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Pope Francis extends his pardon to women who have abortions indefinitely

Nov 22 2016

In a Comment article in The Sydney Morning Herald, Naomi Chainey reported that “Pope Francis has extended the ability of priests to forgive the "grave sin" of abortion indefinitely, after trialling the concept over the course of the Holy Year. Previously, only bishops and special confessors were permitted to offer such absolution (in extenuating circumstances such as risk to the mother's life), with excommunication the otherwise sanctioned consequence for "procured abortion".

Chainey, a professional feminist, activist and film director, felt although this was a step in the right direction for women's rights and may even reduce stigma over time, that it was not women procuring abortions who should be begging forgiveness of their priests but the institution of the Catholic Church who should be asking the forgiveness of women. She felt that Catholicism had “consistently shamed women for making impossible choices within social paradigms that condemn us regardless of how we proceed. As a self-styled moral authority, with influence over politicians and charitable endeavours that countless people of divergent beliefs are subject to, they have an inherent responsibility to be better than this.”

Granting priests authority to offer forgiveness for the "sin" of abortion, Chainey wrote that “while incrementally progressive, it still prioritises male authority over female autonomy. Women don't have permission to procure abortions, and are still to be rapped over the knuckles by male authority figures for doing so. In this regard, the new policy is no more than a continuation of a tradition that infantilises women and demonises their choices; a tradition that grants men leave to judge from the convenient position of immunity from the physical and social consequences of unplanned pregnancy.”