In the News 2011

Abortions Forgiven at World Youth Day


As host city for this week’s World Youth Day event sponsored by the Catholic Church, Madrid is both a logical and improbable choice. Spain is traditionally considered a predominantly Catholic country, with nearly 74 percent of Spaniards describing themselves as Catholic, according to a 2007 survey by the Investiga research firm. Yet the same survey found that only 36 percent consider themselves “practicing” Catholics, reports Catholic News Agency.

The same ambiguity is found in Spanish attitudes toward reproductive issues. In February of 2010, the Spanish government enacted a law which legalized abortion for pregnancies up to 14 weeks, and allowed for later term abortions in special situations. Yet Spanish Transit Authorities have refused a bid by Catholics for Choice to display ads encouraging the use of condoms during World Youth Day. While abortion is still considered a sin punishable by excommunication, the pope has recognized the value of condoms in preventing the spread of disease.

Perhaps in consideration of the socially liberal atmosphere in Spain, the Vatican has granted priests giving confession during the World Youth Day festivities the power to forgive the sin of abortion, according to Reuters. The shifting position of the Church regarding reproductive issues is not completely unexpected. Historically, the Catholic Church has responded to changes in social norms with corresponding modifications in Church law, albeit sometimes rather slowly.

The Second Vatican Council 1962-65

For the average parishioner, the most significant change to emerge from this series of meetings was that mass would no longer be said in Latin. The Catholic liturgy would instead be translated into the language of the parish. This meant that the faithful would not need a classical education or a translator to understand what was going on in church.

The council also decided that it was OK for Catholics to eat meat on Fridays, and declared that it was the will of God that all Christians should be unified under one Church. This “Ecumenical Decree” can be interpreted as a move toward unity with Protestants or a declaration of the Catholic Church as the one and only legitimate Christian church. Either way, it set the unity of all Christian churches as a goal and is a departure from the Church’s previous policy of trying to keep itself separate

Ban on Interfaith Marriage Lifted

Prior to May of 1966, Catholics who married outside their faith could be excommunicated. Furthermore, the non-Catholic partner was required to sign a legal document promising to raise any children of the marriage in the Catholic faith. Pope Paul VI made things easier on interfaith couples by allowing a clergyman of the non-Catholic partner’s faith to be present at and participate in the wedding ceremony.

However, for the marriage to be recognized by the Church, it remained necessary for a Catholic priest to perform the ceremony in a Catholic church.

First Married Priests

In November 2009, the Catholic Church began allowing married Anglican vicars to become Roman Catholic priests. Before that, ministers from other Christian religions were allowed to become priests only by special dispensation from the pope. To date there are over 100 married priests in the United States alone, yet the Church still refuses to allow those who have been Catholic all their lives to be married while serving as priests.

Homosexuality and Women in the Priesthood

No, the Catholic Church hasn’t reversed its stance on these issues. Women are still not allowed to serve as priests, and Pope Benedict XVI recently reaffirmed the Church’s stance on homosexuality, saying it is “against the nature that God originally willed,” according to UPI.

For now, this chapter remains outside the timeline, but who knows what the future will bring.

This article was originally published by Associated Content.

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