Pope's New Position on Abortion Is a Real Step Forward for Women

pope francisIf there was any question that Pope Francis is the most progressive pope ever, his latest move should put those lingering doubts to rest: The Pontiff has declared that Catholic women who get abortions will no longer be excommunicated from the church -- an unprecedented change in rules!

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Previously, women who had abortions -- or anyone who helped to facilitate an abortion -- were automatically excommunicated.

Excommunication, in case you were wondering, is a usually permanent ban from the church which can only be lifted by a bishop. It's the sort of punishment the Catholic church reserves only for the absolute gravest of offenses, as most sins are considered forgivable by a priest through the sacrament of confession. To put it in perspective, murder and rape do NOT result in excommunication; in fact, only eight other sins are officially considered worthy of excommunicating someone over, and they are: apostasy, heresy, schism, violating the sacred species, physically attacking the pope, sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin, consecrating a bishop without authorization, and directly violating the seal of confession. How 'bout that?

Of course, that's way more than the average person needs to know about this stuff, but the point is -- the Catholic church really, really disapproves of abortion, so the fact that Pope Francis is doing this is a really, really big deal. He says, however, that he's come to understand that many women "believe they have no other option." In a letter from the pope published by the Vatican, he wrote:

I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision ... I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.

More from The Stir: Pope Francis's Stance on Public Breastfeeding Might Surprise You

Yes, clearly the Pope still considers abortion a sin -- but hey, he's more tolerant than any of the other popes have been.

Although there is one caveat: that whole "Jubilee Year" thing, which means that this rule change will only be in effect from December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016. Um, what?! Why the weirdo time parameters?? How can something be morally acceptable for one year only? I don't get it, but then, I don't get a lot of things about the church, and I was raised in it. 

Which is how I know this rule change, however temporary and limited it is, is still something to celebrate. A baby step? Yes. But a step nonetheless.

 

Image via Stefano Costantino/Splash News

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