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Anointing for Non-Catholic Christians

Date: August 14, 2022
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Question: Are non-Catholics permitted to receive the sacrament of anointing of the sick? --T.B., Courtenay, British Columbia

Answer: When referring to non-Catholics, we usually mean those baptized in a different Christian tradition.

Concerning non-Christians, the answer is clearly no since baptism is a sine qua non condition to receive any subsequent sacraments.

Concerning baptized non-Catholics, the relevant Church norms are found in the Ecumenical Directory:

"130. In case of danger of death, Catholic ministers may administer these sacraments when the conditions given below (n. 131) are present. In other cases, it is strongly recommended that the diocesan Bishop, taking into account any norms which may have been established for this matter by the Episcopal Conference or by the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches, establish general norms for judging situations of grave and pressing need and for verifying the conditions mentioned below (n. 131). In accord with Canon Law, these general norms are to be established only after consultation with at least the local competent authority of the other interested Church or ecclesial Community. Catholic ministers will judge individual cases and administer these sacraments only in accord with these established norms, where they exist. Otherwise, they will judge according to the norms of this Directory.

"131. The conditions under which a Catholic minister may administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, of penance, and of the anointing of the sick to a baptized person who may be found in the circumstances given above (n. 130) are that the person be unable to have recourse for the sacrament desired to a minister of his or her own Church or ecclesial Community, ask for the sacrament of his or her own initiative, manifest Catholic faith in this sacrament and be properly disposed."

Therefore, in this case, the Catholic minister may validly and licitly administer the sacrament if the above conditions are met, as well as the usual conditions for application of the sacrament of the sick such as danger of death or at least a serious illness.

In the case of those who belong to Churches, such as the Orthodox, which share the Catholic faith in all seven sacraments, the Catholic priest would preferably direct the person to the relevant Orthodox minister if this is possible. If this recourse is not feasible for any justified reason, then the Catholic priest may proceed in administrating the sacrament.

In the case of most Protestants, who do not number the anointing of the sick among the sacraments, the priest must assure that the person fulfills the conditions outlined in No. 131 above.

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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city, and your state, province, or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the many questions that arrive.

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