‘To Those That Were Robbed of Life…’

 

Pope Francis babyTO THOSE WHO WERE ROBBED OF LIFE: the unborn, the weak, the sick, the old, during the dark ages of madness, selfishness, lust and greed for which the last decades of the twentieth century are remembered….” C. Everett Koop, MD

Much has been made of the recent decision of Pope Francis to allow priests to absolve those involved in the grave sin of abortion. Catholics and non-Catholics alike who depend on the major media for what this means might misinterpret his letter. Many outlets are reporting that this decision leaves the possibility that the act of an aborting a child might no longer be a grave sin, or was not a grave sin in the first place. This is not the case.

Let me start with a quote from Pope Francis’s full letter as reprinted by The Catholic Herald UK.

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, 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. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

Forgiveness has always been available to those who have procured an abortion. The penitent had to confess the sin to a bishop or someone designated by the Church to absolve the penitent of a sin that incurred automatic excommunication from the Church.

There is no unforgivable sin in the Catholic Church for to state that a sin is unforgivable is to state that sin is greater than G-d.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the source that should be the starting point for those interested in what the Church believes and teaches.

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”[76] “by the very commission of the offense,”[77] and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.[78] The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

Latae sententiae is a Latin phrase, meaning “sentence (already) passed,” used in the canon law of the Catholic Church. A latae sententiae penalty is one that follows ipso facto or automatically, by force of the law itself, when that law is contravened. The very act incurs excommunication.

The Church has not changed its position on abortion nor has the Church changed its position on absolving a grave sin for those that are truly repentant.

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  1. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    I can’t help but think that the message implicit in this from the Pope is “Go forth and sin; all will be forgiven as long as you truly mean it.”

    I can think of nothing more awful than the granting of license via the promise of forgiveness.

    • #1
  2. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Majestyk: May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

    Perhaps this statement from the letter that Pope Francis wrote clarifies the concern of the repetition of the sin.

    May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

    • #2
  3. Casey Member
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:I can’t help but think that the message implicit in this from the Pope is “Go forth and sin; all will be forgiven as long as you truly mean it.”

    I can think of nothing more awful than the granting of license via the promise of forgiveness.

    Contemplating the parable of the Prodigal Son is probably helpful here.

    • #3
  4. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Majestyk:I can’t help but think that the message implicit in this from the Pope is “Go forth and sin; all will be forgiven as long as you truly mean it.”

    I can think of nothing more awful than the granting of license via the promise of forgiveness.

    Contemplating the parable of the Prodigal Son is probably helpful here.

    I always felt that the father of the prodigal son was getting rolled and that the son needed to to a little bit more to get back into his father’s good graces.

    That said, I’m pretty big on justice and the notion that a price should be exacted from people for misbehavior in order to gain forgiveness.

    That doesn’t get to the fact that there are some things which are not forgivable.

    • #4
  5. Casey Member
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk: That said, I’m pretty big on justice and the notion that a price should be exacted from people for misbehavior in order to gain forgiveness.

    Is a price exacted for misbehavior in order to gain forgiveness just?

    • #5
  6. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Is a price exacted for misbehavior in order to gain forgiveness just?

    Yes.  Otherwise our entire criminal justice system (based upon retributive justice) is unjust.  I suppose the price could be made excessive, in which case, the answer is “no.”

    Look, I’m not a Christian and I have never claimed to be one.  I don’t understand the impulse towards unconditional forgiveness of sins.  Sometimes people ask me if I have ever forgiven my Ex-Wife, for instance.  The answer is: No.  Not merely because she is essentially unrepentant, but because that which was taken can’t be restored.

    In these matters I probably more closely associate with Judaic teaching – an eye for an eye.  I’ve always felt that the appropriate punishment for murder is death – precisely because the murderer’s life is the only thing they have which could ever equal that which was taken.

    The appropriate punishment for theft is restitution of what was stolen.  Add to that the fact that even if you are forgiven, the victim would be a fool to forget.

    • #6
  7. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    There is a distinction that should be made between temporal punishment and eternal punishment. Asking for eternal forgiveness does not negate a just temporal punishment.

    • #7
  8. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Majestyk

    I can’t help but think that the message implicit in this from the Pope is “Go forth and sin; all will be forgiven as long as you truly mean it.”

    I can think of nothing more awful than the granting of license via the promise of forgiveness.

    I can see your point, and it is something of a moral hazard.  However, I consider that the point of this (and the parable of the Prodigal Son) is, at least in part, to help prevent the converse moral hazard of “I’m damned and unredeemable anyway, so I may as well wallow in my previous sin and enjoy any others that may appeal to me.”

    • #8
  9. Casey Member
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk: Otherwise our entire criminal justice system (based upon retributive justice) is unjust.

    Does our criminal justice system exact a price in order to gain forgiveness?

    • #9
  10. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Majestyk: Otherwise our entire criminal justice system (based upon retributive justice) is unjust.

    Does our criminal justice system exact a price in order to gain forgiveness?

    If you consider “loss of personal freedom” to be a price, then mostly.  In the eyes of the law, once you’ve done your time you aren’t eligible for more punishment.

    How society treats you afterward is a different question.

    • #10
  11. Pencilvania Member
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    I’ve always inferred that the prodigal son’s father would not have gone through with the celebration, had not the son expressed with sincerity that he wished to be relegated to servitude – that he no longer felt worthy to be called the man’s son. The man saw true penitence in that admission – the son had learned what his wrongdoing meant.

    I think the priestly advice to confessioners will undoubtedly include ‘Go and sin no more.’

    • #11
  12. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    TG:

    I can see your point, and it is something of a moral hazard. However, I consider that the point of this (and the parable of the Prodigal Son) is, at least in part, to help prevent the converse moral hazard of “I’m damned and unredeemable anyway, so I may as well wallow in my previous sin and enjoy any others that may appeal to me.”

    Finding the balancing point is difficult.  What compounds the difficulty is the fact that we as human beings are capable of inflicting damage and harm far in excess of what our moral bank accounts can pay for.

    That is the true moral hazard: we bump up against a ceiling of limitation regarding what we can reasonably do to people in just retribution for their vile actions.  Beyond a certain point of depravity, people just go for broke.

    • #12
  13. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Majestyk:

    Casey:

    Is a price exacted for misbehavior in order to gain forgiveness just?

    Look, I’m not a Christian and I have never claimed to be one. I don’t understand the impulse towards unconditional forgiveness of sins. Sometimes people ask me if I have ever forgiven my Ex-Wife, for instance. The answer is: No. Not merely because she is essentially unrepentant, but because that which was taken can’t be restored.

    In these matters I probably more closely associate with Judaic teaching – an eye for an eye.

    The appropriate punishment for theft is restitution of what was stolen. Add to that the fact that even if you are forgiven, the victim would be a fool to forget.

    My ex nearly destroyed me in so many ways.  I have forgiven her though but she asked for it as part of her 12 steps.  Things were easier for me after that.  I don’t forget the nights I thought about her dying from an OD or drunk driving and figured it would be a good thing.

    It’s easy to screw up and find yourself at the abortion clinic.  Society has made this also socially acceptable.   I have it in my heart to forgive the legions of murderers for they mostly don’t know what they’re doing, nor the wages of that sin.  The price is paid later and can be devastating for some women.

    The doctors and others who assist? I don’t forgive them.

    • #13
  14. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Bear in mind as well that I once played the role of the prodigal son.

    I suffered the ignominy of crawling back to my parents, penniless, cuckolded and wretched.  They were under no obligation to help me – but they did, because not only did I say the right things, I tried to do the right things.

    So I sympathize with the Prodigal Son.  But, having been there, the need to wear some sack cloth and sit on a pile of ashes for awhile exists as well.

    • #14
  15. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Majestyk:Bear in mind as well that I once played the role of the prodigal son.

    I suffered the ignominy of crawling back to my parents, penniless, cuckolded and wretched. They were under no obligation to help me – but they did, because not only did I say the right things, I tried to do the right things.

    So I sympathize with the Prodigal Son. But, having been there, the need to wear some sack cloth and sit on a pile of ashes for awhile exists as well.

    Being tricked by a witch isn’t quite the same as squandering.  Glad you got past all that.  Oof.

    • #15
  16. Casey Member
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    Casey:

    Majestyk: Otherwise our entire criminal justice system (based upon retributive justice) is unjust.

    Does our criminal justice system exact a price in order to gain forgiveness?

    If you consider “loss of personal freedom” to be a price, then mostly. In the eyes of the law, once you’ve done your time you aren’t eligible for more punishment.

    How society treats you afterward is a different question.

    Well, I’m not so much concerned about price as the rest of it.

    A law establishes the price of crime and by commuting that crime you’ve agreed to pay the price. The criminal justice system is simply collecting payment.

    That is very different from the prodigal son.  The son paid his price in his separation from his father. If the father piled on that would be unkind and unjust.

    • #16
  17. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Well, I’m not so much concerned about price as the rest of it.

    A law establishes the price of crime and by commuting that crime you’ve agreed to pay the price. The criminal justice system is simply collecting payment.

    That is very different from the prodigal son. The son paid his price in his separation from his father. If the father piled on that would be unkind and unjust.

    The son rashly demanded and then squandered his inheritance.  The Father accepted his son’s recognizance alone as the price of returning to his good graces.  The Father would have been well-advised to take his son back and say to him “now you’re back and you say you’re changed, but I do want you to show it to me.”  Under the heading of “Fool me once, shame on you” alone, this would be wise – and not a draconian price to pay.

    • #17
  18. Casey Member
    Casey
    @Casey

    But what if the father knew? Could see complete contrition in his eyes and his heart. Knew that he had learned his lesson.

    Forgiveness is not something to be earned through pain but to be deserved through understanding.

    Pain may be necessary for one to reach understanding but it isn’t a universally necessary condition.

    • #18
  19. donald todd Member
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    1.  Thanks, Doug.

    2.  Having been a wretch in practice, I recognize the need for forgiveness.  That forgiveness sometimes means a restitution which is beyond me.  That would seem to be true for those involved in abortion as well.

    3.  But Bernard Nathanson, one of the fathers of the American abortion movement, went through a conversion and found himself at odds with what he was previously.  He went from being a non-practicing Jew to being a practicing Catholic.  He went from being an enemy of the unborn to being a champion of the unborn.

    Can he undo what he had done, including the abortions he performed?  Nope.  Can he be forgiven and redeemed?  Yes.  People come out of hell all the time.

    • #19
  20. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Majestyk: Look, I’m not a Christian and I have never claimed to be one.  I don’t understand the impulse towards unconditional forgiveness of sins.  Sometimes people ask me if I have ever forgiven my Ex-Wife, for instance.  The answer is: No.  Not merely because she is essentially unrepentant, but because that which was taken can’t be restored.

    I get this.

    Knowing nothing whatever about your Ex-Wife, other than that she was foolish enough to cause you pain, the only thing I can offer is that if she were to come to you with a really abject and humble apology, accurately naming all the rotten things she did, accepting full responsibility and expressing deep regret for each of these, and a commitment never to behave this way again…then she would be a different person. A healed and better, more whole person, and my guess is that, as the harmed person,  you would be able to forgive her in the full sense of the word.

    I know. It’s probably not going to happen. As I so often say to family members at the scenes of almost-certain-disaster, you don’t have to prepare for good things. It’s the bad thing that takes preparation.

    So on the assumption that your ex-wife is who she is, and is not going to change, it may be that the best you can do is not actively wish her harm (let alone, of course, cause her harm) and to protect yourself ( and your children) from her as best you can. This is also, incidentally, protecting her from committing any more acts that cannot be undone, so it is also the most loving thing you can do for her.

    But anyway, if what we are picturing is a woman who has had an abortion going to confession, getting assurance of forgiveness, and trotting right out to have another abortion… I guess it’s possible, but it’s not too likely. This issue was often raised in regard to other sins, usually the ones that are a whole lot more fun than having a D & C, and therefore more likely to be repeated e.g. adultery.

    Maybe back in the Middle Ages, people had to take whatever license they could get,  but anyone who wants license to commit adultery, tell whoppers, be mean to their parents or blithely have abortions can simply “lapse” and bail out on religion altogether.

    But the feeling a pious person might take from knowing that God accepts her in spite of her misdeed is not that of license but rather of profound relief, comfort, and a sense of being ‘re-bound” into the faith, and protected from whatever it was that drove her to commit the sin to begin with.

    • #20
  21. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    DocJay: My ex nearly destroyed me in so many ways.

    Blanket Condemnation Alert: Women are idiots.

    Okay, okay, not all of us. But yeesh!

    (Forgive me, God. I know that wasn’t a very ministerial remark…)

    • #21
  22. Michael Sanregret Member
    Michael Sanregret
    @TheQuestion

    I remember reading Christopher Hitchens in a forum on Christianity (I think it was in Crisis magazine).  While I don’t agree with him, he gave what I thought was the best argument against Christianity, which is that it is unfair.  We commit sins, and Jesus suffers for them.  It wouldn’t be right, but through his free will Jesus takes on the sin voluntarily and it make it right.  That’s where “Catholic guilt” comes from.  You don’t suffer for your sins.  Jesus does.

    Even if it were just a story, I don’t think literature will ever come up with a more profound story of love.  God had it completely within his power to avoid pain and suffering forever.  He’s perfect and doesn’t need us.  Despite that, he freely chose to be incarnate, and experience pain and sorrow and death.  When Jesus became human, he became human forever.

    What the Church preaches is pretty far out.  I don’t blame people for having trouble believing all of it.

    • #22
  23. Sash Member
    Sash
    @Sash

    Thank you for the explanation.  The media did make it sound like abortion is no big deal anymore.

    It is a big deal.

    • #23
  24. Sash Member
    Sash
    @Sash

    God will forgive whom he will forgive.  That is not for me to decide.

    But a word about forgiving others.  That isn’t for them, that is for you.  Holding on to the wrongs people do to us does nothing to hurt them.  They go on with life not caring whether you were hurt.  All the more so if they are unrepentant.  They don’t even think about you while you mire in pain.

    If you are to truly move on you must leave justice to God, and have a moment where you can forgive and get past it.  It lifts the burden for the wrong doing from your shoulders and frees you.

    The command to forgive others is one of the greatest gifts of Christ to his people.

    • #24
  25. Frozen Chosen Member
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Majestyk:

    Casey:

    Majestyk:I can’t help but think that the message implicit in this from the Pope is “Go forth and sin; all will be forgiven as long as you truly mean it.”

    I can think of nothing more awful than the granting of license via the promise of forgiveness.

    Contemplating the parable of the Prodigal Son is probably helpful here.

    I always felt that the father of the prodigal son was getting rolled and that the son needed to to a little bit more to get back into his father’s good graces.

    That said, I’m pretty big on justice and the notion that a price should be exacted from people for misbehavior in order to gain forgiveness.

    That doesn’t get to the fact that there are some things which are not forgivable.

    You may be big on justice now, Majestyk, but I have a feeling you will be even bigger on mercy in the next life.

    • #25
  26. Brian McMenomy Member
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    One of the most important papers I wrote in college was on the parable in Matthew where a servant of the king was forgiven a completely un-repayable sum, yet refused to forgive a fellow a smaller, but still significant sum.

    The principle being taught is that I have been forgiven such a great debt of sin, I must forgive others.  Forgiveness (on a human level)has nothing to do with trust; it has nothing to do with the person that has wronged me.  It is my refusal to sit on God’s judgment seat over them.  It is the love that longs for true repentance, not human sorrow.  It is a refusal to allow my life to be ruined.

    Repentance is the other part of this.  It isn’t being sorry, it isn’t even what you do.  It is a firm, Spirit-empowered choice to make a U-turn.  A U-turn from deciding what is right for myself to choosing to allow God to say what is right & what isn’t.

    In the story of the Prodigal Son, remember it’s the elder brother that ends up spiritually and emotionally cutting himself off from both his brother and Father.  Genuine repentance must be met with genuine acceptance.  That didn’t mean the Father didn’t check the books at night to make sure the returned Prodigal wasn’t skimming from the top.

    Yes, it isn’t justice.  Praise God!  I don’t want justice; I need mercy.

    • #26
  27. Frozen Chosen Member
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Brian McMenomy:One of the most important papers I wrote in college was on the parable in Matthew where a servant of the king was forgiven a completely un-repayable sum, yet refused to forgive a fellow a smaller, but still significant sum.

    The principle being taught is that I have been forgiven such a great debt of sin, I must forgive others. Forgiveness (on a human level)has nothing to do with trust; it has nothing to do with the person that has wronged me. It is my refusal to sit on God’s judgment seat over them. It is the love that longs for true repentance, not human sorrow. It is a refusal to allow my life to be ruined.

    Repentance is the other part of this. It isn’t being sorry, it isn’t even what you do. It is a firm, Spirit-empowered choice to make a U-turn. A U-turn from deciding what is right for myself to choosing to allow God to say what is right & what isn’t.

    In the story of the Prodigal Son, remember it’s the elder brother that ends up spiritually and emotionally cutting himself off from both his brother and Father. Genuine repentance must be met with genuine acceptance. That didn’t mean the Father didn’t check the books at night to make sure the returned Prodigal wasn’t skimming from the top.

    Yes, it isn’t justice. Praise God! I don’t want justice; I need mercy.

    Amen, brother!

    • #27
  28. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Very well stated Doug. As I wrote over here:

    The Church has never withheld forgiveness on abortion, or on any other sin, if the sinner approaches the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more. It has been practice, because of the automatic excommunication due to the procured abortion, that the local bishop be the one to grant absolution and penance. I don’t have any statistics to back me up, but I would presume that a majority of bishops in the USA will have allowed their priests to absolve penitents from the sin of abortion. Pope Francis is just universalizing this practice during the year of mercy that he has proclaimed. I think it is a wonderful gesture on his part. I don’t understand all the fuss about it.

    I still don’t get all the fuss. This is a wonderful development.

    • #28
  29. Brian McMenomy Member
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    Forgiveness also doesn’t mean that the consequences of our actions just go away.  Recall the thief on the cross that repented; Jesus didn’t tell him to get up off the cross & go on his merry way.  He told the man that he would be with the Lord in Paradise that day.

    Christopher Hitchens couldn’t get past the notion of a God that would love us so much that He would send His only begotten Son to pay the penalty due our sin.  God’s like that; we aren’t going to understand how He can be so unlike men.  That doesn’t change the truth that He’s God, we aren’t.  I’m very glad I’m not God; I’ll bet you are too.

    Getting back to the Pope’s pronouncement; it gets back to the notion that sin is fundamentally our decision to decide right & wrong for ourselves, rather than allowing God to make those calls.  That was Adam & Eve’s problem, it’s ours too.  We can only proclaim what God has done.  God knows whether we are actually repentant or if we are playing games.

    • #29
  30. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Scott Wilmot:Very well stated Doug. As I wrote over here:

    The Church has never withheld forgiveness on abortion, or on any other sin, if the sinner approaches the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more. It has been practice, because of the automatic excommunication due to the procured abortion, that the local bishop be the one to grant absolution and penance. I don’t have any statistics to back me up, but I would presume that a majority of bishops in the USA will have allowed their priests to absolve penitents from the sin of abortion. Pope Francis is just universalizing this practice during the year of mercy that he has proclaimed. I think it is a wonderful gesture on his part. I don’t understand all the fuss about it.

    I still don’t get all the fuss. This is a wonderful development.

    Thanks Scott. I followed the link to your comment. Very well said indeed.

    • #30

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