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. Stan

    Why is it the majority of people reading and subsequently commenting on these articles related to Christianity are for the most part, all the atheist pigs/haters? If you guys can't stand religion, why do you bother wasting the time and effort to read these articles and then make all the sick comments? Why don't you start emailing CNN and asking them that they post fewer articles on religion, so that the 15% (and getting smaller, globally) of you out there can vent your rage somewhere else?

    August 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Observer


      "atheist pigs". How utterly Christian-like you are. Sounds like more hypocrisy.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Martin T

      Stan the man, first off, good evening to you, too. Secondly, I assure you that as an atheist, I have less hate in my heart than you do, my Christian friend. I think I can answer part of your confusion very simply. Actually the number of Freethinkers/atheists/agnostics are not shrinking globally but instead GROWING at perhaps the fastest rate among those professing a belief or non-belief in a god or gods. The next generation will by far be the most Secular generation EVER in the history of mankind, mainly because the amount of education is growing and causing many of the great MYTHS of the world simply disappear.

      Now, if you read through MOST of the posts on here from Atheists, you will find that they are not nearly as filled with Hate as the posts filed by so-called Christians. Atheists are not angry because you believe, unlike you who are angry that we do not believe. The fact is that most Atheists could care less about your belief until you attempt to force that belief on the rest of us, be it through education, business, or government. Now, personally, I find that atheists come on these blogs because we are by nature a very curious bunch. We want to understand how, given the amount of evidence against the existence of a god or gods, so many people still fall for the myths. It amazes us and even manages to amuse us, as well.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Atheists are a very extreme minority,blogs like these give the few atheists or atheist wannabes, a forum for their voice disproportionate to their numbers.It really stokes their collective egos to suppose that they have others like themselves,even though for the most part they are as separate and disjointed as any small group.To quote an old movie "it's the same old guys running the same old scams"

      August 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Atheist. Calling a Recovering Catholic a pig is just SO UNchristian!

      August 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Stan: Why is it that bigoted Christians come on here and insut those who are different as "atheist pigs/haters" while proclaiming themselves full of love?

      August 19, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  2. fda

    amazing, CNN actually gave a non biased article. Thanks CNN:)

    August 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  3. Mark

    May Our Lord Jesus and His Most Holy Mother help us to rid the world of the horror of abortion. GOD BLESS OUR HOLY FATHER!

    August 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Read the Bible. It offers more to support abortion than oppose it.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • albert

      Very interesting comment especially since Jesus never asked his followers to call his mother holy or to pray for her. And He said not to call anyone Father that is on the earth. Your worship is futile. Please prove me wrong by showing me relevant scriptures.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • mumobi

      Where specifically (book, chapter, verse) in the bible is this support for abortion?

      August 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible is full of commands from God to kill women. Not once did God give a rip if they were pregnant or not.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Martin T

      Wow Mark, I think I threw up a little in my mouth upon reading that post. Eww.... seriously, you kind of creep me out there, dude.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Hope you and Michele Bachman have a place for all those unwanted, drug-addicted babies that I don't want MY tax dollars supporting! I want scientific research, old age care and education, not welfare and prisons for unwanted people.

      August 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Frogist

      @mumobi: Well you might try Numbers 5 where it basically says a priest may cause a woman to abort if she has been unfaithful to her husband. That's certainly not a condemnation of abortion which occurs nowhere in the bible. In fact the most someone should do when a pregnant woman is hurt by men who cause an abortion, is pay the husband some cash.

      August 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  4. ShutTheFrontDoor

    Until the vatican is ready to sell their prime real estate or pawn their gold or donate their investment income to pay back retributions to children that have been (AND ARE CURRENTLY BEING) abused and victims of aboriginal residential schools in Canada, they can rot in hell!! I suffered through 11 years of brainwashing (aka catholic school) only to enter public school in grade 10 and not know who Charles Darwin was nor what an "evolution" was!!! I blame the catholic school systemand my parents for putting me in that cesspool. Some teaching techniques used were straight-up barbaric! Convictable offences these days...and I am only 28 years old; This wasn't 50 years ago. Anyone who follows a religion and work of fiction (bible) is a mindless drone who should have been aborted by their parents to save the rest of us from paying for their mistakes and general idiocy. I really feel for any woman who feels as though she must be pardoned for making the choice to have an abortion. The choice is there for a reason...use it!!! I have aborted a child and am in no way scared of spending my time in hell because there is no such thing! Hate on me all you want but deal with it because I sure have!

    August 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • albert

      Blame religion for it's misinterpretation of the Bible. Take Christmas, Easter, and the teaching of eternal torment in Hell. None of these teachings are in the Bible. This is just a small sampling of the lies. Jesus warned against these churches. Again blame religion.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • fda

      albert, stop reading satanisms bible... your right, its not in there lol

      August 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Cody (D.C.)

      Something tells me you are lying. Catholics believe in evolution and it is taught in Catholic schools. Nice try.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Anon

      Christians enjoy using mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance to ignore that their own religion advocates a hell for non-believers. You're not fooling anyone with pathetic apologetic nonsense. Also Jesus never existed, he's just another solar myth.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • ShutTheFrontDoor

      To Cody, how do you know what was taught to me in my school? All I was taught was that God made the world in 7 days and blah blah blah. With deeply catholic parents and friends, where would I have ever learned about evolution? Please tell me more about my life!!

      August 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • albert

      FDA, please show us scripture from your Bible that mention Santa Clause , the Easter Bunny. That these are derived from Pagan customs is common knowledge. Do a search. As for Eternal torment in Hell, that is not taught in the Bible either. Fire is used in the Bible to signify destruction. Perhaps you can explain why God did not threaten Adam & Eve with burning in Hell. Why would he have not mentioned it to the first humans? Also, please explain how an invisible non-physical spirit burns. Now look up Greek mythology, and you will see where the teaching of eternal torment really comes from.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Cody (D.C.)

      Wow. I don't know what it is that you were taught, but none of that is what Catholics believe. Any true Catholic will emphatically tell you that the Bible is NOT literal truth. The Pope even says so regularly because of the lies being spread by Catholic haters like yourself.

      You are not a Catholic and you were not raised by Catholics. They may have been Catholic at one point, but they clearly broke off from the Church long ago. You are either confused or trolling. More likely the latter because this is basic stuff on Catholicism. The theory of evolution has been fully embraced by the Catholic Church since at least John Paul II. The literal story of creation has been REJECTED by the Catholic Church since at least the time of Pope Pius IX.

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

      You were not present at my elementary and high school from 1985-1995 were you? Doesn't look like it because your name implies that you are in D.C. while I am in B.C...in Canada. We were taught that God created the earth in 7 days and if we questioned this we were screamed at and berated in front of the class; a way of teching us to not question authority figures. I think our teachers took an extra course in college called "Public Embarassment 101" because they were all horrible monsters who should have been charged with emotional abuse or at least harrassment. To be fair, my kindergarten teacher was the one exception (she was Anglican). We had a nun as pur principal who was quite cruel as well. The best thing I have ever done in life was to break free of the chains of catholocism and learn to think freely and make my own life choices based on my own morals.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Cody (D.C.)

      You are blinded by rage. If you were actually taught these things, you were not being taught Catholicism. There are many break-away sects throughout the world -> see: Protestantism. It sounds to me like these "Catholics" that taught you were creating their own fundamentalist religion. True Catholicism teaches none of what you speak, and fully embraces science and rational thinking.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ShutTheFrontDoor: My friend also went to Catholic High School and she has some stories that would curl your hair about physically and emotionally abusive nuns. The told her she was Satanic because she liked eyeshadow and dark makeup. In terms of se-x ed, a nun told her if you are going to use protection, poke a hole in the condom to give God a chance! LOL! Yeah... This stuff happens, Cody (DC). Closing your eyes and fingering your rosary, does not make it disappear no matter how much you want to believe the official story.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Mike

    why are people calling Catholic Preist pedophiles, thats the nice word for it, they are CHILD RAPIST...... Your children are not safe around preist. Your religion preaches hate, as a gay man I say to hell with all religion Catholics included.. You think everyone is a sinner except you, oh and your preist that are raping your children, give me friggen break.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • carolina

      Not every Catholic Priest is a pedophile. To lump all individuals of any profession, lifestyle, race or creed together is ignorant. Making assumptions based on bigotry and bias only produces additional discord and hate.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • NPRJim

      THey may not all be child rapists but it is and epidemic in the Catholic Church and it has affected everyone in that church in some way or another. It is a horrible religion with the folks in charge much more worried about money and power than the people. Are there good priests? Maybe but given that they all knew what was going on for years, it leads me to believe that the good ones are actually few and far between. If there is a hell, the pope will rot there along with all the others that turned a blind eye the myraid of pedophiles in their midst!

      August 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • albert

      Carolina, it is true that not every priest is a pedophile. The point is however that the church tried to cover it up. They allowed the pedophile priests to continue on as priests. They did not excommunicate them like they do women that have abortions. This church is evil in that it tries to cover its own sins.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  6. albert

    Catholics have only themselves to blame for there arrogance and ignorance. The Church backed Adolph Hitler, backed the genocide in Rwanda, does nothing to end the dug problem in Mexico which is 82% Catholic. This doesn't include the Pagan traditions and Greek mythology which it tries to pass off as Bible truth (Christmas, Easter, Eternal torment in Hell, etc.). And then there is off course the Pedophile priests. Only a fool would choose to be blind to all the corruption and blood guilt that this evil church has on it's hands. The God of the Bible promises judgment on this Church. Babylon the great WILL be destroyed. Get out of her while you still have time.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • justme

      if i didn't have a meeting to go to i would really like to discuss this with you, so maybe when i get home if you are still here? jg

      August 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • albert

      Sure, if I am still here. I will look for you.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  7. rinsac

    Give all the wealth of the Church to the poor and renew your vows of poverty, live simply, do good works. Then maybe you will be worth listening to.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • MarileeBob


      August 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  8. Evan

    When the abortion choice advocate says "You have no right to say what a woman can and can't do with her body", to the pro-life advocate, it sounds like you're saying "You have no right to say that a serial killer can't murder anybody".

    August 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • billp

      Nobody says serial killers can't inflict harm on their own body.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Duh

      No it just makes you sound like a complete idiot with really flawed logic.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Observer

      Apples and oranges. MOST people can tell the difference.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Will_H

      So the pro-life person is just a close minded idiot that hears what they want to is what you're saying.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Observer


      If things get horribly bad enough, everyone is "pro-abortion"
      Everone is "pro-life" – – it just depends if that life is the mother's or the fetus.
      The "sides" are PRO-CHOICE and ANTI-CHOICE. Apparently, you are anti-choice.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Evan: I think that's exactly what anti-choicers (pro-lifers) hear. The sad thing is they will hear this whether the abortion is for the woman's economic or social situation or even if the woman's life is at stake. They don't care about the woman! They don't care about the fact that it is her own private body that they are imposing rules on even to the point that it kills her. I often wonder about women who are anti-choice. Do they not understand what is at stake?

      August 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  9. Sumo

    Yeah, because I'm about to take my moral guidance from a former N@zi... The pope can go f&%k himself.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  10. RaisinCain

    Organized religion is, has and always will be a billsh** scare tactic in an attempt to "scare" the public/believers.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  11. HotAirAce

    -there are no gods, not even just one

    – pope-a-dope is a criminal for protecting pedophiles and not innocent children

    – 70+% of abortions in the USA are had by believers therefore by many catholics, so the lying and hypocrisy is huge

    – this special dispensation is just part of the rcc's plan to deal with all the boinking that will take place during the "gathering of young fools" – anyone want to bet there won't be a spike in unplanned pregnancies and that many of those will result in an abortion?

    August 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • MarileeBob

      Well all they have to do it go confess and all of a sudden they're not sinners anymore. I can do whatever horrible things I want, as long as I go say "im sowwy" and admit I did something wrong, its all is forgiven. Ridiculous.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  12. TheyNotHim

    Why is there a picture of a former Hitler Youth at the top of this article?

    August 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  13. Terry Brookman

    A trillion dollar business run by guilt and shame.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  14. CM

    How can those men parade around in all those earthly adornments, with all their wealth, rituals, pomp and ceremony claim to be "godly" men. They claim to have a divine connection to God, but everyone has a connection to God. This is so they can collect dues to "get people in heaven". This is nothing more than a con! They manipulate the ignorant masses and molest little orphan boys. No birth control means more children to abuse! They're such hypocrits. Why can't people see through their deception and lies. You need to find your own path to God (a personal relationship). I myself am Gnostic, but each of us needs to find our own way and these men are deceiving many to obtain power and wealth. If you knew of the pagan basis for the rituals you would be surprised. And let's not mention the Inquisition. The Catholic Church is evil!

    August 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Martin T

      I agree that the Catholic Church is NOT what they would have us believe they are. There is much about the church that is very unclear. So many mysteries shrouded within the church. Of course, I believe that all religion is inherently evil.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  15. hmanity01

    I like Kim's post. Although not a person of faith myself, I did grow up a catholic and I can confirm that I never heard one negative sermon/homily from a priest about others belief's. In my college days I remember attending some protestant services with a couple different women I dated, and I can say that on more than one occasion I heard these preachers express their belief that others would go to hell for not believing as they do, because of how they interpreted the bible. Then in my tours of duty I saw this magnified in some of the teachings of Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is scary how a religion can convince so many that they are 100% correct and that those who do not believe the same will be condemned. It starts with preaching, and builds towards violence. As an agnostic there is one thing I do believe in, and that is, if there is a god....he doesn't want us killing each other over him.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Evan

      "if there is a god....he doesn't want us killing each other over him"

      As I Christian, I completely agree with this. Look what Christ says about religious violence in Matthew 26:52: "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword." I think we can agree with Abraham Lincoln: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right”

      August 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  16. Sharon

    This is really messed up: sort of like waving an olive branch....Until the Church acknowledges that women have a right to determine what happens to their own bodies, and that there is NO ROLE for the Pope to grant permission where none can be granted in the first place, there is nothing to discuss. Especially since the Pope and his hierarchy are still nowhere near dealing with molestation by clergy. I am sure that I will want to be first in line to discuss my "baby sin" with someone who is probably a whole lot guiltier towards children than I am....

    August 18, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • BobZemko

      Very well said, Sharon.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • CW

      It's not messed up, it's just a different belief than the one you hold. The statement: "Until the Church acknowledges that women have a right to determine what happens to their own bodies, and that there is NO ROLE for the Pope to grant permission where none can be granted in the first place, there is nothing to discuss" is like saying to a fire department, "Until the Fire Chief recognizes that children should play with matches, there is nothing to discuss." A fire department fights fires and the Catholic Church preaches its doctrine. Neither is going to stop doing that. You suggest the Catholic Church disavow a fundamental pillar (in this case, one of the ten commandments) of it's faith as if it were nothing. Granted, I understand you don't agree with that, but you need to recognize that the Church believes abortion is murder. Given such a belief, why would they change their position? While I hope you could be persuaded to that point of view, my intent here is not to force my perceptions on you, but rather ask you to look objectively at the situation and understand why the Church would not and will not recognize the so called rights to abortion.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Frogist

      @CW: We can argue whether abortion applies to that particular commandment but even so the Church has no problems with tossing away that particular commandment when it suits them anyways. Horrible murderous acts done to fully thinking, feeling human beings have been done in the name of their religion as exampled by the Spanish Inquisition.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Jess C

    The whole concept of confession is a bunch of crap! I was raised in this church and so happy to have successfully escaped. It was always strange to sit in that dark closet and try to think of "sins" to tell the priest. What "sins" does a 12 year old really have? Years later when my father passed away, I lfound out that the priest who officiated his service was found guilty several years later of child molestation! Yes, I'm a Catholic basher for a good reason. Bill Maher is so right.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  18. pattysboi

    Why are the LOUDEST screamers against a legal medical procedure usually men? pope benny doesn't like abortion, fine. He doesn't have to have one, but he has NO right to deny a woman the RIGHT to decide what happens with her own body.

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

      "He doesn't have to have one, but he has NO right to deny a woman the RIGHT to decide what happens with her own body"

      What if a serial killer came up to you and said "You don't like murder? Then don't murder anybody, but you have no right to tell me what I can and can't do." To the pro-life supporter, it seems like you are saying this.

      Besides, preference claims and moral claims are different. The statement "I don't want to have an abortion" is different than "I think it's immoral for people to have an abortion". After all, we could think it is moral to have an abortion, but choose not to have one. On the other hand, we can think it's immoral to have an abortion, but still choose to have one. Saying "Don't like abortion? Then don't have one" is completely innapropriate.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Rational

      She can do whatever she wants to her body – but she can't do anything to the other body that happened to be in her since a new life is not her own life.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Evan: We are not talking about serial killers who kill actual persons. So your comparison is irrelevant.
      As far as we have established legally a fetus is not a person. As far as we have established scientifically, there is no evidence of a soul, and there is no evidence of sentience in a fetus. Religious claims cannot count because religion cannot be endorsed by the state. What we do know is that women are physically, mentally, financially impacted to an almost devastating and sometimes deadly degree by pregnancy. If we weigh up what we do know and what we don't know it is fairly obvious that no one, including the gov't has the right to force a woman into pregnancy and childbirth. Because as far as I'm concerned that is about as immoral as one can get.

      August 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      The church does not define "life", the government and law does. The church view on a "soul" has no bearing. You cannot mu rder what is not considered a life. Leaving religion out of it, when does it become a "life" and ent i tled to rights? THAT IS THE QUESTION

      August 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  19. maverick

    Lagos you are on a roll! You're very well spoken and your giving no mercy on the anti-Catholics. It's refreshing to see something different on this board other than the same tired, hateful and hypocritical Catholic bashers here.

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

    I will confess my sins when the church's leadership confesses to theirs !

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

      Agreed! Plus no where in the bible does it say u must confess to man any sin, u are to confess to God and God alone and how dare the church excommunicate anybody from church for any sin when u are 2 come 2 God as u are. Scripture says ALL have fallen and fall short of the glory of God... ALL including the POPE!!!

      August 18, 2011 at 6:32 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.