Catholics couldn’t have seen this coming: on Tuesday, Pope Francis has called on priests to pardon women who have had abortions.
That runs directly counter to decades of strong Catholic opposition to abortion.
“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,” he said. “…[While] the tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness… many… believe that they have no other option.”
He added, “I am well aware of the pressure that has led [women] to this decision,” he wrote in the announcement. “I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.”
Francis’s new stance is much more akin to modern liberal ideals than it is to traditional Catholic teachings–basically accepting that, even though some women seek abortion just because they would rather not have a baby, many of them don’t see any other choice.
Currently, abortion is considered a grave sin–one for which a woman could be excommunicated. Forgiveness can only be granted by senior church figures.
In fact, as recently as 2004, the Catholic Church even sought to deny communion to Democratic presidential candidate, then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), for his support of abortion rights.
But now, the tide might be changing–even for the Catholic Church–thanks to the reformist-minded Pope Francis.
For now, Francis’s relaxed rules on abortion will only be in effect between December 8, 2015, and November 20, 2016–but it’s without a doubt a sign of things to come for the quickly-liberalizing Catholic Church.