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Pope Francis and Abortion - a Call for Mercy


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, at his installation Mass in March 2012, has this week spoken about the release of Pope Francis' letter regarding the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. Photo: Ron Tan.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has today, September 2, spoken on the release of Pope Francis’ letter regarding the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy and an important initiative.

In a recent letter concerning the forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has, among other important initiatives, extended the faculty to all Catholic priests to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance, to those who confess to the sin of abortion.

This faculty is granted for the duration of the Year of Mercy, which begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015) and concludes on the Solemnity of Christ the King (November 20, 2016).

This announcement, which extends to the whole Catholic world, is an authority which priests in most parts of Australia have exercised for many years. All priests who have the faculties (permission to exercise ministry) of the Archdiocese of Perth already have the year-round authority, given by the bishop, to absolve those who confess the sin of abortion.

Rather than minimising the seriousness of abortion, which always represents a deliberate destruction of an innocent and defenceless human life, Pope Francis in his brief letter speaks of "a widespread and insensitive mentality" that leads to people "not realising the extreme harm which such an act (abortion) entails".

The Pope goes on to reflect on those many women who "although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option". So many of these women, he says, "bear in their heart the scar of this agonising and painful decision". Pope Francis goes on to insist that "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".

Pope Francis then calls on priests to "fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection which explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of genuine conversion by which to obtain the true and genuine forgiveness of the Father".

While some might regard this decision of Pope Francis as a "retreat" from the Church's firm position regarding the objective evil of abortion, it is in fact nothing of the kind. What it really represents is an affirmation of the Church's vocation to be, in Christ, the "face of the Father's mercy". Just like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, God waits expectantly for us, ready to throw his arms around us as soon as we return to him in sorrow acknowledging the wrong we have done and longing to return to the security of his loving embrace. As the Pope himself explains:

It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be an experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.

We are all fragile sinners, each in our own way. None of us is in a position to condemn others. Pope Francis is inviting each of us to hand ourselves over to the Lord and to his merciful compassion with trusting hearts. He is also inviting us to bring healing and hope to others. No-one is beyond the reach of God’s love, forgiveness and healing.

A copy of the letter from Pope Francis is available by Clicking Here.

+Archbishop Timothy Costelloe
Archbishop of Perth