Religious leaders encourage penitants to seek absolution from the sin of abortion

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed Pope Francis’ November 20 apostolic letter “Misericordia et Misera” (“Mercy and Misery”).

In his letter, Pope Francis extended the Year of Mercy provision granting priests worldwide a faculty related to the sin of abortion: “Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”

Cardinal Dolan responded with gratitude in the following statement:

“I express heartfelt appreciation for the Holy Father’s continued proclamation of God’s mercy worldwide, clearing the path to reconciliation and healing for all who have been involved in abortion.

Pope Francis wrote: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” (Misericordia et Misera, 12).

The Holy Father reminds us that God, the Father of Mercies, welcomes all those who are repentant, seeking mercy and peace after involvement in abortion — and that an experience of God’s great mercy gives rise to joy.

For many years in the United States, most bishops have granted their priests this faculty. In addition to sacramental confession, the Church offers confidential and compassionate help through diocesan Project Rachel ministries.

Since 1984, dedicated ministries throughout the nation have accompanied those seeking forgiveness, healing, and peace after losing a child to abortion. Wherever a person might be in their healing journey, Project Rachel offers free, confidential help.”

In the Diocese of Charleston, the post abortion ministry offers a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat to help heal the hurts that abortion has caused. For more information, contact or call 803-554-6088 (local) or visit the national website or call 877-HOPE-4-ME (877-467-3463). All calls are confidential.

“The Pope’s statement has provided yet another way to extend God’s mercy to those who are truly repentant but feel their sin is beyond forgiveness,” Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said in a statement. “As we know from the Gospel, Our Lord is waiting like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, for his child to come home rejoicing upon their return.”

Bishop Guglielmone encouraged priests in the diocese to make parishioners aware of this clarification, and to encourage people who may have been waiting to seek forgiveness for their involvement in abortion to please consider the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In other areas, to find the nearest diocesan healing ministry, go to the ‘Find Help’ map at or

Judy Keane / United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Catholic Miscellany contributed to this report

CNS/Paul Haring: Pope Francis signs an apostolic letter, “Misericordia et Misera,” (Mercy and Misery) after celebrating the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter, the pope calls for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis.