Pope Francis Has Given Catholic Priests The Power To Forgive Abortions

Photo: Andrea Franceschini/Corbis News/Getty Images.
In a landmark move for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has given Catholic priests the power to grant forgiveness for abortions indefinitely. Though the Pope maintains that he views abortion as a "grave sin" this decision makes it easier for those who have had abortions to be absolved and rejoin the church, should they so choose. It also represents a continuation of "a more forgiving, merciful direction for the Church" since Pope Francis began his papacy in 2013, according to CNN.

Previously, only bishops and designated special confessors were able to grant absolution for abortions. In an apostolic letter released on Sunday, Pope Francis wrote that although he maintains that abortion "puts an end to an innocent life," he wants to state that "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."

"May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support, and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation," he continued. "I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion."

While this is certainly a progressive move for the church, which has regarded abortion as "murder" for centuries, many have also pointed out that it would be far more revolutionary if women didn't have to apologize or seek forgiveness for a medical procedure, period.
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Meanwhile many reproductive justice organizations have also released statements in reaction to the announcement.

"While we’re heartened to see the Church discussing abortion so openly, these comments continue to fall short in reflecting the realities of women’s lives, and the viewpoints of many Catholics," said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in a statement. "Despite ongoing prohibition by church doctrine, Catholic Latinas support access to reproductive healthcare, with 90% of married Catholic Latinas using a modern form of contraception and a majority of Latino/a voters — including many Catholics, supporting access to safe and legal abortion services."

“The Pope’s statements perpetuate the notion that a person who has ended a pregnancy needs forgiveness and contributes to culturally pervasive and deeply harmful abortion stigma," she continued. "In 2016, it’s far past time for faith leaders to get back in touch with their base and focus on respect and support for those who end a pregnancy, not the same old politics of shame and stigma.”

“Abortion is not something that women should be shamed or judged for, or should need to seek forgiveness about," Mary Alice Carter, interim vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood told Refinery29 in a statement.

"Abortion is an important part of the reproductive health care continuum," she continued, saying that it's "a deeply personal decision, and must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider. Every pregnancy is unique, and every woman’s decision about her pregnancy — whether to parent, choose adoption, or have an abortion — should be respected and valued. No woman should feel shamed or judged because of her decision."
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