If you're a Catholic woman who's had an abortion and are interested in no longer being excommunicated, you should make your way to Madrid — fast. In a special, limited-time offer, the church is making it easier for those who confess to having an abortion to obtain absolution and rejoin the church.
CNN reports that as part of World Youth Day, which concludes on Sunday, all priests administering confession at the six-day event have the power to lift excommunications for the sin of abortion. Usually, you'd have to track down one of the few priests that is authorized to give absolution, but the Vatican has made the process much more convenient. 200 confessional booths have been set up in a park, and all priests in the archdiocese of Madrid have been, "delegated power to remit during the sacrament of penance the excommunication… corresponding to the sin abortion, to the faithful who are truly sorry, imposing at the same time a convenient penance."
According to The Guardian, some have suggested the move is part of an effort to draw people back to the church because attendance is dipping in Europe. However, the Pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, insists it's only about reaching as many people as possible. 1.5 million people are expected to travel to Madrid for the event and Lombardi says, "With so many young people attending there may be those who have had problems of this kind and it makes sense to reach out to them." Of course, the church could reach even more people if more priests had this power all the time, though it's common for the Vatican to offer absolutions for certain sins during big papal events.
For those who think the Vatican's policies are sexist, Lombardi noted that the church doesn't discriminate when it comes to excommunicating people for abortion. He said:
"This is not only for women ... If a man has given the pressure on the women to do an abortion then he's guilty in the same way."
That's nearly progressive! But don't get too excited about the Pope loosening up. During his trip to Spain he's expected to speak out against same-sex marriage, which the country legalized in 2005.