Church extends authority to absolve sin of abortion for papal visit
August 18th, 2011
02:13 PM ET

Church extends authority to absolve sin of abortion for papal visit

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The Vatican has given authority to priests who are in Madrid during the pope’s visit there to give absolution to women who confess to having had an abortion - and has empowered priests to lift excommunications for such women.

Typically, only certain priests have the power to grant absolution for the sin of abortion and to lift excommunications that have resulted from terminated pregnancies, according to a Vatican spokesman.

“All the priests that are administering the sacrament of confession during World Youth Day have the general authority to give absolution from the penalty of excommunication for abortion if someone comes to confession… if someone has this need,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told CNN on Thursday, referring to the event that brought Pope Benedict XVI to Madrid on Thursday for a four-day visit.

Madrid Archbishop Antonio María Rouco Varela announced the extension of such authority to more priests in a statement on the archdiocese's website, saying the move was made in hopes that "all of the faithful who attend the celebrations of the 26th World Youth Day in Madrid can more easily attain the fruits of divine grace, that the doors to a new life open for them."

The church has set up 200 confessional booths in a Madrid park for priests to hear confessions in.

Varela said the Roman Catholic Church “has conferred to all the priests legitimately approved to hear sacramental confessions, who are in the archdiocese of Madrid during August 15 to 22, the delegated power to remit during the sacrament of penance the excommunication… corresponding to the sin abortion, to the faithful who are truly sorry, imposing at the same time a convenient penance.”

Benedict’s Spain visit coincides with a weeklong series of religious events that the Roman Catholic Church organizes every three years.

Lombardi said that the Vatican often extends authority to absolve certain sins and to lift excommunications at big papal events. Any woman who knows that the church considers abortion a sin and goes through with the procedure is automatically excommunicated, Lombardi said.

"This is not only for women," Lombardi said. "If a man has given the pressure on the women to do an abortion then he's guilty in the same way."
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Spain said that the extension of priestly authority around abortion applies only to priests who are in the Madrid archdiocese for World Youth Day festivities.

On Thursday the pope was greeted by a large crowd of followers, including youths from all over the world, but his visit was not without controversy. With Spain suffering a deep economic crisis and nearly 21% unemployment, the amount that the pope's visit is costing the country has been top news in recent days.

The pope arrived in Madrid as protests took place in the city over that cost. The economic crisis has previously sparked protests in the country.

- CNN's Al Goodman and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Catholic Church • Spain

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  3. mary

    Mr. Goodman and Ms. Castillo,

    Check your sources. This is not the whole story and it makes the CC look ridiculous. Jesus Christ died for all our sins and when he gave the apostlespower to forgive sins, there were not categories reserved for Peter. God is compassionate and merciful.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  4. Melissa

    So, you are forgiven if you can confess in Madrid between the dates of August 15-22. Otherwise, excommunication and eternal damnation. Sheer lunacy.

    September 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. Lies

    Since when did a man reserve the right to absolve men of sin. 2000 years ago, only Christ did this through the New Covenant Passover, which the catholic church does not even keep. This is a practice that they have never kept, nor do they worship God on the correct day, on Saturday which God kept...but the church does not.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    "The idea of God was not a lie but a device of the unconscious which needed to be decoded by psychology. A personal god was nothing more than an exalted father-figure: desire for such a deity sprang from infantile yearnings for a powerful, protective father, for justice and fairness and for life to go on forever. God is simply a projection of these desires, feared and worshipped by human beings out of an abiding sense of helplessness. Religion belonged to the infancy of the human race; it had been a necessary stage in the transition from childhood to maturity. It had promoted ethical values which were essential to society. Now that humanity had come of age, however, it should be left behind." – Sigmund Freud

    August 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • brad

      Carl Jung outgrew Freud. Jung said "God is present, bidden or unbidden." Jung wrote against what he called "the rediculous materialism" of the psychologists of his day.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  7. Naomi

    The Church does what is right. The Church id forever.

    August 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  8. Pope Hitler

    You can buy your way out of Hell for having an abortion how's that?

    August 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  9. chief

    catholic view.... bomb abortion clinics, dstage protests, slant voting results..... lady pa pa says "uhm.,... absolved here since im coming to town".... back to sin central after i leave to keep the baskets full...... what a joke

    August 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • gerald

      Chief, your mentally ill.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.