I grew up hearing all sorts of mythology from parishioners about our faith and abortion; that it was an “unforgivable sin”; that it condemned you to hell; that you are automatically excommunicated and no longer “Catholic.” Unfortunately, those misconceptions are common, and while I am at peace with my standing before God, the church as a community is still rather uneasy about fully accepting and loving those of us who have had abortions. As many critics have pointed out, it is already the case that a bishop can give a priest the authority to absolve a woman and bring her back into full communion with the church. Yet the public statement that all priests may do so without seeking the approval of their bishops sends an important message to the Catholic faithful: A priest — the same person involved in your spiritual life from baptism to burial — can be your shepherd when it comes to abortion as well. I hope this will lie to rest the many myths and uncertainties that often accompany being a Catholic woman who has had an abortion. My abortion makes me no less Catholic than any other parishioner’s sins, because the same forgiveness is available. I remember the feeling after my first confession when my biggest “sin” was being easily frustrated with my little sister. Giving voice to that failure, talking it over with someone I trusted, and being reminded of God’s love, understanding and forgiveness, was an act that gave me a clear conscience and a redemptive path forward. This ritual holds deep and profound meaning and I am grateful that the pope has chosen to remind Catholics that they can seek out absolution, and that they can receive it fully from the priest that they know and trust. Pope Francis’ statement is a powerful reminder that nothing should separate you from God’s love and his church.
One woman’s story: “When my abortion is forgiven by the Catholic church, I will be free…”
Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/03/15
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