Since Apostolic days (1 Jn 5:17) the Catholic Church has delineated between venial sin and mortal sin. In the category of mortal sin, there are four sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. A small percentage of mortal sins also carry the weight of ex-communication (being cut off from the Church.) Canonically speaking, latae sententiae (automatic) excommunications are divided into “reserved” and “unreserved.” The former are reserved to the Apostolic Penitentiary, while the unreserved (e.g. elective abortion) are under the jurisdiction of the local ordinary. [footnote] Some canonists say a person must know he is doing an ex-communicable sin to be ex-communicated. By this logic, a Catholic woman who knows she is killing her child in an abortion center would be incurring ex-communication whereas the Catholic woman who has chosen to believe Planned Parenthood that she is only relieving herself of “parts of conception” has not incurred ex-communication. This is obviously a ridiculous proposal that the dishonest murderer incurs less of a canonical penalty than the honest murderer. [/footnote]
However, because abortion is unfortunately so common, the average priest in good standing now has standing orders to absolve this sin and re-communicate his penitent confessing abortion. As the diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota reads:
In most places in the United States including the Diocese of New Ulm, the Diocesan Bishop has granted the priests in his diocese who have the faculties to hear confessions the additional faculty to remit the excommunication of the first procured abortion. By agreement of the Bishops of Minnesota, a priest with faculties to hear confessions in any Diocese in Minnesota can remit the automatic excommunication of the first offense of procured abortion.
The above website believes that the lifting of ex-communication is sufficiently done by the words of absolution, for the same website says, “it is enough that the confessor intend to absolve also from censures.” Yet, in a somewhat contrary assertion, it then adds, “before absolving from sins, however, the confessor may also absolve from the censure, using the formula which is given below…prior to granting absolution from sin…
“By the power granted to me,
I absolve you
from the bond of excommunication (or suspension or interdict).
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” [footnote] Then, the normal words of English absolution should be prayed: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” [/footnote]
The reason I say these are contrary assertions is the following: If regular absolution of a post-abortive penitent by a diocesan priest lifts the ex-communication incurred by abortion without any additional words, then the above prayer in bold is simply a “teaching moment.” At the same time, however, the above website (along with all of the tradition of the Catholic Church) recognizes that a non-sacramental juridical act is necessary to be declared upon an ex-communicated individual before he or she participate in the sacraments, including absolution contained in the sacrament of confession. Thus, it is very interesting that the above website asserts (correctly!) that the above prayer be prayed by the priest over the penitent “prior to granting absolution from sin.”
One reason that I like the Traditional Latin absolution is that it includes an absolution from all ex-communications (in so far as the priest is capable and the person is worthy) before the actual words of absolution from sin. This longer form of Latin absolution was promoted by the Church for centuries. Pope Benedict’s XVI 2007 Motu Proprio‘s Summorum Pontificum allowed (again?) not only the Traditional Latin Mass, but also all the old blessings, old exorcism and old-rite sacraments. Again, this includes the old-rite absolution in the sacrament of confession as found here:
Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et, dimissis peccatis tuis perducat te ad vitam aeternam. Amen. Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum tuorum, tribuat tibi omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen. Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat: et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis, suspensionis, et interdicti, in quantum possum, et tu indiges. Deinde ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
Notice that the bold font directly above constitutes the lifting of all ex-communications (in so far as the priest is capable and the penitent worthy) and the orange font is the absolution from sin. The entire above paragraph is prayed over anyone with venial or mortal sins, even when there are no censures to be lifted. Thus, the bold font in the far above prayer in English and the bold font in the slightly above prayer in Latin are the two prayers a priest should pray before the absolution of a penitent confessing abortion.
As I said in my video, if a post-abortion person who has sincerely repented of abortion and confessed his sins heard the words of absolution but did not hear that prayer, such a person should not despair. Such a person is still forgiven of his or her abortion.
However, as both formulæ above in bold are official words of the Church, I can not come to the conclusion that such prayers before absolution are only for the psychological benefit of the penitent or for “a teaching moment.” Rather, it is a general rule of sacramental theology that prayers effect what they pray. Thus, if these prayers pray the lifting of ex-communication, it is hard to come to the conclusion that they are superfluous to a post-abortive penitent seeking the sacrament.
I also believe this should be prayed before absolution over anyone confessing chemical abortions including the RU-486, the morning-after pill, Plan B, the IUD and even the run-of-the-mill Oral Contraceptive Pill. I show the medicine in this podcast why even the normal oral contraceptive (OC) pill causes the blocking of not only fertilization, but also implantation. Obviously, the stopping of implantation of a new individual into the uterine lining is murder. [footnote] Some people would say that a couple would have to know their birth-control caused abortions for them to be ex-communicated latæ sententiæ. I believe this would only be the case in invisible ignorance, something nearly impossible in the Western hemisphere when you can google the pharmacological actions of your OC pills in less than 10 minutes. To inject a hyper-subjective canonical emphasis into moral theology brings theologians into absurd conclusions. As I mentioned in the first footnote in this blog, by this logic, a Catholic woman who knows she is killing her child in an abortion center would be incurring ex-communication whereas the Catholic woman who has chosen to believe Planned Parenthood that she is only relieving herself of “parts of conception” has not incurred ex-communication. This is obviously a ridiculous proposal that the dishonest murderer incurs less of a canonical penalty than the honest murderer. [/footnote]
Thus, I suggest every priest memorize the words of absolution in English and Latin as well as the bold in one of the two paragraphs above so as to be ready to bring not only the full mercy of Jesus Christ in absolution, but also the words of re-communication with His Church. All priests should be ready to bring mercy and re-communication to any post-abortive penitents seeking the mercy of God and union with His Church.