The Church teaches that murder is a mortal sin that damns a soul to hell if not repented of. There’s nothing really worse than going to hell.
Abortion, however, in addition to being a grave sin also carries an ecclesiastical penalty. In order for an ecclesiastical penalty to be lifted the priest must have the proper faculties to have the authority to lift it. In most dioceses in the western world the local bishop usually granted this authority to the priests of his diocese. But not every Bishop in the world did this and so Pope Francis has now decided to personally grant every priest in the world the authority to lift the ecclesiastical penalties attached to abortion.
So, why does abortion carry an ecclesiastical penalty but regular old fashioned murder does not? The answer is contained within the *purpose *of ecclesiastical penalties. Ecclesiastical penalties are what’s called “medicinal” in nature. That means their primary purpose is to awaken the conscience of the individual that the particular action is gravely wrong and to bring the sinner to repentance.
The Church only attaches ecclesiastical penalties to sins that individuals might be tempted to commit due to confusion about their seriousness.
No one questions whether murdering one’s neighbor is a serious sin or wonders if the Church teaches it is gravely wrong. The Church therefore sees no need to attach an ecclesiastical penalty to murder.
In the case of abortion, however, there are many in the world and society that tell us that abortion is OK or not that serious. This can lead to confusion about the seriousness of abortion and the Church in an attempt to warn people away from being involved in any way with abortions and to awaken the need for repentance regarding this sin has attached an ecclesiastical penalty to it.
Ecclesiastical penalties are not about punishing someone, their purpose is to warn about dangers to salvation.
These laws are kind of like warning signs. There’s not a sign for every step and every curve in the world. We put those warning signs up in areas that people might not be aware of the danger…