Last rites

Hello, all, very simple question:

Can priests administer last rites to suicides?

If the person is already dead, then no.

If the person has attempted it but has not died (yet), then I would think it would be very important to do so if it’s possible.

If the person wants to, plans to, but hasn’t…I don’t know. I would hope the priest would work on getting the person to not go through with it.

This is an interesting question. If a person said," Father can you please give me Last rites for I am going to take my life," it would be difficult to imagine that a priest could do as such.

I hope a priest will come by and answer this. Of course the person would be counseled to receive help in an emergent manner.


I think this has been discussed before. From what I remember, no. The person has to be repentant, and if they are still planning the murder of an innocent person (themselves), they don’t qualify for absolution.

They would however qualify for counseling.

If they have already committed suicide, we can pray for their souls.

I remember watching something really interesting. A man of still unknown identity ingested a cyanide pill and dies in line for confession.

Indeed, Mary 777, but what if it is as the above poster described? The person in question attempts suicide, fails, and is dying. Should anyone who discovers such a person (and who has knowledge that it was attempted suicide, of course) even bother calling a priest after contacting Emergency Medical Services?

I would think absolutely. I imagine many last rites have been given to OD patients who may have ingested them with suicidal intent and that action leads to eventual death.

First, the term “Last Rites” usually means three sacraments. Obviously you can’t confess your sins if you’re dead, nor receive Holy Communion. A dead person *can *be anointed a few minutes after clinical death, since we don’t know precisely when the soul departs the body, but not long after.

Some relevant canons (in the Latin Church) are:

Can. 1006 This sacrament is to be conferred on the sick who at least implicitly requested it when they were in control of their faculties.

Can. 1007 The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred upon those who persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin.

Clearly serious mental illness can remove culpability in some cases, but I don’t know how a priest would make that determination.

In the case of one who survives, I’d definitely get a priest so that the person in question has the opportunity to make a good confession and receive counsel.

I would call a priest immediately and request last rites.


The soul is preserved for aeviternity if it has sufficient moral devotion to love.


It is not a sacrament for those who are about to die or might be about to die, especially at their own hands. It is a sacrament for the dying. No psychological condition on its own warrants this sacrament… it must be lethal in itself, rather than causing lethal behavior.

This also excludes a person with a non-life-threatening condition who is undergoing life-threatening surgery.

And those to be executed.

And definitely those who just have the sniffles.

Becoming frail through extreme age can qualify.

I think what the person asking the question meant was more a case of “Father, I am dying. I took poison to commit suicide, but it is moving slower than I anticipated. Please give me last rites before I die.”

Suicides are a matter of divine tendency. People do commit suicide because of extreme subservent natural pain.

I don’t believe you are correct. That’s why it’s called the Sacrament of the SICK. The Sacrament most definitely can be conferred on individuals whose diagnosis is not necessarily fatal, and it most certainly can be conferred on those about to undergo major surgery, even if the condition being treated isn’t in itself necessarily fatal.

Consult any authoritative document on the matter, and you will see that what you are saying is incorrect.

Here is a place to start (check the part called “subject”):

It’s a wildly abused and misunderstood sacrament. We might be better off returning to the name “extreme unction” to remind us it’s about the “extreme” of life. You must be dying or in real danger of death from illness or injury to receive this sacrament validly.

Actually, those about to be executed DO receive Last Rites if they request it. And that is the way it should be - Catholicism is after all the Religion of Mercy.

Timothy McVeigh, for example, took Last Rites administered by a priest just moments before his execution. This means that, if he was sincere in his repentance, then he might be in Heaven right now.

If you’re upset at that thought, just think of it as God being very forgiving.

What I can say is that there is no precedent for the administration of this sacrament to those who don’t have a life threatening affliction in canon law or magisterial teaching. I have no clue what the details are for McVeigh. But saying that it’s been done such and such a way in popular practice doesn’t show that that way is in line with orthopraxy.

Also distinguish between Last Rites and Extreme Unction. They are not the same.

The “Last Rites” is actually Three Sacraments; Anointing of the Sick, Penance, and Eucharist. Most people erroneously assume the first of the three is the entirety of the Last Rites, instead of just one third of it.

So while a condemned man would not receive an Anointing of the Sick, he** would **receive Penance and Eucharist. And his not receiving the Anointing of the Sick would not be because he “brought it on himself” but instead because he isn’t sick or old.

Interestingly enough, Anointing of the Sick is not merely reserved for those dying. Just for those who are sick; so some people who receive the Anointing of the Sick do end up recovering afterwards (and might even attribute their recovery to God’s Grace).

I thought the sacrament of anointing of the sick, is being administered by a Vatican recognized priest?

Yes, yes and yes. But the sickness must be reasonably thought to have a chance of causing death, on its own. No sniffles. No depression. Etc. This is the teaching of all the magisterial documents that address it.

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