Can the sacrament Annointing of the Sick be of benefit to an individual with dementia?


I recently arranged for a priest to visit my dying relative. He administered this sacrament although my relative had no idea what was going on. She is in an advanced state of dementia. Just wondering how anyone can be forgiven of their sins if they are incapacitated such as my relative or for that matter, someone in a coma.


The sacrament is normally given to one in a state of grace by receiving the sacrament of penance first. When that it not possible, then as long as the Catholic is not living in manifest sins, and otherwise qualified for the sacrament, it is given with hope that contrition exists. So the person may or may not actually receive an increase in sanctifying grace and actual grace. Fr. Hardon, S.J. wrote “The restoration of the degree of sanctifying grace and the title to actual graces depends on the spiritual dispositions of the person at the time of anointing.”


Interesting response. My relative didn’t attend Mass for decades even when she was of healthy mind. Would this fact be considered manifest sin?


If a Catholic intentionally did not practice the Catholic faith and not intend to return to practice, then anointing is not to be given.

The Latin Canon Law has: Canon 1002
The communal celebration of the anointing of the sick for many of the sick at the same time who are duly prepared and rightly disposed can be performed according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop.
Canon 1005
This sacrament is to be administered when there is a doubt whether the sick person has attained the use of reason, whether the person is dangerously ill, or whether the person is dead.
Canon 1006
This sacrament is to be conferred upon sick persons who requested it at least implicitly when they were in control of their faculties.
**Canon 1007
**The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred upon those who obstinately persist in manifest serious sin.


I think that it isn’t for any of us to judge the state at death of another person’s soul–period. If I had a relative dying of dementia who had been Catholic at any point in their lives or even who was a non-Catholic but the priest were willing, I’d ask for the Last Sacraments to be given. The Last Sacraments are Sacraments of physical healing as well as final spritual preparation for the next life. For one thing, a person with dementia may know far more than we can judge by what we see. We simply don’t know. So what could it possibly hurt?


I agree with Starrsmother, we do not know what is in another person’s heart and mind. Only God knows that.


I haven’t had my class on this sacrament yet so I could be wrong. But as showed by another poster only if the priest knows the person isn’t Catholic or knows this person is in serious sin he should give the person the sacrament. Even if the person doesn’t know what is going on she should still be given to them.

I think a general rule is when in doubt give the sacrament, you should never purposely withhold a sacrament from someone who is nearing death only if you know beyond any doubt that this person is in mortal manifest sin.

When you arrive in a room of someone nearing the point of death you should never assume anything. Also a priest can give conditional forgiveness or last rights (I don’t remember the phrase) if someone is in a coma or near the point of death the priest gives the sacrament, even though he isn’t sure if she is in a state to receive it. That is why Canon law says give it when there are doubts, and only forbid it when you know they shouldn’t receive it.


Very close.

Sacraments can be given conditionally if the priest is unsure if the person is alive or not.
“If you are alive, by this holy Anointing…”

There is no conditional form for “if you are not persistent in grave sin, by this holy Anointing…”

This is a judgement call for the priest. He must ask himself: what is the possibility that the sick person does want the sacraments?
While the priest can validly administer the sacraments, the actual effects of them, the graces received, depend on the person’s internal dispositions. In other words, does the person want to be forgiven and absolved even though he cannot speak or make other indications? We hope that even the most persistent sinner actually does want forgiveness when faced with imminent death.

If the person is conscious and refuses the sacrament, or refused to turn away from the sin, then the priest cannot administer them.

So, unless it’s a truly extreme example of someone living in manifest grave sin, or some heresy, if the patient is unconscious, most priest will administer the sacraments, while basically thinking to themselves (and praying) that this person is in God’s hands, and if he’s repentant, he’s forgiven. If he isn’t, then I’ve just said some words that have no actual effect.


thank you :slight_smile:

closed #10

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit