Last Rites

Hello. I am new to the forum and have a very difficult question spiritually-speaking. I have a friend that past away recently and may have had last rites given to him by a ordained priest who was not (and currently is not) in good standing and has been told by the Church that he may not perform any act as a priest. A friend of mine who has some knowledge of Canon Law said that this was a terrible thing because it affects the departed’s soul; that in fact, he may not have been given this sacrament at all. Does anyone have an idea about this? The family and I are concerned and thank you so much for your thoughts on this.

Actually, in danger of death, any valid priest may give absolution. This includes schismatics and heretics. Once a priest, always a priest. As long as they are validly ordained by a valid Bishop, it doesn’t matter. God is merciful and His mercy flows through His Church. So the Church makes sure that in urgent needs, as many people are possible can be helped.

It seems like your friend has “just enough” knowledge of canon law to be dangerous.

At the moment of death, the Church gives to every validly ordained priest the faculties to hear a confession, absolve, and anoint–in other words, when someone is truly dying, any validly ordained priest can give the Last Rites, and the Church not only permits this, but says that such a priest is obligated to do so.

Tell your friend to read canon 986

§2. In urgent necessity, any confessor is obliged to hear the confessions of the Christian faithful, and in danger of death, any priest is so obliged.

Not just “permitted” but “obliged.”

As long as the priest was in fact validly ordained, he did the right thing.

The Sacraments of Holy Orders cannot be undone. Even a defrocked priest remains a priest. He is simply not allowed to carry out his priestly duties like administering the Sacraments, unless there is an emergency.
To answer your question, a defrocked priest (if no other priest is available) is permitted to administer the last rites to someone in danger of death and it would be valid.

Thank you each so much for this information. It is truly helpful and will bring peace to the family.

cannot comment on the priest in question, but in general even a priest who has been returned to the lay state can hear the confession of a person at the point of death, if it is an emergency and no other priest is available. He cannot administer last rites because he cannot lawfully confect the Eucharist, nor presumably would he have access to consecrated hosts or the oil of anointing. The OP does not give enough info but if this ex-priest is actually attempting regularly to minister as a priest and holding himself as one to the unsuspecting, this is a grave abuse and should be brought to the attention of the bishop at once. but yes even if this misbehaving priest heard the confession the dying person was absolved.

Can. 976 Even though a priest lacks the faculty to hear confessions, he absolves validly and licitly any penitents whatsoever in danger of death from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.

I am somewhat confused but thank everyone for their thoughts on this matter. Sounds like the family may end up having to speak to someone who specialized in the Canons of the Church. The departed was very pious but infirmed and I understand this particular priest administered over his religious needs for some time.

A defrocked priest who cannot lawfully say Mass and confect and/or administer the Eucharist, is nevertheless able to do so, and the Eucharist which the person recieved would be a true and valid eucharist. The same goes for Anointing. Normally the Oil of Anointing is blessed by a bishop but any priest has the ability to do so and to then use the oil.

kamslm, when we say “the last rites” we mean all three sacraments - last confession, last anointing, and last Holy Communion (Viaticum).

So rest assured that he was given valid last rite. :slight_smile: Nevertheless, God is ever merciful, ever forgiving and ever loving that his judgment will not simply hang on technical matter. He is a faithful God and his promise for a believer is that even though he dies he will live because the Savior lives.

May His perpetual light shines upon him. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.

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