Excommunication still the punishment for abortion—CBCP
The ecclesiastical sanction of excommunication in the Catholic Church covers not only those who underwent or executed an abortion but also those who were actively involved in the act, according to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Socrates Villegas.
Technically, anyone who has had a successful abortion as well as the medical practitioner, or “hilot,” who executed it are automatically excommunicated, Villegas told reporters.
“But the accessory to the act, depending on his or her involvement, may also suffer the same penalty,” he said.
He cited as examples of active involvement in an abortion a boyfriend who is present during the actual abortion or who provided the money for the procedure.
Persuading a woman to undergo abortion, however, may not be considered as active involvement in the act, Villegas said, explaining that whether or not she will be persuaded depends on the woman’s moral judgement.
The Church regards abortion as a grave offense under canon law. But this does not include unintentional abortions or miscarriages.
Most serious penalty
Excommunication is the most serious penalty that the Church can impose on a member, depriving him or her of the fullness of the communion that he or she previously enjoyed. An excommunicated person is forbidden from engaging in certain activities in the life of the church until the offender reforms and ceases from the offense. Once this happens, the person is to be restored to the fullness of participation in the life of the church.
The sanction of excommunication can only be lifted if the woman confesses the abortion, also known as “reserved sin” under the present discipline of the Church, to a bishop who can grant absolution himself or authorize a priest to absolve her.
According to Villegas, Pope Francis in his letter to the Pontifical Council of the New Evangelization for the Year of Mercy, was seemingly inclined to allow all priests who are otherwise not impeded in the exercise of their ministry, to absolve sin in the case of excommunication because of abortion.
“The Pope wants to make available the forgiveness of the church to people who are agonizing because of what they have done. There is no change of teaching, there is just change of approach in dealing with people who have committed abortion,” the Lingayen Dagupan prelate added.
More tangible mercy
“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.
Through this gesture, he said the Pope, who will soon convoke the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, hopes that “all of us sinners may more concretely experience the mercy of God.”
“By the act of aborting, one automatically incurs excommunication. So when is the right time for you to go to confession? Rush to go to confession as soon as you realize that it has been committed. Literally rush, do not postpone, because the Lord is waiting for you to return,” Villegas said, adding that the sanction subsists for as long as the one who committed it doesn’t confess.
“There should be repentance and contrition,” he added.
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