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Pope Francis Eases Path to Absolution for Abortion

Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein - The New York Times
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September 2, 2015

Why Does Everyone Love Pope Francis? (TestTube News)

Pope Francis announced Tuesday that all Roman Catholic priests would be empowered to offer absolution for the “sin of abortion” during the church’s Holy Year of Mercy, which begins in December.

“I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” Francis said in a statement issued by the Vatican. “What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope.”

Francis’ offer is not without precedent — Pope John Paul II enabled priests to offer the same absolution during the last Holy Year, in 2000 — yet it shows his broader push to make Catholicism more merciful and welcoming.

Later this month, Francis is scheduled to visit Cuba and the United States and then return to the Vatican for a pivotal October meeting on whether the church will soften its approach on social issues like homosexuality and whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment may receive the sacraments.

Vatican officials noted that Francis is not changing his opposition to abortion, nor is the church. Under Roman Catholic canon law, abortion brings automatic excommunication unless the person receiving or performing it confesses and receives absolution. Abortion is considered a “reserved sin,” meaning that permission to grant forgiveness usually must come from a bishop.

Though most bishops in the United States have already empowered their priests on the issue, many in other countries have not — meaning women seeking absolution can face delays, obstacles or rejection. Francis’ edict effectively streamlines the process for a single year.

Read the rest at The New York Times

Photo: Tony Gentile/Reuters

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