae sententiae at all (can. 1324 § 1).

  22. Praynfast says:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1461:

    “Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation,65 bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    Can you comment on this, Fr. Z.?

  23. Grabski says:

    It seems to me that this is akin to amnesty, and hence why during the Mercy Year. Other decrees can follow and likely will.

  24. brendanus says:

    Fr. Z., just curious if while now conceding that the faithful can approach the SSPX for Confession during the Year of Mercy, you would still discourage them from receiving Holy Communion?

  25. SKAY says:

    Thank you for this post, Father Z

    It is clearing up some of my own confusion. I also heard Rush asking his question yesterday
    I thought I knew the answer but I now know my answer would not have been totally correct.

    Jason Keener said
    “Frankly, I think most Catholics will be shocked to even learn that being involved in obtaining an abortion leads to automatic excommunication if one knows it is an excommunicable offense, etc.”

    I think you are right , Jason. I don’t think many even realize that it is an excommunicable offense.

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  28. little women says:

    I’m wondering how many women, who in good faith, confessed their sin and apparently received absolution will now enter a time of scrupulosity regarding that confession. In fact, I am sure many already have to constantly convince and remind themselves every day that God’s mercy can forgive the killing of their own child. This is going to have a spiritual backlash that I am sure was not what was intended.

  29. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear oldconvert,

    You wrote:

    “What about the thousands of young women annually who conceive in the Fallopian tube? If that pregnancy proceeds, the tube, not being elastic like the uterus, will rupture (this happened to me) and even with the most up-to-date medical care, the woman is more likely to die than not from massive internal bleeding (only once the tube has ruptured will the embryo die). In order to save the woman’s life, gynaecologists must operate, either removing the affected tube or injecting it with a drug which kills the embryo in situ. (The embryo will then be gradually reabsorbed into the mother’s body).”

    Some of these issues are treated under the doctrine of Double Effect. There are many good online discussions of this doctrine, which originated with St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. Here is one that relates, specifically, to abortion:


    The Chicken

  30. Cantor says:

    It is an interesting post, of course, but the fact that 32 years after the law was promulgated it is still not settled law — either “the jury is out” or items are still up for debate — makes a mockery of the entire process. It is no wonder that honest, conscientious Catholics cannot understand and agree on matters when their shepherds, priests, and [sigh] lawyers cannot do so.

  31. Giuseppe says:

    Imrahil, thank you.

    Dr. Peters, I’m going to buy your book. I didn’t even know about crimes. I am curious to learn about what other crimes there are against the church and how they differ from sins, how they are handled, who handles them, etc. This is really fascinating.

  32. SKAY says:

    Is murder a cause for excommunication also?

    A devout Catholic friend asked me today why abortion means automatic excommunication but
    it is not so for murder.

  33. oldconvert says:

    Dear Masked Chicken, thank you for that link. I was familiar with the concept as applied to pain relief in extremis but didn’t realize it also applied to abortion. Theology and the laws pertaining thereto make my head ache, but I did follow enough to wish that someone had explained it to those Irish medics in time.

  34. mrshopey says:

    I think the understanding of how some of these are crimes also lost its effect with the entrance of Automatic Excommunication. Really, if someone, say a politician, does something that is also a crime, what does it matter to them if someone doesn’t pursue a case against them and leave it to automatic excommunication. Or, that is how it is perceived. There are many crimes, or so it seems, that have been committed by politicians alone.

  35. Daniel W says:

    As usual, Ed Peters is quite happy to put himself above and “judge” the Popes actions as supreme legislator in the Church. However, I find the Pope far simpler and clearer on both canon law and mercy.

    The pope clearly sets out the pressures on mothers who “resort” to abortion. He therefore uses a precise term to distinguish the act of the mother from the clearly imputable ecclesial crime or delict of those who “procure” an abortion. This refers not only to the murdering practitioner as killer, but all those who indirectly wield the knife as fellow assassins (nurses, other abortuary staff and funders) and the others who procure through persuasion, at times even hiring the assassins, putting seemingly irresistible pressure on the mother to agree, removing every possible obstacle to the abortion while at the same time placing every obstacle possible to continuing the pregnancy.
    These are usually the father and grandparents of the child, but sometimes employers and “friends” procure through persuasion as well.

    The pope clearly distinguishes between those for whom the “tragedy of abortion is experienced … with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails” from others which he specifies as the mothers, for whom various seemingly irresistible pressures seem to make abortion an unavoidable decision, and therefore not necessarily an imputable delict. He continues with the first group in mind …”The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason …”

    It is these delinquents that our ecclesial “papa” has in mind, as is clear to anyone willing to read his words carefully: the year of mercy is a special outreach to all to show the mercy of a Father who readily forgives the prodigal son who not only spent his Father’s gift on debauchery with women, but may have used it also to pay for expenses incurred to kill any children he had “fathered” as the natural consequence of his profligacy.

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