CA Q&A on Abortion and Excommunication


On today’s Q&A on the Catholic Answers website was the following question and answer on whether abortion means automatic excommunication. The answer said “yes”. But I heard that it wasn’t. For example if a girl is 16 and frightened of telling her parents and the boyfriend is coercive. Not sure I agree with this, but apparently it has to do with understanding that it was a sin. Mmm, the Q&A makes it seem black and white.

What do people here think ? The Q&A is below.

God bless,


Are Catholics who get abortions excommunicated? Do they have to go to confession to the bishop in order to receive forgiveness? There is disagreement at my parish as to the answers to these questions.

Despite the common misinformation prevalent today, the penalty for having an abortion is still excommunication. Canon law states, “A person who procures an abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication” (CIC 1398). This penalty extends to all who help in the procurement of the abortion, not only the woman in whose womb the baby is murdered. Since the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983, the penalty for abortion is no longer reserved to the bishop, and any priest able to hear confession can absolve a penitent from the grave sin of abortion. Previously only the bishop could absolve one from such as sin.


the answer is right, the penalty for abortion is still automatic excommunication, but that applies only “under the usual conditions” – the person is not a minor, there is full knowledge, intent and free will, no coercion or compulsion, and the person knows the penalty and commits the offense intentionally.


Canon law:

Can. 1398 A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.

Can. 1322 Those who habitually lack the use of reason are considered to be incapable of a delict, even if they violated a law or precept while seemingly sane.

Can. 1323 The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated a law or precept:

1/ a person who has not yet completed the sixteenth year of age;

2/ a person who without negligence was ignorant that he or she violated a law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;

3/ a person who acted due to physical force or a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or, if foreseen, avoid;

4/ a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls;

5/ a person who acted with due moderation against an unjust aggressor for the sake of legitimate self defense or defense of another;

6/ a person who lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. ⇒ 1324, §1, n. 2 and ⇒ 1325;

7/ a person who without negligence thought that one of the circumstances mentioned in nn. 4 or 5 was present.


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