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. movement31

    just like Mankind..who says some man who wears a bright shiny robe with a funny looking hat is someone you can trust..he wants you to tell him your sins and he will fogive you..should you really give a damn whetehr he forgives you are not??

    August 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  2. us1776

    RELIGION = mass delusion !!

    Time to end these fairy tales !!


    August 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  3. Amunaka

    I grew up catholic..I could never understand kneeling in a dark box with a priest I couldn't see and tell him my sins.. it was just so weird..and being a catholic everything's a sin even if you just think about it ...it was damanam creepy..

    August 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • robert saint amour

      watch it i think what you said is a sin too...omg me too!

      August 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  4. nathaniel

    Religion is the biggest scam human beings has ever come up with. Disgusting.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • robert saint amour

      worse than lawyers or real estate people ??

      August 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Martin T

      I agree Nathaniel. IN fact I think that religion, not just Christianity, but ALL religions have been nothing more than man's creation to control the masses. It is much easier to control the actions of many by having them fear a being greater than themselves. Who else will they follow other than someone who can kill them at will, take away their possessions, and condemn them to an eternal damnation. This form of control has proven to be far more effective than all the armies of the world, just look at the failed attempts of Communism and others.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Robert, I think we have a three-way tie.

      August 19, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  5. Reggie

    some people have faith and some don't, let's be open minded. and respect others believes and opinions.
    And remember God loves everyone, and he certainly don't take into consideration religions, believes, races ect...

    August 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ Reggie – I accept that some have faith and others do not, in fact I have no issues with people of faith. I do have issue with how they express that faith, be it so "in my face" that it makes me sick, or through the interference with our laws and government. I do NOT, however, agree that god loves us all, since I do not believe that a god or any number of gods, exist.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  6. Peter

    THE MEDIA NEVER MENTIONED THAT THE PRIESTS WHO WERE ABUSERS WERE 97% GAY! So, the Pope said, no were gays as priests as gays are mentally ill. To care for a gay, tell them they need mental help. Very odd! SO UNNATURAL!!!

    August 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Amunaka

      Love your stats .....They used to say the same thing about masturbation...

      August 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Alex

      So, they were 3% straight?

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

      @Peter: Hi! Would you like to come with me to the 21st century? We have so many nice things here! Like tiny cell-phones, hybrid cars that help care for the environment, Katy Perry, the understanding that being gay is not a mental health issue... lots of cool stuff!

      August 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      But there are so many unnatural, perverse things in the modern world – like widespread literacy and the refrigeration of food.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  7. 21k

    he creeps me out. and when he starts up about how no one should use condoms and that plan b is murder, then you start hoping that the big guy pulls his plug.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  8. markjuliansmith

    When will this Man-God Charade so damaging particularly to women end? Come on humanity grow up and realize any Religion of Certainty be it secular or religious is very dangerous indeed.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  9. wendy5

    i wouldnt confess another word to you little phediphiles; or put another penny in your little plates or eat anymore of your fake bread and wine; what a joke these people think they even matter ; they are so far removed from saintlyness in my good book; and just like they snub people they should be snubbed

    August 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  10. TheWholeTruth

    My reaction to this was: "They can't already do that?"

    Isn't the whole point of confession that the Priest forgives your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Is there anything those three can't forgive? Why does abortion need "Confession Plus"?

    August 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • robert saint amour

      maybe to qualify for the extended warranty plan

      August 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  11. Josie

    Interesting. Personally the fact that they make the men that "gave" into pressure on a abortion just as sinful as the woman that did them...wow. I know of situations where the men didn't even found out till it was too late, or if they knew they seriously tried to talk the other out of it, even offering to raise the kid as their own and being a single father and yet the other still chose not to. It's a woman's body and even if I don't agree with why some chose abortion (especially if there is adoption) doesn't give me the right to say they can't or that they and the father somehow sin if they chose that route.

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

      I think that Lombardi (a non-native English speaker) was saying "gave pressure," as in "applied pressure." That is, a man who pressures a woman into having an abortion bears responsibility for that act. I'm surprised that he also didn't mention Catholic doctors who procure an abortion–he/she would also be excommunicated latae sententiae (i.e. automatically). Perhaps they weren't mentioned because they aren't often youth, and therefore not at World Youth Day. Though, on that point it should also be noted that Canon Law provides that those under 16, those who don't know that an abortion incurs excommunication, those who were forced, or those acted out of grave fear (among a few other exceptions) do not incur excommunication. On another note, many priests have the faculties from the bishop to lift the excommunication following a sincere confession and those that do not will refer the penitent to one who does or request the bishops permission to do so. It's something that is addressed in the confessional, if its necessary.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  12. fda

    Many liberals don't understand that the average person in the church, including priests, are NOT pedophiles. Its like saying all germans were Nazi's on a more ridiculous proportionality. Also, when liberals make these intended attacks on the church, church members really do agree with you. YES THEY DO! But when we tell you to stop murdering children you create opposition. For me, the individual scenarios are intensely different both in morality and coherent arguments.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • robert saint amour

      you are who you support...kinda like getting shot hanging out with a hell's angel..

      August 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Mick

      I don't know anyone who is saying that the average priest is a pedophile; I don't see any reason why Catholic priests would have a higher incidence of child molestation than any other group of people who work closely with children. The bigger issue is the way the church covered it up for decades, and continues to do nothing substantial about it.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  13. robert saint amour

    if this were anymore ridiculous it would be funny...it would be nice if this leader and protector of pedophiles stayed in his little castle and minded his own damn business.... how much have christians really evolved ? from 13 guys roaming around the desert in dresses badmouthing women 2000 years ago, to the glut of priests, ministers and other religious heads casually screwing up our kids like there was no tomorrow....religion sucks big time and crimes abound..

    August 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  14. Joe

    Wow....the hypocrisy of the Vatican is the thickest I've ever seen.
    Aside from the crazy notion that the Catholic Church can suddenly change the rules of Salvation,
    the Vatican just plays by whatever rules it wants.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  15. EGB1

    In other words, if a woman confesses in Spain during August 15-22, she'll be absolved of sin, but if she confesses outside that short window of time or in a different country, she won't be forgiven? Are we expected to believe that God gives asinine decrees like that?

    August 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  16. Dulguun

    Abortion is a woman's choice. She shouldn't have to feel the need to confess it.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • fda

      In more cases than not, they end up confessing though.

      Your statement is more agreeable and inclusive when you say, if a woman feels that confessing with comfort them emotionally then they should know that option has worked for many women before them.

      But you don't really care about their feelings do you?

      August 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Frogist

      @fda: Making something a sin and then forcing people to feel bad about this sin and then telling them the only way not to feel bad is thru the people who made it a sin in the first place... that's not caring about a woman's feelings.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Maccabee

    Why doesn't the Catholic church return the artifacts which were looted from the Second Temple in 70CE, then they can comment on moral issues.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Gigi

      And why doesn't Israel let Palestina be a free state, accept the UN resolution on Jerusalem and try to live peacefully with it's neighbours?

      August 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  18. carolina

    I am quite surprised and dismayed to see that the thread here has basically turned into an overall bashing of the Catholic Church. First off, no, I am not Catholic however if a woman follows a particular faith, even after an absence from the church; and believes that confessing her sins and receiving absolution will be of benefit to her spiritual and mental well being; why do so many people have a problem with that? Whether or not you believe in abortion, laws dictate what a woman can legally do to her body. The church dictates what they believe to be morally right. The two things are not necessarily the same and regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, the article simply provides information regarding the power to grant absolution for having had the procedure. Asking and seeking forgiveness for actions you have taken in your past is a personal decision and I hope that the women seeking that find what they are looking for whether it is from a Catholic Priest or not.

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

      AMEN to that. Thanks for your insight. But you should become Catholic because you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven if you do not accept Jesus as your lord and savior.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Joe

      Because we see the Vatican just playing around with dates, and saying, "If you tell Big-Daddy you flushed one, while he's here, you won't get in trouble."
      According to Martin Luther, and the rest of the free-thinking world for that matter, that's a load of CRAP. That there's an intercessor between you and god, literally telling god what the rules of salvation are for the next couple of weeks, is like Herman Cain calling Ben Bernanke treasonous for printing money.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  19. Rich

    Hey here's an idea:


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

      Stop murdering them too!

      August 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Joseph

      Unfortunately it is a pity that some people are not able to recognise good from bed. Abuse on children is bad regardless of who does it. The Church – with this decision – is allowing thousands of people to free their conscious from their wrong doings.

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

      I agree. Stop raping children. This selective forgiveness is absolute BS!! You all need to get over your selves. Just because you are "catholic" don't mean you are better than any one else.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Jackie Smith

      good point. too bad it's lost on these disgusting old misogynistic pigs.

      it would be a joke how dumb they are. except that they're serious.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  20. Anony

    Hey, Pope, buddy–
    Until you come completely clean about EVERY child molestation that happened by a Catholic priest in the past hundred years and compensate ALL the victims and punish ALL the enablers, you got no right to ask nobody to confess nothin'.

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

      Just as it should be; a woman's personal decision on child bearing should always be left to her priest.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • fda

      Its okay dude, all Catholics share in your shame, disgust whatever you want to call these terrible acts against children. I can never defend against any of these priests. BUt you must return to Jesus, he will help you come to terms with these rage inspiring events. Jesus died for your sins and would be understanding of the way you feel right now, but always remember to point your anger in the right direction.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Joseph

      Anony, people confess if they want to, if they do not want to they do not confess. So what is troubling you? No one is forcing anyone to do something they do not wish to do... it is a free choice.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Joseph: Well it really depends on what you mean by "forcing". Is peer pressure or the threat of eternal damnation "forcing"? It just might be.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Jesus died for your sins and would be understanding of the way you feel right now..
      Jesus most likely suffered from schizophrenia, why in the heck would I believe a word he says or worship him??? People are amazing sometimes.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:38 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.