Why could all priests not previously absolve abortions?

I am confused as to why only now all priests are able to absolve the son of abortion. Can someone help me understand why this was not the case before?

If memory serves, Jimmy Akin had post(s) on this topic, when it first came up at the start of the Year of Mercy.

As I understand it:

The notion of ‘excommunication’ is widely misunderstood. Excommunication is an ecclesiastical penalty, which is applied in particular and specific circumstances. (Sometimes, when these circumstances exist, the excommunication is communicated explicitly, in writing. Sometimes, though, the excommunication isn’t explicitly communicated – it happens ‘automatically’ when the circumstances are met. ‘Automatically’ doesn’t mean ‘excommunication always applies when the sin is committed’ – it just means that, when the circumstances apply, the penalty applies.)

Excommunication means that the person cannot approach any of the sacraments of the Church – including Reconciliation! But, excommunication is meant to be medicinal, not punitive: the idea is that the person separates himself from the Church by his actions, and the penalty of excommunication merely affirms that fact. The penalty is meant to bring the person to his senses, such that he repents and asks forgiveness. When he does, his bishop has the authority to remove the penalty of excommunication. Once the penalty is removed, the person can approach the sacraments – first, Reconciliation, so that he might be reconciled with God and the Church, and then the other sacraments (typically, Eucharist) as well.

Here’s the thing: we think excommunication means “you can’t receive communion.” And so, we conflate it with other times in which a person might not be able to receive communion – like, for example, when he commits a mortal sin. But, while a person in a state of mortal sin is unable to receive communion, he is not under the penalty of excommunication. In other words, a person who has committed a sin (but isn’t under the penalty of excommunication) can go to confession, be forgiven, and then receive the Eucharist.

So… with all that out of the way…

Previously, a priest could not absolve a sin to a person under the penalty of excommunication. After all, that penalty could only be removed by the bishop. But, the bishop has the right to delegate that authority (to lift the penalty) to his priests. In the U.S., bishops have generally done exactly that. So, in the U.S., for example, a priest had the ability to lift the penalty and then grant absolution, all on the spot in the confessional.

So, in the U.S., the pope’s declaration at the start of the Year of Mercy had no practical effect – they already had this power delegated to them. And therefore, now that the pope has declared that all priests have this faculty, it is no longer the case that a priest has to wait for the penalty to be lifted before he can grant absolution.

In the U.S., this has no effect. Elsewhere, if a bishop had retained this power to himself, it is now delegated to all his priests.

In answer to your question: priests have always had the ability to absolve sins. However, the process was a bit more complicated, in the case of excommunication due to abortion. What Pope Francis has done is simply to streamline the process.

don’t worry about what was

rejoice in what is

christ can wipe clean any soul via confession

praise jesus

Actually, it is prudent for Catholics to know which offenses procure the penalty of excommunication and what it takes to remove said penalty. Procuring an abortion (or helping to procure an abortion) draws the penalty of excommunication. When you are excommunicated you are barred from all sacraments. Thus you have to have the penalty removed before you can be forgiven. Generally only your bishop can lift excommunications. However, in the USA, the bishops have delegated the authority to lift excommunications for procuring an abortion to their priests, but in other countries it is not so. So now, the authority to lift the excommunications for abortions has been given to all priests.

Not always, it doesn’t…

Of course, however, barring the usual restrictions on excommunication (knowledge of the penalty, and the other mortal sin requirements), it is an excommunicable offense. And Catholics are charged with knowing this as part of their informed conscience.

It is the faculties for the lifting of excommunication that have been extended to all priests.

The reason was to show how serious abortion was, to prevent people from being involved in abortions, and to urge people who were involved in abortion to repentance and be reconciled with God.

ok thanks for that

i would prefer to think that although an horrendous crime has been committed the local parish priest can judge the heart of the penitant and can decide whether the sinner can move on w/ their life or not

pope francis clarified some doctrine

any sin can be forgiven by a priest under the proper conditions

repent, do penance & pray the rosary

I see your question has already received some responses, but I just want to say that I think it’s a very good question.

I remember back then, at the next mass I went to, the priest said (paraphrasing) “I’m sure many of you are confused as to why a priest would be able to absolve the sin of abortion”. In the explanations that followed, he never said anything for people who might be confused as to why a priest would not be able to absolve the sin of abortion.

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