Published: September 11, 2015
Pope Francis has made a bold, universalizing statement to the Catholic Church, revealing that starting in December, any and all women who wish to be forgiven for having an abortion will be absolved.
The influential statement was made in a Papal letter that came out Sep.1. Throughout his papacy, Francis has emphasized empathy and compassion toward women who have felt trapped in the decision to have an abortion, and he has spoken openly about the need for the Church to provide open arms for suffering women, Washington Post reports.
“Pope Francis has always said that he wants a more merciful and welcoming church,” said the Rev. Richard Malloy, S.J., regarding the topic. “He really wants to re-establish community.”
Original Catholic law says that priests must receive permission from higher clergy before granting absolution to a woman who confesses to having an abortion (or any other mortal sin).
Francis’ proclamation does not change the canon, but rather encourages individuals to recognize the Church’s readiness to forgive grieving women and provide them with comfort during their healing process.
In most dioceses, priests have already been granted automatic permission from a bishop to provide absolution to these women during confession.
Catholics and non-Catholics have questioned why Francis has decided to bring attention to this issue, since it does not change much concerning practice.
Many argue that Francis is placing focus on a shift toward a more available and compassionate Church community, while others claim that he is reaffirming the grave sin of abortion and its need to be confessed.
Regarding the divided opinions of Christians, Malloy said “we cannot put the Church in two opposed camps for too long… What Pope Francis is ultimately trying to do is reach out to people across the world and allow us to work together in recognizing the teachings of faith.”
Regardless of the many differing opinions, perhaps what lies at the heart of Francis’ calling is that rather than alienating women and making abortion the “scarlet letter of our day” as Malloy describes it, members of the Catholic Church should focus on God calling all sinners back to Him.
As a Jesuit, Francis has provided a special influence on Jesuit campuses like the University.
“As a student here on campus, I have learned that we are a community who prides ourselves on being more accepting toward people from all different walks of life,” said sophomore Tommy Ferrari.
CNN reports that Francis said, “Who are you who shuts the door of your heart to a man, a woman who wants to improve, to return back into the people of God, because the Holy Spirit has stirred his or her heart?”