Priests in Madrid allowed to lift excommunication for abortion

August 17, 2011

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Catholic priests at this week's World Youth Day (WYD)
celebrations in Madrid will be specially empowered to lift the
excommunication of anyone who seeks forgiveness for having undergone or
assisted in an abortion.

The special authorization from Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco of
Madrid applies to "all priests lawfully approved to hear sacramental
confessions" who are present in Madrid through Aug. 22.

Priests will be able to readmit "truly penitent" Catholics who are
guilty of the "crime of procured abortion," according to the
archdiocese. Abortion is among several grave sins, including desecration
of the Eucharist and violation of the seal of confession, that result in
automatic excommunication.

The penalty applies not only to a woman who chooses to have an
abortion, but also to those who render "formal cooperation in abortion,"
including the medical personnel involved.

Ordinarily, only specially designated priests may lift such
excommunications, but this year's WYD, which will bring an estimated
500,000 pilgrims to Madrid, features a "festival of forgiveness" in the
city's Buen Retiro park.

Two hundred temporary confessionals have been set up, and on
Saturday morning (Aug. 20), Pope Benedict XVI will personally hear the
confessions of three young people.