Lots of commentary today to overshadow the observance of the day for the care of all creation, not the least of which is Pope Francis’s announcement on forgiving abortion. Where John Allen sees a “double-play,” and Ed Peters is “less confused,” I see something rather simple.
A pastor wants people who have sincere contrition over having procured an abortion to be reconciled to God.
For most people, the distinction between sin and crime in canon law is irrelevant. What they “know” is that abortion is a nearly unforgiveable sin. Angry political pro-lifers, including some clergy, reinforce it often, drowning out the Church’s voice of compassion. What Pope Francis has done is cut through the raging static.
The other facets of the Jubilee are easy to understand. It boils down to this: if a person needs forgiveness, they can get it in the typical way: be sorry for one’s sins, confess, and be absolved. The crime of assisting a person in getting an abortion and the sin of mass murder are each treatable through the ministry of a confessor, schismatic or otherwise.
Or maybe Pope Francis intends something totally different and has no grasp of canon law. My hunch is that critics are not pastors–true pastors, anyway. The point is to draw sinners closer to Christ. My sense is that this will do it, at least for a few needy people.
It would also not surprise that the Holy Father is playing a deep game of conscience-pricking with the front-porch Catholics, and nudging them to a more thorough discernment on their own attitudes. But as we know with abortion-on-demand, it can be very hard to break through to a group that has already decided things for themselves and tolerates no input from the outside.