Delegating powers of forgiveness to ‘missionary priests’
(Irish Times) – Pope Francis has decreed that priests may absolve women of the “sin of a procured abortion” during Holy Year next year.
In Catholic teaching, it is normally only bishops or the Pope himself who may absolve the faithful of the sin of abortion, which leads to excommunication from the Church.
In keeping with his ministry of mercy, however, Pope Francis has extended his powers of forgiveness to those “missionaries of mercy” priests who will visit Catholic dioceses and parishes during Holy Year.
The announcement of the new measure was made in the Vatican this week by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation and the Pope’s point man on the organisation of Holy Year.
“The missionaries of mercy are priests sent out by the Holy Father at the beginning of Lent. The Pope is sending them out [to dioceses and parishes] as a tangible sign of how a priest should be a man of pardon, close to everyone…”
In the Papal Bull in which Pope Francis last month announced the Holy Year, which runs from December 8th, 2015 to November 20th, 2016, he had already stated he would transfer the “authority” to pardon so called “reserved” sins, normally only forgiven by local bishops, the Holy See or the Pope himself.
In an interview this week with Italian news agency ANSA, Archbishop Fisichella explained that these increased “powers” could be applied to the sin of abortion.
Archbishop Fisichella added the absolution applied not only to those women who had procured an abortion but also to doctors and health workers who had performed it.
As always, not everyone in the Curia would appear to be on quite the same page as Pope Francis on this issue.
Italian Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, one of five cardinals who prior to last October’s Synod published a book, Remaining In The Truth Of Christ, which defends marriage and Catholic tradition, told daily daily La Nazione that he hoped the Pope’s move would not cause confusion amongst the faithful.
He said: “Regardless of this decision by the Pope, the church will continue to consider abortion a sin. I hope it does not cause confusion.”
Archbishop Fisichella also announced that next year will also involve a Jubilee For Prisoners, adding that plans are afoot to invite various prison inmates to attend Mass in the Basilica of St Peter’s in November of next year.