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. Anon

    All Christians are screwed up in the head.


    August 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  2. don

    So the Nazi anti-aircraft gunner/ boy-buggerer coddler is to absolve 'sinners'. It is to laugh.

    Religion: mind control for the masses. Resist.

    August 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  3. testuser

    The Church should be aborted!

    August 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Dave 666

      The time for that abortion was 2000 years ago...now it's time for termination!

      August 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  4. Cassarit

    What do they call it when the media goes out of it's way to show unflattering pictures of an individual? I'm not sure. But It's got to stop or we Catholics are going to have to take severe action against these anti-Catholic bigots in places like CNN and Fox

    August 18, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Gustavo

      I agree. This guy is just garbage and so have been all his predecessors. Why doesn't he make it mandatory for all of them pedofile priests to confess in public what they have done to kids not just in recent years but throughout the centuries?

      August 18, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Cassarit: Umm seriously? Now there's an indictment right there! CNN is anti-Catholic because they didn't post pin-ups of Pope. Wow. Where do you people get this stuff?

      August 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  5. Jonny

    Organized Religion, esp. Catholic Church; Medieval Europe's Final Stranglehold on the Future of Humanity .

    August 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Tony

      Would you rather live where organized religion is banned? Let's say China or one of the other Communist countries?

      August 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • gerard

      There is only 1 organized religion in the human race. It is of Christ and it is in your heart and soul- The heart and soul that God created! And God became man, and Word became flesh. And in God's Mercy- His Son became a blood Sacrifice. Oh Jesus- Lamb of God, Loving Son of God- Who came to Save men through His mercy and love- through our repentance.. and we are born again, Father.. and the Heaven's Rejoice and Sing Songs of Praise. Amen. Jesus We Love You!

      Come, Lord- Come- When You Come , Oh Lord We will be with You, Forever.

      August 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • *frank*

      You sound like the guy in 1984 whose speech was like a duck's quacking...

      August 18, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Ze Pewp

      Actually we're not as "organized" as one might think.

      August 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  6. Michael

    This following statement is just wildly creepy & archaic to me: 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."

    It seems to me people are worshiping false idols in the pope. He has no more special relationship to God than any other human being and it is incredibly arrogant of people, including himself, to assume he does a wield a power so holy he can fill in for God and absolve people. Who should we designate to absolve him of hiding pedophilic priests?

    August 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  7. Raise eyebrow up! Seriously!

    Pope is NOT God! He CAN'T to be powerful to pulling people's tongue to confession! Between you and God period! Jesus is so much better than Pope! I m not surprise he would say that to people, I feel sorry for being fibbering the pope! The POPE are 666!

    August 18, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Tony

      So was the Lord wrong in giving man the power to forgive sins in John 20:22-23?

      August 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  8. PedoPriestPatrol

    And be sure to bring your sons &/or young brothers with you!

    August 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Tony

      I wonder where all of the outrage is over Evangelical/Fundamentalist preacher predators? Or what about the outrage over the rampant pedophilia among Hollywood elite? Or the rampant pedophilia among teachers in the public school system? All we hear is the proverbial "pin dropping" in the face of these crimes against humanity. Not to down play the problem in the Catholic Church but the "Catholic problem" is mild compared to the above mentioned atrocities.

      August 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Observer


      "rampant pedophilia among Hollywood elite" . Not to down play the problem in the Catholic Church but the "Catholic problem" is mild compared to the above mentioned atrocities."

      Any FACTS at all to support that?

      August 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  9. buck

    Absolute CRAP!!!!!! NO HUMAN has the power to absolve sins. It is ridiculous that the pope now decides that during his visit priests can grant absolution to women who confess to having had abortions. SCREW YOU POPE.!! CRAP CRAP CRAP!!!

    August 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  10. elena holub

    Therefore the Catholic people who can not afford to travel to Madrid for this 'absolution' considering the incredibly high unemployment rate are 'SOL'???

    August 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • CW

      No, that is not the case. Unfortunately, this article does not offer a complete explanation. Further information on can be found in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church. Excommunication is viewed as the most grave penalty by the Catholic Church and absolution must be granted by the Pope, a Bishop, or authorized priests. However, in the event of near/certain death, any priest may grant absolution. You may not agree with the cannon law, but those who are excommunicated are not "SOL." Given the severity of excommunication, there is just a more rigorous process through which to receive forgiveness.

      August 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Frogist

      @elena: I was wondering that myself. If you're poor and live on the other side of the world, you are more likely excommunicated than if you are within physical proximity of the Pope. There does seem something unfair about that.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  11. Mick

    Two hundred confession booths...no waiting! Bring your friends and family! But, that's not all... act before August 22nd, and we'll grant you an absolution for an abortion!

    August 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Michael

      And if you bring in this print out coupon, you can get a 2 for 1 at the drive by shooting booth!

      August 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      And if you go on eBay, you can get a novena with a plenary indulgence, and you'll be all set.

      August 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  12. MrtunedUp

    I would not let my abortionist confess to a man that looks that creepy.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  13. Jeffrey

    How about pedofile priest confessions in public first?

    August 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Rose

      No kidding!

      August 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  14. robert saint amour

    religion thrives when people are too stupid to control their own morality

    August 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • MrtunedUp

      religion controls people. that is not to say it doesn't serve a great good. but religion has historically been used as a fear/control and power gathering tool.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  15. Shannon Underwood

    Too bad this creeps parents couldn't have aborted, the shame of being a Nazi, child abuse cover up leader and the head of the organization that encourages the birth of children there parents are unable to feed would not have happened. Has this man no shame!

    August 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  16. suzycreamcheese

    I dont get ti. So everyone else is still excommunicated? How about people who marry without annullment?

    August 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • suzycreamcheese

      "ti"="it....I really don't!

      August 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  17. Eric R

    "Tell me all your deepest.. darkest.. seecrets....."

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

      "... Wait, you're 15 years-old? Too old, get out of here."

      August 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  18. *frank*

    I'd like to see 3 or 4 of the "pint-sized preachers" vs the pope in a no-holds-barred death match on pay per view.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • robert saint amour

      in 3D

      August 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  19. missadr

    I understand faith in God. And I understand faith in the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. But I have never understood faith in the Roman Catholic Church. I'm grateful to God that my parents were Protestant.

    August 18, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Martin T

      I actually don't get the whole faith thing at all.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Eric R

      I too understand it – But from a scientific perspective, that understanding paints a much clearer, darker picture.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • PBS

      I understand faith too. I've just never understood faith in pretend things like Jesus, god, and Santa. But good for you missadr and your having faith in being a Protestant (you protest, I gather.)

      August 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  20. Robert

    i hate how people think they know everything about the world just by reading an article they find in CNN.

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

      I hate how people assume they know everything about others based on comments they posted on CNN. CNN is not the only site people read. And some people, (gasp) have even lived the life of being a catholic and have a very intimate knowledge about how destructive this cult is. How it misleads young women to bear guilt they need not be burdened by, because a disgusting patriarchy of pedophiles and power mongers cling to the most extrarodinary wealth known to man. Weilding the allusion of divine authority creates extreme wealth. Period.The catholic church has nothing to do with God. And you have nothing to do with a rational discussion of the matter. A hole.

      August 18, 2011 at 8:17 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.