.- New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan has applauded the Madrid archdiocese's decision to authorize all priests at World Youth Day to forgive abortion, a task normally reserved for the local bishop.
âAt special times like this the Church bends over backwards to say âAlleluia, your sins are forgiven; go in peace, there is no limit to Godâs mercy,ââ he told CNA on Aug. 19.
âNot bad if you ask me,â he enthused. âAlleluia!â
Church regulations, known as canon law, require that âcertain particularly grave sinsâ â including cooperation in an abortion â can only be absolved âby the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them.â
In practice, many bishops in countries such as the United States do authorize priests to forgive such sins, usually after special training. This week Madrid's Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela has given this authority to all priests attending World Youth Day.
âThis is to make it easier for the faithful who attend the World Youth Day celebrations to obtain the fruits of divine grace,â the archdiocese explained on its website.
Archbishop Dolan said the current canon law showed the Church to be âa wise teacher.â
âAnd one of the ways she teaches is by sometimes attaching certain penalties to sins that are particularly hideous â abortion would be one of them â so usually abortion is regarded as a ârestrictedâ sin.â
But with pilgrims coming to the diocese for just a brief time, âyou donât want to be in the position of saying âhmm, could you come back tomorrow?ââ
âNo. You donât want to do that and Jesus wouldnât want us to do that.â
Archbishop Dolan's sentiment is shared by Vicki Thorn, the Milwaukee-based founder of the post-abortion counseling network Project Rachel.
Thorn happens to be in Madrid this week, and told CNA that while abortion âmust normally be taken to the bishop before forgiveness is granted,â the process is âuntenable at an event such as this.â
It would be âan undue burden to expect a pilgrim to find the same priest before leaving after he has had to make contact with a bishop.â
Thorn, who has counseled women after abortions for 44 years, says the experience of true repentance, followed by sacramental confession and absolution, âis absolutely critical to the healing process.â
A woman who wrongly assumes that she has âcommitted the unforgiveable sin â¦ needs the grace of confession to heal.â
Thorn also said that the âvast majorityâ of priests in the United States already have the authority from their bishops, to absolve Catholics who confess their involvement in an abortion.
Abortion sharply divides Spain, as it does most other Western countries. Last month, Spain's Socialist government received parliamentary approval for new laws liberalizing the process, in a country where over 100,000 children already die from abortion each year.