Guest Columnists

Merciful Consolation After Abortion

By Msgr. Anthony Hernandez

Recently, it was announced that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, will extend to all priests the faculty to absolve those who have procured the sin of abortion and who with contrite hearts seek forgiveness for it.

This was done within the context of explaining to the faithful how one can receive the jubilee indulgence for the upcoming Year of Mercy, which runs from Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016,

No Other Options

While the pope states that there are those who approach the reality of abortion with a “widespread and insensitive mentality,” His Holiness acknowledges that many women resort to abortions because they feel enormous pressure and they believe there is no other option.

His empathetic understanding of the “existential and moral ordeal” that many women go through, as well as the effects that arise from this “agonizing and painful decision” has been a genuine source of consolation for many.

God willing, the upcoming Year of Mercy will be a source of grace-filled conversion for all members of faithful.

Cause of Confusion

As often happens, the secular media’s coverage of the Holy Father’s announcement has been a cause of confusion for some. It should be noted that the Church from its earliest days has taught that abortion is a grave sin.

Within the context of a secular society that has increasingly adopted a cavalier attitude toward abortion, the Church deemed it prudent to attach the ecclesiastical sanction of an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication, provided that the necessary conditions are present.

Within the context of Church law, this is known as a medicinal sanction because it has as its purpose the conversion of the person who committed the offense.

In fact, when there is genuine contrition, the sanction must be lifted. The Code of Canon Law provides Ordinaries with the power to remit this sanction within the context of the sacrament of confession.

In order to facilitate the pastoral care for the faithful entrusted to them, many bishops have delegated this authority to their priests. Priests with the ministerial faculties of the Diocese of Brooklyn have had this authority since the 1980s.

Pope Francis, throughout the duration of the Year of Mercy, has extended this authority to all priests of the Church.

Let us hope that this jubilee year be a time of deep prayer and reflection on the transformative nature of the God’s merciful love for all of us.

Msgr. Anthony Hernandez is the chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the pastor of Transfiguration parish, Williamsburg.



Post Abortion Resources and Counseling

Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s ministry to those who have been involved in abortion, is a diocesan-based network of specially trained priests, religious, counselors and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion. In addition to referring for sacramental reconciliation, the ministry provides a network of services, including pastoral counseling, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals.

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, Rachel’s Helpers offers a confidential post-abortion reconciliation program of counseling, forgiveness and healing in a small-group setting with trained priests, facilitators and counselors. There are no fees.

For more information, call 718-939-6646, email or visit The national toll-free number is 1-888-456-HOPE (4673).