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I was not aware that a non-Catholic could receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick ("Father Dowling and the ‘Missouri Miracle,’" Aug. 25 issue). Could you please explain the teaching of the Church in this regard?

BY The Editors

Oct. 20-Nov. 2, 2013 Issue | Posted 10/14/13 at 2:35 PM

 

From EWTN’s vice president of theology, Colin Donovan: "The 1983 Code of Canon Law, in Canon 844, 4, states: ‘If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed.’

"In his interviews, Father Dowling does not seem to say that he gave her the sacrament. Others say he ‘anointed her,’ but that is equivocal. One can also be anointed with blessed oil apart from the sacrament, though generally not with the ‘oil of the sick’ (oleum infirmorum). While it is not clear that the young woman in that accident received the sacrament of the sick, it is theoretically possible that, given her situation, she could have been given it, per Canon 844, the ‘necessity’ of a quick decision or the explicit norms of the bishop for such situations supplying the authority to do so, per the canon."

 

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