Pope Francis issued a new letter today indicating the Catholic Church has made it easier for women to obtain forgiveness form a priest for a abortion. The idea is to show compassion and grace for women who have had abortions in the same way Jesus displayed forgiveness and mercy for the woman at the well.
The Catholic Church hopes the move will make it easier for millions and millions of women who are struggling with a past abortion to find forgiveness and reconciliation from God and to restore their relationship with God and the church. Often times abortions will not only destroy women’s physical or mental health but adversely impact their spiritual health as well.
“One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails,” the Pope wrote.
“Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision,” the Catholic Church leader wrote. “I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”
“What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. 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,” he continued.
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He concluded: “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. May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.”
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and also Pastoral Director of the world’s largest ministry for healing after abortion, Rachel’s Vineyard, explained the impact of Pope Francis’ letter.
He told LifeNews.com: “All of us at Priests for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard, and Silent No More welcome the letter our Holy Father issued today, indicating his compassionate concern for those who have had abortions, and making it easier for them to obtain the absolution of a priest. This step does not mean that forgiveness wasn’t available before. However, it simplifies the process outlined in Church law whereby, in certain circumstances, the priest needs to get authorization before giving absolution. In the Jubilee Year, priests will not need to delay that absolution, provided there is repentance.”
“We welcome this concrete expression of the Church’s eagerness to reconcile those who have had abortions. We who oppose abortion do not oppose those who have had abortions; rather, we welcome them with mercy and compassion. A very large part of our work at Priests for Life is to extend the urgent invitation to healing. We oversee the work of Rachel’s Vineyard (www.RachelsVineyard.org), a retreat program which constitutes the world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion and which enjoys the personal and enthusiastic support of Pope Francis,” he continued.
Pavone said, “Moreover, through our Silent No More Awareness Campaign, through which mothers, fathers, and entire families witness to the pain of being involved in abortion and the joy of God’s healing, we echo that invitation to healing through the testimonies of those who have found it. They share these testimonies in churches, at rallies, and in the media (see www.SilentNoMore.com).”
“I have spoken with Pope Francis on five occasions specifically about our work of healing those who have had abortions, and healing even abortionists who have killed tens of thousands of children,” he concluded. “We at Priests for Life will continue to train and encourage our brother priests to be the heralds of mercy and compassion in the face of abortion. Truth and compassion are not in tension; they are both aspects of the same God. To treat someone with compassion includes sharing with them honestly the truth they need to hear, and to be fully truthful includes revealing the reality of compassion and mercy.”