“Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
Be merciful. Mercy. That’s a word we don’t use or experience every day, especially forgotten in our news, on Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes in our families. Imagine our world exploding with mercy! What difference would that make in your life? We may have a chance to experience a world more focused on mercy, as Pope Francis has announced a “Year of Mercy” which will run from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016. I, for one, am thrilled.
Yesterday in preparation for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis released a letter outlining several of the ways we as a church can offer mercy. He addresses abortion specifically in this brief excerpt of the letter:
“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. 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. 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.” – Pope Francis, Sept. 1, 2015
This is merciful news, right? But are you confused? Because if it weren’t for a recent conversation I had with Fr. David Angelino regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation and abortion, I would be confused. Fr. Angelino says, “The news coverage leads one to believe that priests were not previously able to minister the Sacrament of Reconciliation to someone concerning abortion, but they can. However, serious sins like abortion carry a penalty that can only be removed by the bishop or a priest delegated by him. As far as I know, most if not all dioceses in the United States grant this delegation to all of their priests in good standing. Also, even if a case has to go to the bishop, the penitent doesn’t have to go. It is taken care of in writing (without names) between the confessor (priest) and the appropriate authority.” Someone seeking absolution for an abortion may definitely be absolved, but it’s a process, meant to bring healing and renewal as well as absolution. In the eyes of the church, abortion is extremely serious, but the church’s desire is for all to be reconciled and strengthened with grace to not sin again.
So what did the letter say? It seems that during the Year of Mercy, any priest has the authority to remove the penalty for the sin of abortion without requiring the cause to be forwarded to the Bishop if the penitent is sorrowful.
If you or someone you know have suffered from abortion, I say to you, “Come.” Come to your priest. Come to Reconciliation. I’m convinced that abortion is so very prevalent that too many have been touched by it. Now is the time. Don’t stay away. Come.
Help for post-abortive women and men can be found at http://www.rachelsvineyard.org
In hope, Peggy
Special thanks to Fr. David Angelino for his consultation on this post and for the following links:
Related Post: Show Mercy http://wp.me/p3zUxG-b0