Question concerning the Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick


I hope I can convey this question without a lot of confusion.

When a person has not been to Mass or confession in a long time and is suddenly on their death bed and a priest is called in to give the last rites/anointing, is the priest asking God to absolve the person of all their sins? In the absolution is the person absolved of all his/her sins regardless of the fact that the person is not conscious enough to understand what this means and to be sorry for the sins? I am concerned as this person died and was not going to Church and also told me, time and again that she could not forgive the person who fondled her granddaughter. I suspect this may be why she would not go to Mass or Confession. Any insights would be most helpful.


“Last Rites” actually involves three sacraments: Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist (Viaticum).

If someone is not conscious enough for Confession (which is not uncommon when people are on their death bed), then Anointing of the Sick can be offered (and it does forgive a person’s sins even without Confession). Canon Law says:

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.

What does “implicitly request” mean? Well, I think most priests will give that a pretty generous amount of leeway when someone is at death’s door and their soul may be at stake. As long as the person does not “persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin” (can. 1007), the priest is going to err on the side of mercy.

I don’t see how the person in the example you gave would be considered to be “persevering in manifest grave sin.” Having difficulty forgiving someone who committed such a heinous act against a family member is a very understandable sentiment.


General Audience with St. Pope John Paul II, 1992:

Therefore, the sacrament of Anointing bestows a grace of strength which increases the sick person’s courage and resistance. It causes spiritual healing, such as the forgiveness of sins, which is accomplished by the sacrament itself through the power of Christ, if there is no obstacle in the soul’s disposition.


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