When you think about it, a principal goal of all faiths is forgiveness; or, as Pope Francis recently described it, “the salvation of souls.” Achieving that goal has been difficult for Catholics, though and because many the church’s age-old rules and doctrines fail to address circumstances of the modern world. Getting remarried in the church, for example, can be a long, complicated and costly procedure that’s full of red tape and so is the atonement process for persons who’ve had or performed an abortion.
Pope Francis recently reformed those difficulties, however, by ordering procedural changes – one permanent, one for at least 12 months during a declared “Year of Mercy” that begins in December.
Previously, divorced Catholics who wanted to remarry in the church, or even just receive communion at weekly mass, had to spend a lot of time and money to annul their last marriage. The procedure would take years to complete. It could also cost thousands, which resulted in lower rates of annulment for lower-income persons, Francis once noted.
Under Francis’ September 8 announcement, however, the review process for annulment will be no-cost and will be completed within 45 days. No second review will be required before an annulment is official, either. And in particular cases of need, such as if a spouse had an affair or was abusive, the annulment procedure can be completed even faster.
This change is permanent, becoming canon law when the “Year of Mercy” begins on December 8.
While abortion won’t exactly be condoned by the church, it will at least be a lot easier to be forgiven for it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads that abortion is a “reserved sin” with a “canonical penalty of excommunication” that can only be lifted by a bishop. This applies to doctors who perform the procedure and their patients.
Under a new rule introduced by Pope Francis on September 1, however, one can simply undergo confession with a priest to rejoin the church. Simpler, faster and without that same humiliation.
This exception to abortion only applies to the “Year of Mercy,” which ends on November 20, 2016. However, Francis could extend it permanently, Vatican officials told CNN.
These most recent announcements follow what some call a progressive path that Francis has taken since becoming pope in 2013. For example, he called for the Catholic Church to cease alienation of gays and lesbians in July 2013 and stated support for civil union for gay couples in December 2013. In that same year, he issued formal statement that the Catholic Church needed to be modified to today’s world:
(T)he Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.
Francis is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia beginning September 22.
Featured image by Gabriel Sozzi via Wikimedia