4 September 2015, 2:23 pm – POPE FRANCIS has given all priests the authority to absolve the mortal sin of abortion during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee Year of the Catholic Church, but it remains a “grave offense,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said.

In a pastoral letter titled “Understanding Pope Francis’ gesture rightly” published on Sept. 3, CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the absolution of abortion would not make the sin less serious. Instead, it makes God’s mercy more visible.

“This does not make the sin less grievous. What it does is make the mercy of God more tangible through the ministry of the Church,” Villegas said.

He urged Catholics to take time to understand Pope Francis’ gesture and not to believe misleading reports that the Church’s stance on abortion had been relaxed.

According to Villegas, abortion remains a serious wrong because “it trespasses the sacred ground that human life is.”

Terminating the life of an unborn child should not be among a woman’s options because “her right to privacy and to make decisions about herself do not extend to the life in her womb over which she enjoys no dominion at all,” he added.

Abortion, he explained, is a mortal sin that brings spiritual death to the ones who commit it. “In the traditional language of older catechisms, it is a mortal sin, a deadly sin. Not only does it bring death on another; it brings about the spiritual death of one who commits it with full knowledge of its malice and the consequences of this absolutely abhorrent act.”

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In Canon Law, abortion is a sin punishable by automatic excommunication, which can only be lifted by certain Church officials including bishops and chief confessors of dioceses. Aside from those who procure abortion, this covers persons who perform the procedure.

Villegas said women who resort to abortion separate themselves from the Church and community that continuously upholds the importance of life.

Villegas said Catholics should see the Pope’s move as a chance to approach the constant mercy of God.

“The proper, Catholic response to the Holy Father’s gesture is for all of us, sinners, to approach the mercy of God that constantly reaches out to us, that seeks out the lost,” Villegas said. L. M. P. Vicencio

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