By Sarah Pawlowski
The Roman Catholic Church has prolonged the life of a policy that allows priests to grant absolution for abortions, a Monday, Nov. 21, document from the Vatican revealed, according to The New York Times. The policy came about in the church’s Jubilee of Mercy that started this past year and is symbolic of Pope Francis’s efforts to make the Roman Catholic Church a more inclusive body, The New York Times reported.
This announcement does not change the church’s views on abortion. As Vox stated, Francis and the church still consider abortion a “grave sin.” However, this willingness to forgive the act signifies a shift in the church’s pro-life policies.
Under sacred law, absolution for abortion, which was viewed as a sinful act, was a right reserved for bishops, The New York Times reported. There was previously no widespread standard for granting absolution of abortion. In some parishes, individuals faced excommunication and rejection, while some were granted forgiveness in others, according to The New York Times.
Abortion is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be a “reserved sin,” meaning that permission to grant absolution usually must come directly from a bishop, according to The New York Times.
In certain countries, priests were allowed to grant absolution for abortion during certain occasions, such as Lent, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said in a Monday, Nov. 21, press conference at the Vatican, The New York Times reported. Fisichella is the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, as reported in The New York Times.
The church’s jubilee year formally ended on Sunday, Nov. 20, according to The New York Times.
“There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” Francis said of abortion in an apostolic letter from Monday, Nov. 21, The New York Times reported.
The Pope’s letter also encouraged the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to “Promote a culture of mercy based on the rediscovery of encounter with others, a culture in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters,” according to The New York Times.
Francis is not the only pope to have granted priests the right to forgive abortion, The New York Times reported. The same news outlet reported that in 2000, Pope John Paul II granted clergy this right.
Over the course of his three years as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has demonstrated a merciful and accepting attitude toward many, as noted by Vox. The church’s leader has urged widespread acceptance of LGBTQ+ and divorced parishioners by church clergy, Vox reported.
In a church ceremony held on Saturday, Nov. 19, to elect 17 new cardinals to the Roman Catholic Church, Francis weighed in on the political atmosphere of hostility that has been present in world politics lately, saying, “In God’s heart there are no enemies,” The New York Times reported.