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Abortion and the Mercy of God

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By Melanie Williams (Apr 8, 2017)
Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, the rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, leads the Marians' ministry to women and men struggling with the emotional and spiritual pain of abortion. We spoke with him about Pope Francis' decision to permanently extend the Jubilee Year of Mercy grant for all priests to be able to absolve the grave sin of abortion.

What impact do you think this will have?
Oftentimes canon law regarding abortion is misinterpreted. Previously, in order for the sin of abortion to only be absolvable by a bishop, the person who had had an abortion or performed one must have been more than 16 years old, known the applicable canon law, had full knowledge of what they were doing, and freely chose it at the time of the abortion. My experience is that most people have never read canon law, and 99 percent of people who have had abortions were coerced or pressured in some way or another into having the abortion, which meant that they do not need to go to Confession to a bishop for forgiveness from God. Up until now, local bishops could give the priests in their dioceses dispensation to forgive all abortions — no matter the circumstances of the abortion. Now, the Pope has given that dispensation to all priests. This is a very merciful thing the Holy Father has done. This is not to downplay the gravity of abortion — which is the taking of a human life — but mercy needs to be readily available for those who are repentant and grieving.

What message do you think this sends to post-abortive parents?
This sends a tremendous message. A lot of people who were post-abortive did not even know of this canon, so when the news came out about the Pope extending the dispensation, a lot of people came to me with questions. Many post-abortive men and women feel that they are condemned by God and by the Church, calling abortion the "unforgiveable sin." That's not true. What must never get lost is the fact there is mercy for everyone who is repentant. A message of mercy and welcoming is huge for those who are post-abortive because it shatters the lie they may be believing, which is they can't be forgiven. Abortion is forgivable because Jesus died for all sins, and He forgave all sins by His Blood on the Cross. There is not one sin that Christ excluded from that redemption. I have met people that beat themselves up for years because of their abortion and don't go to Church anymore. To let them know that they don't have to beat themselves up, that they can be forgiven, that there is mercy — that is life-changing.

Does this mean men and women forgiven before the Jubilee Year have not been forgiven and need to go to Confession again?
No, people forgiven in the past do not need to go to Confession again. If they wanted to re-confess the sin of abortion they could, to make sure it was validly forgiven, but I do not think that people need to worry too much about it. The Pope is heading in the right direction with mercy.

Is this grace only for those who have had abortions or also for those who pressured others into having one, or the doctors and nurses who have performed abortions and are repentant and grieving?
This is for anyone who has been involved in procuring an abortion — directly or indirectly. There is mercy and healing for everyone.


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