17 years ago I took the morning after pill. Today I went to confession.

Morning-after pill

I’m not sure why I have never taken this to confession. I think I actually have been subconsciously blocking it out of my mind all this time. Perhaps because I didn’t want to admit to myself the horror of the fact that I may well have killed one of my babies, or perhaps I was simply just too ashamed.

3 days ago Pope Francis announced to the world that all Catholic priests will be able to forgive the sin of abortion during the year of Mercy that begins this December. In some parts of the world, abortion can only be confessed to a Bishop because it is such a serious sin. In fact it is so serious that if you have been part of an abortion in any way, be it the mother or father who decided to get the abortion, parents or friends who help the woman to get the abortion, the doctor, nurse or even the receptionist working at the clinic – ANYONE involved in any way with ending the life of that child is automatically excommunicated from the Catholic church. (Excommunicated means thrown out, so you are no longer part of the church and you can no longer receive communion.) It is THAT serious. That was news to me.

Some people don’t consider the morning after pill to be an abortion. But it is. Life begins at the moment of conception, and the morning after pill works by stopping that fertilised embryo from implanting into the womb of the mother. The same can be said for other forms of contraception like the IUD coil or the Mirena coil. They do not stop fertilisation from occurring, but instead stop the fertilised embryo from implanting into the womb.

IUD

When I took the morning after pill my intention was to stop any pregnancy from occurring. I had no knowledge of my cycle in those days, but I knew there was a possibility that I could have conceived the night before. So I went to the clinic, got the pill, took it home, got a big glass of water, put the pill on my tongue, told the virgin Mary “I’m so, so sorry for doing this, but I can’t cope with a baby right now”, took a big glug of water and swallowed the pill.

I knew exactly what I was doing, but I was a scared teenager with a new boyfriend who was not strong enough to say no. And after all – wasn’t I doing the “responsible” thing? The year previous I had sat in class in my all girls Catholic high school and been told that “If the condom splits then you can always get the morning after pill.” Perhaps this is why in the same year I also helped a 14 year old friend get the morning after pill. I helped her to end her possible pregnancy. Even if she was not pregnant the intent was there.

I think that feeling of shame is actually a useful feeling. After all, if we felt no shame whatsoever then it would suggest that taking the life of another human being was perfectly acceptable. But of course it’s not – is it. But shame can be a difficult thing because it can quite often push us into denial. I think I must have been denying to myself that it ever happened. Or that I probably wasn’t pregnant anyway so it wasn’t a sin. But whether I was or I wasn’t – the intent was there to end any possible pregnancy, and on that basis I did definitely need to take it to confession.

Lucky for me, the priests in England and Wales have already been given the authority by their Bishops to absolve the sin of abortion – so there was no need to wait until December. So this morning I went to confession. The priest was kind and friendly and didn’t judge me in the slightest – quite the opposite actually. He was glad that I had had the courage to come to confession and unburden myself of these things that has been in the back of my mind for 17 years. I’m sure i’m not the first person he has had come to confession with this sin and I’m sure i’m not going to be the last.

After he absolved me he said the words: “Go in peace, the Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from your sin.” 🙂

If you have had an abortion, taken the morning after pill or used the IUD type of contraception then I hope my story will give you the confidence to go and see you local priest and ask him for confession. Don’t spend any more time carrying the guilt or shame. Let Jesus take away your sins and free you to come back to into His loving arms.

SSPX, 50 years of Vatican 2, and the Family Synod.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Today Pope Francis sent a letter to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and made a completely unexpected announcement regarding the SSPX:

“A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime,motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

For those of you who are not familiar with the SSPX here are a few brief facts:

  • The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) is an international organisation, founded in 1970 by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, of traditionalist Catholic priests.
  • It was born out of opposition to changes in the Catholic Church that followed the Second Vatican Council.
  • It is commonly believed that they disagree with the whole of Vatican II, but it is only just five paragraphs. These are the ‘pelagian’ paragraphs relating to conscience.
  • The society is known as a strong defender and proponent of the Tridentine Mass.
  • The central controversy surrounding the SSPX concerns the consecration by Archbishop Lefebvre and a Brazilian bishop, AntĂ´nio de Castro Mayer, of four SSPX priests as bishops on 30 June 1988 in violation of the orders of Pope John Paul II.
  • The following day, the Congregation for Bishops issued a decree declaring that Archbishop Lefebvre and the four newly ordained bishops had incurred the automatic canonical penalty of excommunication reserved to the Holy See.
  • Lefebvre argued that his actions had been necessary because the traditional form of the Catholic faith and sacraments would become extinct without traditionalist clergy to pass them on to the next generation.
  • The canonical situation of the SSPX has been the subject of much controversy since the 1988 ÉcĂ´ne consecrations. The Society claims to possess extraordinary jurisdiction for celebrating masses and for other sacraments like penance and marriage.
  • The view of the Holy See, as expressed by Pope Benedict XVI on 10 March 2009, is: “Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”

So you can see now why today’s announcement was so surprising.

Archbishop Lefebvre

Archbishop Lefebvre

The SSPX responded to the announcement on their website:

“The Society of St. Pius X learned, through the press, of the provisions taken by Pope Francis on the occasion of the upcoming Holy Year. In the last paragraph of his letter addressed September 1, 2015, to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Holy Father writes:

‘I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Society of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.’

The Society of St. Pius X expresses its gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this fatherly gesture. In the ministry of the sacrament of penance, we have always relied, with all certainty, on the extrdaordinary jurisdiction conferred by the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law. On the occasion of this Holy Year, Pope Francis wants all the faithful who wish to confess to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to be able to do so without being worried.

During this year of conversion, the priests of the Society of St. Pius X will have at heart to exercise with renewed generosity their ministry in the confessional, following the example of tireless dedication which the holy CurĂ© of Ars gave to all priests.”
A Tridentine Mass

A Tridentine Mass

Well this is all big news! I’m slightly confused as to why the SSPX were not contacted first regarding this monumental decision and rather (as they stated in their response) found out about this “through the press”. That seems very odd indeed to me considering the magnitude of the announcement. No-one seems to have an answer to this. I’m inclined to file it away under “stuff that Pope Francis does”. 🙂

However, it struck me that the timing of the announcement was rather significant. The opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy will take place on December 8th 2015 – the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Lest we forget, that the SSPX was born out of opposition to the Second Vatican Council.

The optimist here will tell you that this announcement is an extremely exciting step that shows real hope of reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome. That it is following the same direction as Summorum Pontificum in which Pope Benedict XVI stated that all priests may once again freely celebrate the Tridentine Mass, and that Pope Francis is really reaching out to these guys.

The cynic however will tell you that it is just a way of publicly sweetening the SSPX as Rome prepares to celebrate 50 years of the thing that caused the SSPX to come into existence in the first place. And that this gesture means very little to the SSPX as far as its interaction with Rome goes because according to the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law, their sacrament of confession is valid already – and always has been.

And the end-times watcher will tell you this is just a way of trying to include and appease the traditional side of the church, when what is really about to happen is that the church is going to be taken over and completely remodelled by a set of uber liberal diverse cardinals at the family synod in October all under the banner of the ‘spirit of vatican 2′.

Well I suppose we will have to wait and see what happens at the synod before we start to imagine all sorts of monstrosities – but I can tell you this: If things do go pear shaped at the Synod and the so called ‘spirit’ of Vatican 2 and Cardinal Kasper’s version of mercy prevails, the SSPX is gonna get real busy, real quick.