In a statement released today, Pope Francis made two important pronouncements in relation to the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that begins on December 8th of this year. First, he has granted to all priests the faculties to absolve the sin of abortion, provided that their is the requisite contrition on the part of the penitent. Abortion has always been a sin that carried the penalty of automatic excommunication and accordingly could only be absolved by a bishop. It so happens that most bishops in the United States have extended that faculty to their priests but now that ability will be conferred on all priests regardless of locale.
Secondly, he has granted to priests of the Society of St Pius X faculties to hear Confessions and grant absolution. As of December 8, confessions to these priests will be valid and licit, something that previously was not the case. We hope and pray that this situation will continue and that this society will one day find itself in full communion with Rome.
There has been much controversy regarding the SSPX over the past few months among faithful Catholics. On the one hand there are those who hold the SSPX to be in schism from the Church. Today's letter from the Pope makes clear the inaccuracy of that supposition for if the SSPX were truly in schism, the pope would be unable to grant any faculties whatsoever to them. On the other hand, there are those who hold that SSPX confessions were always valid and licit. SSPX themselves held and still hold that position. They are relying on something they call "the extraordinary jurisdiction conferred by the Normae Generales of the Code of Canon Law". I cannot help but notice that they don't supply the Code number.
For this move the Pope deserves thanks. We all pray that women who've aborted will return to God and receive sacramental forgiveness AND that the divisions between the Vatican and SSPX will be rectified.