Pope Francis delivers his Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St.Peter’s square on August 30, 2015 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLIALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty ImagesPope Francis will give all priests discretion to formally forgive women who have had abortions and seek absolution during the Roman Catholic Church’s upcoming Holy Year. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a sin that could be grounds for excommunication.
Women in the Catholic Church who have had abortions have been able to confess, but the pope has expanded the number of priests who can hear their confessions. He announced earlier this year that it would be a “year of mercy.”
Abortion can usually be formally forgiven only by the chief confessor of a diocese — known by the Italian term “penitenziere” — or a Christian missionary, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, told the Associated Press. Francis is expanding the rights of priests during this special year.
In a letter to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Pope Francis said the new rules would extend to women during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” Pope Francis said, according to the Vatican. “What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope.”
Pope Francis announced the jubilee year earlier this year. It was described as a special year for Catholics to receive confession. The Catholic Church has called jubilee years every 25 or 50 years since the year 1300, according to the National Catholic Reporter. The pope announced in May that he would be empowering  “missionaries of mercy” to pardon women for having abortions.
As has become common with Pope Francis’ moves, the Vatican’s announcement prompted debate about what his real motivation was. Liberals saw him downplaying the sin of abortion by advertising primarily the availability of confession and forgiveness. Conservatives saw him bringing in a more traditional group and the power of priests.
Church officials tried to clarify what, in fact, was new. Technically, some said, bishops have to “give” the priests in their community the right to …Read More