Pope sets time frame for forgiveness
“A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar…” And you know the rest. You don’t? Neither do I. But there’s got to be a good joke out there that starts this way. And maybe provoking a smile would be a good way to start out this post, seeing as how it’s critical of the Catholic Church, and I’m going to be stepping on some family toes again. But, then again, it’s no laughing matter. Though my Catholic family members and friends are good and gracious people and I love them, the Roman Catholic Church merits scrutiny because she claims for herself the position of the “one, true Church” in Christendom, effectively condemning Christians like me who are outside of her fold. Are her teachings and proclamations true? It needs to be asked…often.
So the Pope just announced that beginning this December 8 and through November 20 of 2016 all Catholic priests are granted “the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Outside of this block of days that constitutes the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy, any Catholic girl or woman who gets an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the Church1, leaving her in danger of hell fire.
Now, I’m passionately pro-life, as anyone who searches my blog posts could easily discern, and believe abortion to be no less than murder. It’s a sin…a grave one. But it’s unbiblical, unChristlike, and just plain wrong for the Catholic Church to designate some sins as un-absolvable no matter the presence or lack of true repentance. Jesus never did.*
There are so many untruths associated with this news. Please consider…
- First of all, as is implied with just about any news item involving the Christian faith, this is, supposedly, the face of the faith. Roman Catholicism, especially as represented by the Pope, is the go-to denomination whenever news outlets cover the Easter and Christmas holidays and religiopolitical issues. So that those relatively unfamiliar with Christianity are led to believe that whatever the Pope says is according to universal, orthodox, biblical Christianity. Those of us who are familiar with both the Bible and the RCC know that to be untrue. Please read my series on the Catholic Church for an overview on some of her unique and unbiblical teachings and practices.
- The second untruth is that the Catholic Church stands in the place of God himself on earth in having the authority to declare abortion to be a sin so much graver than others that it requires the removal of the sinner from his church…even though Jesus taught that the sin of murder is a heart issue and all who angrily call someone a “fool” are in danger of hell fire as well.2 And the apostle John said that, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer…”3 Though unrepentant, unregenerate murderers are listed in Revelation 21:8 as among those who will be eternally condemned, so are “the sexually immoral…and all liars.” If fornication and lying can be forgiven upon confession, why not abortion?
- Another falsehood being promoted with this Jubilee Year is that of the “indulgence.” An indulgence in the Catholic Church is, “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven…”4 Please read my post on indulgences here for more details. The indulgence the Pope is offering the faithful is a reduction in time spent in “purgatory” if sometime during this upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy they make a pilgrimage to the “Holy Door” of a Catholic cathedral or one of a number of other designated churches or shrines. Purgatory and indulgences are in no way supported by Scripture.
- “The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented…” This IS true and is quoted from Pope Francis’ letter on this issue dated yesterday. The untruth is that the Catholic Church can somehow manipulate God’s forgiveness to certain days or upon completion of certain activities, like confession to a priest or pilgrimages to Holy Doors. I’m sure many Catholics will quote John 20:23, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” They interpret that to mean that the Church has the authority to decide whether or not a sin should be forgiven. But Jesus spoke this to his “disciples,” not the Twelve, and all Christ-followers are his disciples. And if he meant that some sins even though repented of cannot be forgiven, what did John mean in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”?
God’s abundant mercy, love, forgiveness, and his plan of salvation are greatly compromised when people are led astray to believe that their sins are too great to be among those cast “as far as the east is from the west.”5 Or that they must be confessed to a priest. But, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”6 And, “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.”7
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church #2272
2 Matthew 5:22
3 1 John 3:15
4 Catechism of the Catholic Church #1471
5 Psalm 103:12
6 James 5:16
7 2 Corinthians 7:10
*The “unforgivable sin” against the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:31 is almost certainly the sin of unbelief.