Pope Francis Will Allow Priests To Forgive Abortions

Pope Francis is allowing priests to forgive women who have had abortions during the upcoming Catholic Holy Year, from December 8, 2015 to November 26, 2016. Normally, if a woman has an abortion, she can seek forgiveness from a bishop, missionary, or the chief confessor of a diocese – otherwise, she’ll be excommunicated. Extending this power to priests significantly widens Catholic women’s access to atonement.

The Pope cited the “existential and moral ordeal” that women can face when they decide to pursue abortions, and said that he has “met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.” While it’s patronizing to assume that women are automatically spiritually maimed by abortions and ignoring the fact that women have abortions under many circumstances, not just during “ordeals,” it is at least slightly more empathetic to women to acknowledge women’s personhood and circumstances rather than automatically just throwing them out of their faith, I guess.

The forgiveness will presumably not be extended to abortion providers, which shouldn’t be surprising. A Vatican spokesman additionally said that this expanded power for priests will only be extended for the Holy Year “for now,” implying that it could be extended further. I hope that if there are Catholics who have been bearing inner conflict over their decision to get abortions, this puts their hearts and minds at rest.


[Image via Getty]

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