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Pope Francis Grants All Priests The Authority To Absolve Abortions

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Pope Francis has declared that abortion, which remains a "grave sin" in the eyes of the Catholic Church, can be absolved by ordinary priests for the foreseeable future, instead of requiring the intervention of a bishop.

The Vatican has long considered abortion such a grave sin that only bishops can grant absolution. The pope changed that temporarily in 2015; now he's extended the change indefinitely.
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The change was originally implemented on a temporary basis, for one year only, as part of the Catholic Church's "Year of Mercy," which began last December and ended on Sunday.

In a letter released on Monday, the pope announced that the change was being extended indefinitely:

"I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must 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.

Because the Roman Catholic Church holds abortion to be such a serious sin, it had traditionally placed the matter of granting forgiveness for the common folk only in the hands of a bishop, who could either hear the confession himself or officially delegate that to a priest who was well-versed in such matters.

In the U.S., most bishops have routinely granted the faculty to their priests, but the Year of Mercy made the permission universal.

In the letter released Monday, the pope indicated he was extending the ability to absolve abortions "lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God's forgiveness."

Vatican officials said that allowing priests to grant absolution for abortion does not constitute a "doctrinal shift" for the church.

"Forgiveness has always been available — albeit through more formal channels," Candida R. Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, said. "That message wasn't out there because the rhetoric that accompanies abortion is so elevated that it eclipses the Church's teaching on forgiveness and mercy."


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