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Absolution for Sin of Abortion!?

  09/06/15 00:39, by jsignal, Categories: life with god

When I picked up the Bismarck Tribune a couple of days ago I was surprised. The biggest headline of the day, right on the front page, explained “All is Forgiven. Pope: Priests in Holy Year can absolve ‘sin of abortion.’” MSNBC apparently ran the headline “Pope says priests can allow this catholic sin.” Really? Hold on. News media around the world latched onto this story and ran with it. As usual when dealing with religion, many got the details wrong in the rush to print. Let me try to explain a little about what the Pope is doing.

First of all, here is some background information. The Catholic Church has a tradition of occasionally celebrating a “jubilee” year, a tradition which finds its inspiration in the Old Testament. The old Catholic Encyclopedia explains that “for the Israelites, the year of Jubilee was in any case preeminently a time of joy, the year of remission or universal pardon. ‘Thou shalt sanctify the fiftieth year,’ we read in Leviticus 25:10, ‘and shalt proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of thy land: for it is the year of jubilee.’ It was, then, part of the legislation of the Old Law … that at this season every household should recover its absent members, the land return to its former owners, the Hebrew slaves be set free, and debts be remitted.”

The jubilee year was to be a time of joy, celebration, and forgiveness for the Jewish people. Popes, following this basic idea, have occasionally declared Christian “holy years of jubilee” as year-long celebrations of God’s mercy. The first one was most likely celebrated in 1300 and the most recent was celebrated in the year 2000. Pope Francis has declared yet another such year, calling it the “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.” It will extend on the Church’s calendar from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, 2015, to the Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20th, 2016.

This jubilee will encourages us to forgive one another, to have mercy upon the poor, and to receive God’s forgiveness for our own sins. As Christians we are, of course, called to live every day in that fashion. In declaring this year, the Pope has placed before us all a great reminder of that call to Christian charity and forgiveness.

During the Jubilee of Mercy there will, of course, be an emphasis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Francis wrote that during this year we should “place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.” He continued, writing that “we priests have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and we are responsible for this. None of us wields power over this Sacrament; rather, we are faithful servants of God’s mercy through it. Every confessor must accept the faithful as the father in the parable of the prodigal son: a father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance. Confessors are called to embrace the repentant son who comes back home and to express the joy of having him back again” (Letter of the Holy Father, September 1st, 2015, at http://news.va). I do believe that is how most of us priests try to carry out our ministry in the confessional. We aren’t there to hear what you did and scold you! We are there, like the father embracing the prodigal son, to welcome you home and celebrate your return to God’s grace.

Let me now return to the news about the sin of abortion. Pope Francis announced that, as part of this jubilee, he is giving all priests the authority to forgive the sin of abortion in confession without the consent of the local bishop, as would normally be required. The news media made quite a deal of this but, in fact, it’s not without precedent.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II extended the same authority to priests during that jubilee year. Pope Benedict XVI, in 2011, also granted priests at World Youth Day celebrations this authority. Here in the United States, in fact, most of the bishops have already granted their priests the authority to forgive the sin of, and to remove any censures associated with, a procured abortion. We’ve already had this authority for years! Why? Perhaps it is because abortion is so common in our country. According to the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute, the two main sources for abortion stats in the U.S., something like 21% of all pregnancies in our nation end in abortion.

As Pope Francis wrote, “abortion has touched the lives of many millions of people around the world. … 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. 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” (Letter).

God is merciful! He wants more than anything to forgive us for our sins. Pope Francis has decided that a year will be spent emphasizing the reality of God’s mercy by urging us to forgive one another, to serve the poor more generously, and to seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. In Pope Francis’ words, “God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church…. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out” (Letter). Let us, then, prepare to celebrate this year of mercy!

-Fr. Jason

1 comment

Comment from: Linda Dvorak [Visitor]

Very well written and explained! Thank you for being a servant of God

09/06/15 @ 02:42
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