UPDATE: The Pope is visiting the United States this week, and while many are quick to dismiss his directive regarding abortion, it’s important to remember he doesn’t have the power to wave a magic Pope wand and change Catholisim all at once. The ONLY way we will see positive changes regarding equality, civil rights and women’s rights in the Catholic church will be with baby steps. The church has a VERY long way to go where reproductive and abortion rights are concerned, but this is a step in a positive direction. To be clear – this isn’t the end of the conversation, it’s a springboard.
Pope Francis continues to bring the church into the 21st Century and has recently issued a directive that women who express regret after an abortion be absolved by their priest.
I know, I know, this latest order won’t be *enough* for some. I’ve seen the arguments that Pope Francis has to dictate a new gestalt and insist that Catholicism must undergo an immediate 180 in it’s ideology. Since that’s not at all likely or realistic, these consistent orders and measures offered up by Francis are about as hip and as modern as it’s going to get for now.
“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” the pontiff wrote in a letter that was released by the Vatican on Tuesday.
“I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal,” Francis added.
The unprecedented order by Pope Francis is part of the church’s jubilee year of mercy, which begins on 8 December and runs until 20 November 2016.
The Vatican released a statement within an hour of the Pope’s order emphasizing the church doesn’t “condone abortion nor minimize its grave effects.”
The Vatican added, “The newness [of the order] is clearly Pope Francis’ pastoral approach. Many bishops have granted priests permission to forgive the sin. The fact that this statement is coming from the Pope in such a moving, pastoral way, is more evidence of the great pastoral approach and concern of Pope Francis.”
The church went on to say that the fact that the faithful already went to confession to confess their abortions and other “grave sins” was a cause to thank God and to put in practice the mission of the church to “seek out those who were lost.”
Francis’ letter doesn’t change the official church doctrine, but it’s sure to freak out Republicans and other anti-choice groups.
While this Pope may not be as liberal-minded as some would prefer, there’s no denying his influence makes him a groundbreaking figure in the history of Catholicism. His stances on divorce, the climate crisis, gay marriage and homosexuality, as well as his criticism of income inequality and unfettered capitalism, which he called “the dung of the devil,” definitely set him apart from other Popes.
Last, but certainly not least, Francis has also condemned leaders of the church who failed to “respond adequately” to reports of abuse, and he approved a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up sex abuse by pedophile priests.
It will be interesting to watch the Republican reaction to this latest order – considering their ongoing attacks against Planned Parenthood.
What will they do if/when Francis says that women can be priests?