Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Letter concerning the faculty to remit abortions in Pope Francis, Misericordia et misera, no. 12, 29 November 2016.

Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts

Vatican City

29 November 2016

Prot. N. 15675/2016

Most Reverend Excellency,

This is in reference to your question regarding the grant of the faculty to absolve from abortion which is contained in n. 12 of the recent letter of the Holy Father, Misericordia et misera.

As the letter itself indicates, the Holy Father has granted to all confessors, that is, to all priests with legitimate faculties to absolve from sins, the faculty to absolve from the sin of abortion. This is in order to facilitate the administration of the Sacrament of Penance and because “no obstacle is to be placed between the request for reconciliation and the Pardon of God.” In this way, confessors have received from the Holy Father the jurisdiction required by the Church’s law to remit the censure of latae sententiae excommunication which is connected, according to c. 1398 CIC with the sin of abortion, and thus to absolve from it and other confessed sins.

This regards, therefore, a faculty based on the power of the Roman Pontiff which from now on all confessors will be able to exercise in the sacramental forum; that is, only in the context of the Sacrament of Forgiveness, and not in a context outside the Sacrament (in which the legitimate ecclesiastical authority could exercise it). As you know, faculties of this sort were frequently granted by Bishops to their own priests together with the normal faculties of confession (cf. c. 969 §1 CIC) in many dioceses and countries, as is the case in the Diocese of Rome.

It follows that the granting of this faculty on the part of the Holy Father has not modified the penal discipline of the Latin Church according to which a completed abortion – besides being a most grave sin, as has been called to mind even recently – is a canonical crime (reato) to which the penalty of an excommunication latae sententiae not reserved to the Holy See has been attached. This particularly weighty penal sanction has been upheld in the Church in the most recent Code precisely to care for the lives of the weakest and most innocent in a cultural context like the present in which laws have renounced the duty to do so.

In the hope of having satisfied Your doubts in this regard, and remaining in any case at your service for future clarifications, I take advantage of this occasion to remain,

Your Most Reverend Excellency and most devoted in the Lord,

Francesco Card. Coccopalmerio


Juan Ignacio Arrieta


Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Letter concerning the faculty to remit abortions in Pope Francis, Misericordia et misera, no. 12, 29 November 2016. English translation by Meg Romero-Hogan, available at: http://www.clsa.org/news/320242/Unofficial-Translation-of-Recent-PCLT-Document.htm. Original accessed 5 December 2016 at: http://www.delegumtextibus.va/content/dam/testilegislativi/risposte-particolari/cic/Circa%20la%20concessione%20della%20facolt%C3%A0%20di%20assolvere%20dall%27aborto%20nel%20n.%2012%20della%20lettera%20Misericordia%20et%20misera.pdf