Pope Francis has decreed that during the upcoming Year of Mercy, priests worldwide will have the discretion to grant absolution to anyone seeking forgiveness for having obtained, or helped procure, an abortion.
However, such faculties have already been accorded for many years to all priests in the Diocese of Rochester. Suzanne Stack, diocesan life-issues coordinator, explained that according to canon law, priests with such abilities are determined by the local bishop.
Stack noted that the pope’s statement about extending faculties to clergy around the world doesn’t change the fact that abortion "still is a grave sin." But she said the pope’s announcement is part of his desire "to make sure people understand that forgiveness is possible."
"I think he’s just rolling the doors open to say, ‘come,’" Stack said, pointing out that many who have been directly involved with abortions don’t feel welcome in the Catholic Church and feel "they have to keep hiding it, burying it" rather than seeking forgiveness.