My Catholic spine was rattled when I read the DailyMail headline,” Pope orders all Catholic priests to bestow a full pardon on women who have had an abortion …” . For starters, the Pope cannot order his priests to do anything and Holy Mother Church doesn’t pardon. Ok, so the reporter may not be Catholic nor understand basic Church teachings. But a quick read demonstrated this article was yet another example of the media having their head far up the papal vestments . In their attempt to make Pope Francis and the Church look new and improved they, how can I put it , made stuff up. Or keeping with the theme of sin they commit a sin of omission. As in omitting facts. Allow me.
On April 11 Pope Francis issued his Papal Bull “Misericordiae Vultus” announcing an Extraordinary Year of Mercy beginning December 8 2015. In this, he spoke of the attributes of showing mercy:
“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.”
Frances further states that during the season of Lent 2016 he will send priests to whom he has given authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See. Found in Canon Law, these include acts of schism, heresy, apostasy, such as ordaining women, conferring holy orders without papal authority, violating seal of confessional, sacrilege against Blessed Sacrament (communion) and abortion . They fall into three categories-censure, interdict, and excommunication. Abortion incurs Latae sententiae, or automatic excommunication.
This is no doubt where the sensationalized headline came from- thanks to the soon-to-be-sainted Pope Francis (if media has is way) priests ’round the world will have special powers to pardon women and their doctors who performed the abortion. But those pesky facts are needed again to explain why these powers may or may not be needed.
Namely the woman , and the doctor or medical professional must realize a. they have been excommunicated and b. seek absolution and reinstatement into the graces of the Church. Yes there are conditions for an automatic excommunication in the Catholic Church.
According to canon law ( which is neither cut nor dried nor direct), one must realize abortion is not only a sin, but a sin for which one can be excommunicated. If she doesn’t realize its gravity, she isn’t automatically excommunicated. . And if she isn’t excommunicated, then if she had sought absolution prior to this year of Mercy any priest could and would have absolved her already.
Which means this is not new. And special powers are not always needed. And Francis may be many things, but media cannot continue to paint him as one ignoring the catechism of the Church and granting blanket absolution. It is simply not true.