…involves taking an innocent and defenseless life. Many women who have had abortions never did so with full awareness and deliberation.
God forgives, when we cry out to Him with sorrow. He pours out grace to heal us.
The Church loves her children. So she sternly warns us against doing things that will destroy us from within. One very effective form of warning: “You will be punished severely if you do this…”
Any priest in good standing can absolve any sincere penitent from any sin.
Committing the crime of abortion means excluding oneself from the life of the Church. But I daresay very few, in any, of the mothers who confess abortions have in fact committed the crime. Because to commit the crime you have to understand the full picture of the evil you do.
Now, that doesn’t mean evil of the gravest kind hasn’t been done; it has. And the remorse she feels means that the mother bears some guilt. But the crime has been committed by the abortionist. Only the one who commits the crime incurs the excommunication
That said, it’s a moot distinction in most of the dioceses of the United States, anyway. Almost all American priests have been granted the authority to lift this excommunication. I have–and all the priests I know who have been ordained anytime these past 20 years–all of us have always had the authority that the Pope granted to all priests in the world for the upcoming Holy Year.
Which is not to say that we don’t love the Holy Father for opening the door of mercy even wider–I guess in countries where the bishops have not generally granted priests the faculty to lift censures for the crime of abortion.
The report that I heard by Sylvia Poggioli on NPR lacked the following:
1. A sober recognition of what abortion involves.
2. Any sympathy–even remote sympathy–for what going to confession is actually like.
3. Any background knowledge regarding the discipline of this matter in the dioceses of the United States (on National Public Radio, when the nation in question is the United States).
Ms. Poggioli states: “Until now it’s been a difficult and complicated process for a woman who repents to get absolution…”
This is utterly and totally false in the United States (or, I think it’s fair to say, anywhere else.)
All the sympathy which our Holy Father has expressed towards women who have had abortions was originally expressed by Pope St. John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae, twenty years ago. During the Holy Year in honor of the Redemption in 1983, Pope St. John Paul II extended the authority to lift the excommunication for the crime of abortion to all priests. I am not a historian, but I think it is highly likely that his having done that over thirty years ago is what led to the perpetual concession of that faculty to so many confessors.