Can a transitional deacon say the Words of Absolution for comfort to a person

Now I know this situation is rare, and a t. deacon should never say the Words of Absolution…

But lets say, that a mentally ill elder Catholic lady was going to die in just a few hours and every priest in the area is gone for a retreat and no priest is in driving distance to reach her.

The only person available is a transitional deacon. So the t. deacon drives over to her house, leads her through Perfect Contrition and then blesses her.

Now, taking this elder lady is in a state of grace, but the mentally ill lady has problems and believes she will go to hell if she does not receive absolution…
To comfort this ill lady, can the t. deacon, with full knowledge just ‘say’ the words of absolution over her JUST to give her comfort, even though she is not in a state of mortal sin and in a state of perfect contrition?

And the care takers are fully aware this t. deacon is not a priest and not able to give absolution.

The only reason I ask this is because my parish priest gave us a story of a t. deacon who went to a dying ladies house and no priest was available to give her last rites at such a late hour… And this deacon, gave her Last rites and Absolution. (WHICH should not of been done.) … And the bishop actually delayed this deacons ordination 2 years! :eek: I know…

But in my first situation, do you think a bishop would allow this for the sole purpose of deathly comfort? Since EVERYONE should be comforted at their death. :wink:


Thou shall not bear false witness comes to mind.

I’m sure he can phrase it in a way that would be comforting, at the same time not giving the impression that he is actually giving absolution.

This would be a very grave matter and, seeing that you are speaking of a transitional deacon, the act of doing this would make him irregular for Ordination and would need a dispensation from his Ordinary to be ordained.

Here is the relevant Canon from the Code of Canon Law. (the underlined portion applies)
Can. 1041** The following persons are irregular for the reception of orders:

one who suffers from any form of insanity, or from any other psychological infirmity, because of which he is, after experts have been consulted, judged incapable of being able to fulfil the ministry;

one who has committed the offence of apostasy, heresy or schism;

one who has attempted marriage, even a civil marriage, either while himself prevented from entering marriage whether by an existing marriage bond or by a sacred order or by a public and perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman who is validly married or is obliged by the same vow;

one who has committed wilful homicide, or one who has actually procured an abortion, and all who have positively cooperated;

one who has gravely and maliciously mutilated himself or another, or who has attempted suicide;

one who has carried out an act of order which is reserved to those in the order of the episcopate or priesthood, while himself either not possessing that order or being barred from its exercise by some canonical penalty, declared or imposed.

It would not even come anywhere close. Doing what a priest does when you are not a priest, or letting others think you are a priest, or doing something that may be mistaken as a priestly function is very grave matter and can halt an man’s path to ordination.

Also depending on the degree of mental illness such a person may not even be able to perform the sacrament of penance or even make perfect contrition.**

Giving absolution would be a canonical impediment to ordination as a priest.

That’s why the TD’s ordination was delayed. A whole bunch of paperwork had to be done through Rome to remove the impediment.

So, No.

A TD can pray with the person, bless them, and give them Viaticum.


let me just say this if God put one of his faithful servants in a situation where he/she couldn’t be given extreme unction right before his or her death then God would have mercy on that persons soul and forgive his/her sins anyway just make some time in purgatory to get there. God would never condemn someone to hell because he/she couldn’t see a priest in time even though he/she had every desire to see one.

so as a transitional deacon I would do what ever I could to get into contact with a priest if it was impossible I would simply be with the person and pray for him/her that he/she will enjoy eternal life with the saints and angels in heaven. The best thing I think could be done in that situation is just to pray, it really is a powerful thing, many times you don’t have to say anything the simple fact that you are there is all you need to do.

but personally if there was someone on their death bed and priests where on retreat I suspect that a priest would find a way to get himself out of that retreat for that soul. At-least I think so, again I’m just a seminarian and I have yet to experience this situation, so I’m just giving my best guess. A priest would give a much better opinion.

Reading this thread, I’m kind of scratching my head in confusion. I understand the rules, but I don’t comprehend the logic. A deacon can’t do the absolution bit, but he can read the gospel? Women can administer the Eucharist? Women can administer the Precious Blood? Deacons can do the same? If a deacon has it bestowed upon him to make holy water, which is a sacramental used in renewing our baptism & washing away of sin, then how is absolution any different? If a deacon can make holy water, the means by which people are baptized, & original & all sin is washed away, how is absolution different? Lay people are handing out hosts, but a deacon can’t give absolution?

I mean I’ve always known that, but after reading this thread, I’m thinking, why not?! Because someone said so? I’m catholic, don’t get me wrong, I’m just trying to understand the logic. We have women handing out hosts. Lay people issuing the Eucharist. Today’s world… I just don’t get it.

No, Priestly duties are reserved for a Priest.

To the other point, I know a Chaplain who works for a local hospice. Their policy is to have RC patients anointed as soon as they come on service due to the difficulty of finding a Priest on off hours. There have been times one could not be found prior to the patient dying.

But those women do not CONSECRATE the Host. What this transitional deacon did was assume the office of the priest although he was obviously not ordained. The deacon cannot administer a sacrament. It was not his place to do what he did, and in fact, would be very presumptuous, as if the woman were not going to Heaven unless he gave her absolution (ridiculous).

At one point in time, it was the priest that read the gospel, & issued the Eucharist. Things have changed.

A dying patient missing out on spiritual cleansing before passing due to “technical difficulties” is a tragedy. Nobody should have to die worried. :shrug:

Pray for vocations!!!

We need more priests!!!

i understand the consecration part. The point I’m making is that female lay people can administer the sacrament of the Eucharist. If a lay person can administer a sacrament (the highlight of the entire mass), why then can’t a deacon do so in a pinch? If he can make holy water, I wonder…I just wonder sometimes…it doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

Lay people do not have the authority of the priest. They do not act in persona Christi. They have not been ordained. “A pinch” doesn’t matter. The person’s soul is not going to be absolved in any case, so it does absolutely NO good for the deacon to pretend to be a priest.

This is not hard to understand at all. There is a very WIDE line between a lay minister and a priest.

Again, I understand. I am simply speaking in terms of administering a sacrament.

Whether a person is pretending or not, I’m not concerning myself with that. I’m simply asking if a deacon can make holy water, and can read the gospel, and can participate in the exorcism of someone, in the interest of fighting the good fight as they say, I suppose it doesn’t matter. That’s what I get for thinking. I got what I came for, sorry for your trouble. Things like this sadden me & have saddened me to the point of not being able to go to mass for almost a year now & be 100% in it. I’m trying to understand how authority & privilege supersede the obligation to tend to someone who needs help. I miss the mass, but I just try to imagine being in need of such things. Or a loved one. I’m trying to imagine hearing, “sorry, I can’t help you, I’m just a deacon, but my manager will be here soon…”
in an age where women can administer a sacrament, but a deacon can’t administer certain sacraments, but can oversee the burial of a departed person, it creates a tricky web of precedents that are tricky if you’re not careful.

Oh, it’s no trouble! :shrug: This is one issue that is rather black and white to me, so I don’t quite understand your quandary. There are specific things a deacon CAN do, and a lot of other things that he CANNOT do, and ne’er the twain shall meet, so to speak. It’s like a legal aide v. a lawyer. A legal aide can do a lot of things that are ALMOST lawyer-like, but he or she cannot go and argue a case in front of a judge. Cannot defend someone or prosecute someone in court. See what I mean? Almost isn’t the same.

Now that makes sense.

It doesn’t help me w. the logic, but I think I’ve drawn descent enough conclusions to be satisfied. Thanks.

Let me see if I can help here. For what it’s worth, I am a priest. It doesn’t matter what one can and cannot DO. What matters is who one IS. Let me give you an example.

I can sign my name just as well as President Obama. But, my signature on some piece of legislation carries no weight. Why? Because I am not the president. His signature carries weight. It doesn’t matter if I can write as well or even better than he can. What matters is who he is in his office, and the fact that I do not hold that office.

On the point of Confession, a few months ago, I was a transitional deacon. I could have prayed the prayer of absolution, and frequently did in fact in my confession practicum course in the seminary. But, nothing happened. Why? Because I wasn’t a priest. Then, one day, my bishop laid hands on me and ordained me a priest. Suddenly, when I prayed the prayer of absolution, something did happen. Namely, penitents who came to me for Confession were absolved. Why? Because who I WAS and AM changed at that moment.

Now, could a deacon lead someone who cannot confess in praying the Act of Contrition? Certainly. It would be laudable. But, to pretend to be someone he is not is a very serious matter. It would be akin to me pretending to be the president and forging his signature on a bill.

I hope this helps.

This seems more like a grammar question.

Can the transitional deacon say the words of absolution? Well yes he can and it seems that he did exactly that.

May a transitional deacon say the words of absolution in such a circumstance? Absolutely not!!! It was a serious violation and he was disciplined for doing so.

Thank you, Father! That was MUCH more clear than my lawyer/legal aide analogy!


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