Pope Francis is in the news again, announcing that women who have had abortions can receive forgiveness during the church’s Year of Mercy. Pope Francis’ new policy allows priests to grant divine forgiveness to women whose abortions have caused them to be excommunicated from the Catholic church and excluded from the sacraments and services of the Church.
The Catholic church will hold to its stance on abortion and remain devoutly pro-life. But now, instead of condemnation for the grave sin of abortion, they hold open arms—at least for the coming Year of Mercy, which will run from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016.
Pope Francis has made other controversial acceptances of people groups typically rejected by the Catholic church, including the LGBT community and divorcées. Pope Francis’ 2013 statement, “Who am I to judge?” stands as a welcome, not a condemnation.
Wait, What? Forgiveness For Abortion From Whom?
While I can get on board with loving and welcoming all, I’m more skeptical of how exactly this forgiveness of sin thing works.
Is it really the Pope or even the Catholic church that has the authority to forgive sin? Who decides who gets God’s grace and forgiveness? Priests? Pope Francis? Or God?
As we read the Bible, we see Jesus forgiving sin all over the place. One guy who was carried to Jesus by his friends on a stretcher because he couldn’t walk was forgiven of his sins before Jesus healed him (see Mark 2). And Jesus made a bigger deal about the forgiveness of sin than the healing of his body. Of course, everyone who saw it was amazed by Jesus healing him. But they were even more amazed at the forgiveness of sin—who exactly was this Jesus if He had the power to forgive sin?
Jesus forgives sin because He is God. Nobody else has the power to forgive sin, or grant grace from God, except God. He alone forgives sin. Not the priests. Not the bishops. Not Pope Francis. God.
What’s even better news is God does forgive sin—because Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for all sin—and He doesn’t need a special Year of Mercy to do it. God’s forgiveness and grace are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, every single year.
So whether or not you’ve had an abortion, or any other item of sin we label big or small, you can be forgiven, loved, and accepted by God, whatever year it is. Because God alone forgives sin, and He forgives your sin and my sin, no matter what Pope Francis says.