On September 23, 2015, Pope Francis authorized Catholic priests around the world to pardon many acts considered by the church to be sins, including abortion, during a special time called the Jubilee for Mercy. The pope’s decision has inspired positive feelings from Catholics as well as non-Catholics.
The Year of Jubilee, which takes place from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, is based on a passage in the Torah, or Old Testament. According to Leviticus 25:8-13, every 50 years is a time for humanity to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” by freeing slaves, forgiving debts, and “return[ing] every man unto his possession.”
During this Jubilee, the pope has said that “we must find a new balance” and has urged church leaders to be more welcoming to people who have violated church teachings. Regarding abortion, the pope said,”Women who have resorted to abortion must have the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”
North Hollywood High School (NHHS) junior Angela Yoo, a Catholic, told JSR, “Not only in this occasion of forgiving the sin of abortion, but also in many others, Pope Francis has consistently demonstrated that the policy of the church should be forgiveness and mercy.”
According to Yoo, “In the past, a lot of religious leaders — archbishops, bishops, priests — have regrettably placed the spotlight on punishment and excommunication of those who don’t follow church doctrine. A lot of these women who have done things that are not openly accepted by Church doctrine are judged, shamed, and stigmatized.”
According to Canon Law, which dictates the official rules of the Church, participating in an abortion is punishable by automatic excommunication.
“But I don’t think that’s at all the Church is about,” Yoo told JSR. “It’s not about punishing the sinners, it’s about forgiveness and love. Pope Francis is embodying these principles, and I’m sure his progressive stances on a lot of controversial issues are inspiring many Catholics, including myself, to move with such attitudes in [our] lives.”
Daniel Choi, another student, told JSR that, “Everyone makes mistakes, and therefore, I agree with forgiving [people who have had abortions.”
However, as a Protestant, Choi doubts the pope’s authority.
“It is wrong for the sin to be forgiven by the people; God has to directly forgive the individuals,” Choi said.
NHHS senior Tausif Khan, a Muslim, said, “As a spiritual leader, the Pope has exhibited an understanding that humans aren’t perfect and that the choice of abortion in cases of rape and incest should be between a woman, her doctor, and God. This Pope has been the most liberal and understanding of the popes that came before him.”
“This Pope has been an inspiration for all people regardless of their choice of faith,” Khan added.
While the pope is earning praise for his progressive position, Francis still adheres to the fundamental position of the church and says that abortion should not be allowed. According to the pope, “One of the most serious problems in today’s world is our dull sensitivity to the divineness of the human life.”