Monday, June 09, 2008

Poll-Release Monday #53

Continuing with the section on the Anointing of the Sick from the USCCB's quiz on the Catechism, here is this week's poll question:

True or false?: In time of imminent danger of death when no priest is present, any believer may give the Anointing of the Sick.
What do you think? Vote in the poll in the sidebar.

Here are the results from the previous poll:
  • True or False?: The sacrament of Extreme Unction, or Anointing of the Sick, may be given more than once during the same illness.
    • True: 40 (83%)
    • False: 8 (17%)
Well done! The answer is:
  • True. cf. CCC, no. 1529: Each time a Christian falls seriously ill, he may receive the Anointing of the Sick, and also when, after he has received it, the illness worsens.
In response to this poll, Stephen left the following comment:
What sort of illness qualify? Only those that may lead to death? We know that "the proper time ... has certainly arrived" by that time, but what about before? What about early stages of cancer? Schizophrenia? Depression? I've never seen any regulations about how severe the illness must be. How is "seriously ill" (CCC) defined?
This is a good question. I think that by "seriously ill" (or, as Canon Law says, "dangerously ill") is meant whenever the person begins to be in danger of death by sickness or old age. In other words, it is no longer only at the very point of death that the sacrament is administered.

Here's what the Catechism says:
  • 1514 The Anointing of the Sick "is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived" (SC 73).

    1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.
Can. 1004 of the Code of Canon Law says, "The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger of death by reason of illness or old age." So, I think the early stages of cancer would count, but not schizophrenia or depression. These latter two are serious illnesses, but they aren't (typically) deadly illnesses. I hope that answers your question.

Pax Christi,

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