Currently, Catholic priests have the authority to forgive the sin of a person who has obtained or helped someone with an abortion. While it is true that this authority is usually only afforded to bishops in some countries, such is not the case in the United States.

If one has gone into the reconciliation room with a contrite heart and confessed the sin of abortion, then, full absolution was administered by the priest.

This practice has been in place generally since 1983, when the code of canon law was revised.

The Roman Catholic Church has consistently condemned abortion, the direct and purposeful taking of the life of the unborn child. Catholic Christians believe that all life is sacred from conception until natural death, and the taking of innocent human life, whether born or unborn, is morally wrong. The church has always condemned abortion.

“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” Pope Francis said, adding that he has met “many women scarred by the agonizing and painful decision to have an abortion.”

The pope’s pastoral does not change church doctrine, but according to the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, “What’s new is that Pope Francis, at least for the Year of Mercy, is universalizing this permission.” It’s an outreach of the church’s mercy as a voice of reason, of hope, of love.

Under current church law, “without major change,” an act of abortion may be absolved by priests as would any other serious sin.

John J. Guilbeau

retired senior education administrator