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

soundoff (1,031 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Another governmental organization with priorities all screwed up. Last I heard is if you have been missing going to church for a long time, no sense in going back, they tell you in confession, you have excommunicated yourself and cannot be buried in a Catholic Cemetery. Makes life difficult for us folks who have to travel back and forth from America to Arab Countries for 25 years or so. Then again, you believe what you want to believe. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, and the BVM is my favorite person to talk to since I was born on the Presentation of the BVM, was married in a Catholic Church called Presentation of the BVM, and believe to have seen her when I was in being operated on for a serious life and death operation when I was a kid. My problem is believing in any Church that taxes you 10% of your salary as a donation to God. I really don't believe he needs the money, and Jesus said in almost every Bible I read, especially the Catholic Bible to give unto Ceasar (Government) the things that belong to Ceasar the thing that are Ceasar (those coins with his picture on it), and to God, the things that belong to God (Our souls and following the commandments that Jesus preached). I am still looking for the section in any Bible about giving money God in any religion.

    Thou shall not Kill, Steal, etc... Honor they father and thy mother, Don't commit adulty or make false statements about others, Remember the Lords Day (Sunday, Saturday) To me every day is the Lords day. We should not be forced to go to a building just to listen to the same thing over and over again and give them all our money via peer pressure. I grew up in a family of ten children father worked and we all know whare mom was during and after birth. Dad had to work 7 days a week so mom could put money in the collection basket. I never saw the Catholic Church helping us survive during those years. When dad God got laid off for slow downs once in a while, never saw anyone help us, nor did my parents ask for the help. We gave what we could, and my Dad and all my sibblings felt insulted when they had a commandment Thou shall give Rome 10% of your Salary. Think about this a bit. Most of the collection went to Rome and not to the upkeep of the individual Parish back then. In fact they have closed churches down for low income reasons and now people have to walk or ride miles and miles to their new local church. Even in the cties..

    Now Rome is sending a message, it is OK to Kill an Unborn Child, and you can still go to heaven and be buried in a Cathoic Cemetery if you say God Bless me Father for I have sinned, I killed my baby because I could not afford to keep it (not him or her an it). Personally, I think that is something between God and that person, and no act of contrition will make the difference. To be forgiven you have to admit the act, admit it was wrong legally and morally, and ask God's forgiveness. Since we are God's Children. Lets put the ball in our corner. Someone just killed your child. The Killer gets up in Court and says. I killed your son, I know it was wrong, please forgive me. Are you going to say oK your honor I forgive his or her, let them back out on the street. Or will you say. I forgive you, but your honor fry him, he killed my kid, and deserves to die and see Jesus and ask hiom for forgiveness. We all assume God, Jesus, Mohammad, are all forgiving. If so why is there a heaven, earth, and a Limbo in the afterlife.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • lisa

      From my understanding – and I've been trying to explore my faith and Catholicism more over the past couple of years – God is forgiving. That said, human beings cannot understand or explain what happens to us after death. I think somewhere in Revelation it says our souls "hurl" themselves into hell, etc. I think only God can "judge" us as our deaths and know what is in our hearts.

      As a grown woman who had an abortion 25 years ago as a teenager, I don't like to imagine that I'll spend eternity in Hell.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ Lisa – relax, I am quite sure you will not spend eternity in Hades, more likely you will spend enternity following your short time on this earth, in total death. You will feel nothing and know nothing, your body will either rot or be burned, depending on your choice. You will go to sleep on day, a permanent sleep, and it won't be bad at all, it will simply be the end. Now, I know this is somewhat scary to Christians and even to people in general. Dying is the unknown and for time immortal, men have sought to know the answer to that great mystery. Well, here's the 411. We are born, completely by an accident, there is NO design in that birth and we are then given by nature a chance to live our lives out on this very rocky, blue planet.

      If we are lucky or work hard, we may have a good life, but it isn't because some supernatural being predetermined this. The GREAT MYSTERY is why don't more people use the very life that they have been so fortunate to have been given to do more good, or at the very least, to be more content. Then, one day be it from accident, injury, illness, or simply old age, you will lie down and die. There will be no fanfare, no bright light, no meeting with your dead relatives, and god will not be standing at the Pearly Gates with your life in a book. For me, dying is the motivator for me to live my life today'; to love my family, to find beauty in the world, to be kind to others, to do what good I can do for my fellow man; it is NOT the reason that I fear the end.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Bill "Or will you say. I forgive you, but your honor fry him..." Just to you know, I would hope I wouldn't say "fry him". I actually don't think revenge is a good way to deal out justice.

      August 19, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  2. Brian

    Be careful you don't offend a sacred cow.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  3. ??????

    ****The Pope has all this power and he can't stop pediphilia??? *****"

    August 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • lisa

      It's spelled "pedophilia" and the pope does not have authority over the free will of evil people. That said, he has an obligation to get rid of evil people who might become priests.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Satan

      @lisa, so if the pope and god have no authority to stop evil people, what use are they???

      August 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • lisa

      Well, God is omnipotent so his "use" is that he exists and we have faith in him. God doesn't promise a life free from sorrow or hardship but he promises that through him we find the strength to get through those things. Humans have free will, it's how God made us. Unfortunately, some humans are evil and do wrong and those humans will have to be judged one day by God.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ LIsa – Sad, so sad..... shakes head.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Martin T

      Lisa, I have some questions about god's omnipotence and omniscience.... how can he be both?

      August 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Well, God is omnipotent so his "use" is that he exists and we have faith in him. God doesn't promise a life free from sorrow or hardship but he promises that through him we find the strength to get through those things. Humans have free will, it's how God made us. Unfortunately, some humans are evil and do wrong and those humans will have to be judged one day by God.

      Just for clarification, did god talk to you and tell you these things???

      August 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  4. LKthe3rd

    "The pope allows priest's to give absolution"

    Umm.... a priest does not have magical powers. I read the first line of this and realized how ridiculous this is. To "allow" confession as if it wasn't alowed before and that a person is a harmful monster for getting an abortion. This is judgement at its finest. "But LKthe3rd, I thought the church doesn't judge?"

    LKthe3rd: " Well my son, the Church must distinguish between bad people and good people. Bad people WILL go to hell and WE, the just will live in the glory of heaven"

    Sounds made up to me 😉

    P.S. I didn't get touhed by a priest if that's what your wondering

    August 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  5. Satan

    Confessing a "sin" to another human being not only accomplishes absolutely nothing, but is obscenely degrading. What an awful thing to encourage other people to do. If you do something you personally feel bad about, you shouldn't EVER ask for forgiveness...just don't do it again and move on. Seeing people practice this ridiculous faith just irritates me. What a horrible life these people live. Constantly judging each other and feeling guilty about making decisions about how to live their own lives. What sad little people. By the way, the Pope was a Nazi.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • AJ

      Shame on you (pun intended)!

      August 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Satan

      I'm sorry, where was the pun???

      August 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • lisa

      Why do you let it irritate you? The sacrament of confession is something wonderful for those who believe. That you choose not to participate is fine but honestly, it's not something to get too worked up about. Faith is a hard thing and I really think God wants us to question things sometimes. Don't let other people's beliefs or practices get you so angry. Go do your own research, really try and understand and then live your life accordingly. We're all going to die my friend and no one, no one knows what happens – that's what faith is all about.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Frogist

      I can see the benefit of telling someone what you feel badly about in your life and having them console you by accepting your confession and telling you make reparation and find a better way next time. We all experience it in our lives when we talk to a friend or mate or parent. I think that emotional benefit is lost when you put so much emphasis on the judgement portion rather than the personal emotional aspect of opening yourself up to someone else. And when you drown the personal with beaurocracy like only this priest can actually take your confession, or it only matters if you are a member in good standing or you can't confess to these sins... whatever. It dilutes the benefit to the point where, I'm not sure there is a real worth to it.

      August 19, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  6. Kim

    I miss Pope John Paul the 2nd. He started a reawakening and admission of the churches history of sins and the corruption that have strained the faith of most Catholics everywhere. I am soooo disapointed in the current pope, his personal history, and the choice of the cardinals of not choosing a pope from out of Europe. I would have LOVED to see Cardinal Desmond Tutu as Pope, the integrity and belief in doing the right thing would have continued the re-birth of the catholic church. for those of you who believe that Catholisism preaches hate, you are only reflecting your own upbringing. in 47 years of masses I have NEVER heard a word against other faiths. Only the prayers for peace. Some of you would do better to look to the national average of "Chesters" and see where they really come from...look at that scout leader-little league coach-nice guy down the block. IT TAKES ACCESS TO KIDS TO HURT THEM, not just a church.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Matthew

      Are you a moron? Desmond Tutu is not a cardinal. In fact, he's not even Catholic. Desmond Tutu is an Anglican. His chances of being elected Pope are zero. You know that the Pope is head of the Catholic Church, and not any other, right? Please try to get the simplest facts straight before you post a bunch of ridiculous nonsense.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  7. me

    IMO, "Confessions" don't mean anything.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Lagos

      Okay, thanks for your opinion. Want to expand on that a bit or are you just sharing?

      August 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Satan

      Lagos, explain how confessing your "sins" to another human being so that they can pray to god on your behalf makes any logical sense. It's nonsense. The overwhelming majority of Catholics who confess their iniquities commit the same sin again...and the process repeats until they die. Which leads to yet another meaningless sacrament known as The Last Rites. These weak, simple-minded sheep spend their lives feeling guilty about the things they have done and confess to be absolved...then, apparently, deem it necessary for a priest to stand over them before they kick off to throw some water or put oil on them, say a few words, and they are free to enter heaven. What a bunch of imbecility. I can't believe adults in 2011 buy into this crap.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  8. Sue

    KC, P!ss off and die painfully in a cesspool, you jerk.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Dale

      You first you religious Cun*!

      August 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Lagos

      Holy cow, you guys angry or something? It's the internet.... Take a chill pill.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  9. Johnson

    Evil just oozes out of the eyes in this old man.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • zhawk88

      dude i was just thinking the same thing!!!

      August 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Vampires gots nothing on Popey!

      Popey definitely looks like he is about to rip apart the next person he sees with his teeth, and his many decades of experience doing it means he will be very efficient and ruthless in his attack.

      I guess those years in the Hitler Youth made a lasting impression on him.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Pope Hitler Youth I

      August 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  10. hmanity01

    I love how some Protestants here are exclaiming that the catholic's are following man made doctrine and not the bible. What if the bible too was simply a made up story written by men thousands of years ago as a control measure, and not really the "holy spirit" i.e. the word of god??????? ~ Occam's razor

    August 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • goinggone

      All religion is "man made doctrine". No religion can claim God wrote their book.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  11. *frank*

    Did this special offer come in the coupon section of the newspaper like a 2-for-one lunch deal at Applebee's, or how does it work?

    August 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  12. Paul

    How arbitrary. Women in Spain attending this event may be forgiven. But around the world, you still are going to hell ladies! The Catholic Church at work as normal. They may as well just start selling indulgences again.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Lagos

      I'm glad you didn't read the article closely at all.

      "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."

      But yes, keep twisting things out of proportion and keep the distortions and lies coming. It makes you look SO much more sophisticated than those silly Catholics.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  13. Agns Beaverhousen

    I hate the idea of a sin being forgiven for a couple of weeks or so. I hate the idea of tossing a sinner out of a religion. Isn't that rather contrary to the whole idea?

    August 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Lagos

      You misunderstand the point of confession. If you confess to a priest (or directly to God, although the church is kind of funny about that) your sins, repent, and are truly sorry and work towards correcting your mistakes you are not forgiven for just a few weeks. You're forgiven, period.

      To address your second point, if someone calls themselves a Catholic, blatantly disregards one of the ten commandments (thou shalt not kill) from the Church's perspective, and show no remorse or attempt to repent, why shouldn't they be kicked out? We can argue all day about whether the Church's opinion is right or not, but if you want to call yourself a Catholic, live by Catholic teachings or find a religion that more closely fits your own beliefs. Or hell, go solo.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Laura

      I so agree with you.Even though I am a catholic, the whole idea is ridiculous...makes no sense and seems like magical thinking to say the least....". You can be absolved there, but not here....therefore ,God can only forgive on a certain day, certain time ,a certain group of people. No wonder there is so much confusion and upset around any religion when you have this kind of thinking and statements.being made.....Sounds almost childish to say the least

      August 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Lagos

      Again Laura, you misunderstand what confession means and what it is. If you want to confess your sins right now, you can call up your priest and schedule a time. If you had an abortion and want to be absolved of that sin, it'll be a bit more tricky but there are always priests qualified to tackle that job in your area as well.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Lagos

      To address your point about confusion, maybe you'd be less confused if you got your religious understanding from a priest rather than CNN articles. If you don't get confession, ask your priest... Not that hard.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Lago: You see nothing odd or unbalanced about the Pope saying "Every priest in Spain is ok to do abortion absolutions, but you people in China or Africa? F-ck you!"? Yes, I get that there's the one guy in other places. But you don't find it uneven at all that in all of the Sudan who you can confess your sin to maybe one guy, and you will have to make special prep with that one guy, whereas in Spain, it's a free for all? Does that seem fair to you?

      August 19, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  14. ScoobySnacked

    Maybe confessions for raping kids as well?

    August 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  15. phil

    Seems like all the atheists and anti Catholics has come out of the woodworks...

    August 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Lagos

      And the Catholics that have no idea what it means to be Catholic who get their religious information from CNN rather than their church.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  16. Lalo

    @KC- I didn't say God Bless Atheism, I meant to say God Bless the person who's offending God, because God has already forgotten his sins.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • KC

      @Lalo–Hi– I was speaking to Ban Islam -sorry that I didn't make that clear! :~)

      August 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  17. *frank*

    "Shady character" is a massively understated description for this creep.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • goinggone

      Religion seems like a good idea until people get involved in it. From the beginning of human time people sought a higher power and then turned it into a crazy tournement.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  18. SabineTawni

    As a cradle catholic, I must admit–what a joke this man and the rest of the catholic hierarchy are!! Who the h*ll is he or any of his "priests" to talk about forgiveness of the sin of abortion when their sins are so much greater? He is an embarrassment every time he opens his stupid mouth and so were his predecessors. Please, for the love of Christ, just be quiet!

    August 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Lagos

      You're not a catholic if you disagree with the Pope's authority. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but you might want to identify yourself as a Christian rather than a Catholic if you're going to go that far off from the Church's stance.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Lagos: Really? She should renounce her Catholicism because you don't like what she said? Or should she repent because her words offend you?
      I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition...

      August 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Nobody does, Frogist. Nobody does.

      August 19, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  19. Mike

    You have got to be a freak to be part of any religion, Catholics are nothing but hate mongers and child rapist

    August 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Jennifer

      OMG you are so right, I was born Christian, but after reading the Bible I was awakened to the fact that it is all man made! Religion is a joke and it teaches nothing but hate and war!!!!

      August 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Lagos

      Sure you read the bible and aren't wildly exaggerating. Don't worry, we all believe you.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • CW

      I'm sorry that you feel that way. At its core, Catholicism is about forgiveness. It is the belief of Catholics (and all Christians) that Jesus died on the cross so that all might have the opportunity to reach Heaven (please don't misunderstand, in no way am I saying that you should believe that, just telling you the truth of what we believe). Catholic itself means "universal"; it's not about exclusivity or "hatemongering" as you suggest. While you may decided to retort with a "witty" comment about pedophilia, it doesn't make what I've stated any less true. Moreover, to make such generalizations makes you appear petty, ignorant, and ironically, hateful yourself. Certainly we may disagree on our perceptions of the Catholic Church, but I cannot let such misguided characterzation of it go unanswered. We too are passionate and strong-willed over our positions, but I hope that in the future you will take time to speak with a broader range of Catholics, learn more about them, and understand that we're not bad people even though we may disagree over certain subject matters. Perhaps in the end you will feel the same way you do now, regardless, the millions of good people in the Catholic Church (and the good works they do to help others) deserve greater respect than you have shown. Please consider that. Thanks.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  20. D

    Well Mr. Pope...the world encourages Priest molestation confessions. How does that sound?

    August 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Mike


      August 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
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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.