On Monday, Pope Francis extended indefinitely to all Catholic priests the power to forgive abortion. He had already previously granted power to them temporarily to give “sacramental absolution” for abortion. It is believed that their updated authority will last at least until the end of Pope Francis’ papacy.
For the record, however, only God can grant us power to forgive others. And He has already done that. In fact, He mandates that we do so. Our unwillingness to forgive others puts us at odds with Him. “If you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” Jesus warned (Matthew 6:15).
Being pro-life myself, I take the act of abortion seriously. And in his so-called “apostolic letter” by which he empowered all priests to forgive abortion, Pope Francis reiterated his conviction that “abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.” That brings us to an important point on the subject of forgiveness. We don’t get to choose. God has given us the power to forgive others of all their trespasses against us. If He will forgive us of any and every sin we commit when we repent, who can empower us to do to the contrary?
I can name a few things others do that I view as sinful acts that I hate. But even in such cases, no one on earth can empower me to hold their sins against them. We are obligated by God to forgive others no matter how offensive we find their behavior to be. That divine obligation is not subject to any religious leader or religious body’s earthly decree.
I commend Pope Francis for taking this corrective action upon Catholicism. It’s never easy to change longstanding church doctrine, however wrong it may be. The Pope’s recent action brings the Catholic church to a more compassionate side with regard to the treatment of Catholic women after they have had an abortion. Notwithstanding, God is the sole source of our power to forgive others. And He has not empowered us to refuse forgiveness to anyone.
Copyright © 2016 by Frank King. All rights reserved.