Bishop Richard F. Stika has clarified, for diocesan parishioners and others, the impact of recent pastoral guidelines on abortion and forgiveness, announced by Pope Francis on Aug. 31 for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy.
The Holy Father extended to priests worldwide the authority to absolve women for the sin of abortion. He also decreed the full validity, during the year, of the sacrament of confession celebrated by priests of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X.
The Pope’s message created a media buzz and prompted questions from parishioners and media in East Tennessee. In some places, forgiveness for the sin of abortion can only be granted by bishops. Not so in the Diocese of Knoxville.
In a letter to clergy, deacons, consecrated men and women of religious orders, and others, the Bishop detailed standards already in place here.
“In a new set of pastoral guidelines for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is allowing all priests throughout the world to forgive the sin of abortion. With that being said, for the last 27 years, since the establishment of the Diocese of Knoxville in 1988, the priests of our diocese have always held the faculty to absolve the censures associated with abortion,” said Bishop Stika.
In addition to his statement on abortion and the sacrament of reconciliation, Bishop Stika announced the formation of a diocesan committee as the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy year approaches.
“This committee will have a primary goal of ensuring our faithful have opportunities to encounter the mercy of God as we celebrate this Holy Year,” the Bishop said.
The committee will be composed of priests, deacons, consecrated religious and members of the laity and will be chaired by Father John Dowling, pastor at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Knoxville.