The following comes from a November 21 Catholic News Agency article:
Although the Jubilee of Mercy has ended, Pope Francis has decided that some of the novelties he applied to the Church during the Holy Year will continue.
He is allowing all priests to absolve the sin of abortion from here on out, while SSPX priests will be able to continue hearing confessions validly.
In addition, he has indefinitely extended the mandate of the Missionaries of Mercy and has decided to institute the World Day for the Poor, which will take place each year on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The Pope announced his decision in his new Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et Misera,” meaning “Mercy with Misery.”
In the letter, Pope Francis said that “the Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life.”
“Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion,” the letter read.
A woman who obtains an abortion automatically incurs a “latae sententiae” excommunication, along with those who assisted her in the process. Because of this excommunication, the sin of abortion can normally only be absolved by a bishop, or certain priests appointed by him.
For specific occasions such as Advent or Lent, some bishops extend this faculty to all priests within their diocese. In the U.S., the faculty to absolve abortion has already been delegated to all priests.
However, the Pope’s new provisions take it to a universal level.
In his new apostolic letter, Pope Francis also extended his decree allowing SSPX priests to hear valid confessions.
He noted how during the Jubilee, he allowed “that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins.”
“For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.”
The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.
The illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the five bishops; the excommunications were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then, negotiations between the Society and the Vatican to re-establish full communion have continued.
Pope Francis has taken several steps to move forward on the path of full unification with the SSPX Society, including the offer of a personal prelature, which is a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei. However, the SSPX Society has so far rejected this proposal.