Broadened Absolution

Pope Francis’ announcement on Sept. 1 that priests worldwide will be able to absolve women for the sin of abortion will have little effect on pastoral practices in the United States and Canada. “It is my understanding that the faculty [authorization] for the priest to lift the latae sententiae excommunication for abortion is almost universally granted in North America,” said Don Clemmer, interim director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Latae sententiae is a Latin term in canon law that means excommunication for certain crimes is automatic. Clemmer said it is “the fiat of the local bishop” whether to allow the priests in his diocese to absolve those sins. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., confirmed that “the priests of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and throughout the United States have...had the faculties to lift the sanction of excommunication for the sin of abortion for more than 30 years.” He said, “Any woman who has had an abortion, any person who has been involved in an abortion in any way, can always seek God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

This week’s top U.S.-Latino Catholic news
J.D. Long-GarcíaMarch 16, 2018
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking during a ceremony at the White House in Washington Aug. 12, 2009 (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
There have been great physicists and mathematicians who were also great philosophers. Hawking, unfortunately, was not one of them.
Stephen M. BarrMarch 16, 2018
Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29, 2016 (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, pool).
Poland’s Catholic primate called anti-Semitism “a moral evil and a sin.”
Catholic News ServiceMarch 16, 2018
It’s taken over a year for us to get our boss, Matt Malone, S.J. on Jesuitical—and we promise it was worth the wait.
Eloise BlondiauMarch 16, 2018