Question regarding Deacons Annointing the Sick


#1

To all,

I have a question. My 11 month old recently cracked his skull in an accident. He is fine (and was fine, you would never know he was injured). However, we called the local church to receive the sacrament of sick for him. Of course he is baptized and there is no sin, but we wanted the healing graces of the sacrament.

Unfortunately, all of our priests were at a retreat, so only the deacon was available. He offered to bless the child and annoint him. Now I know that deacons cannot perform the sacrament of the sick, so I permitted him to proceed on the understanding that this was not Sacramental (though it may be sacramental with a little s).

Is this permitted, to use the oil of the sick in this way? This could easily lead to confusion. I had not heard or encountered anything like this until now.

This may be one for research.

Thanks,

Ron


#2

Only priests are able to administer the Sacraments of Healing.


#3

[quote=rabarts]To all,

I have a question. My 11 month old recently cracked his skull in an accident. He is fine (and was fine, you would never know he was injured). However, we called the local church to receive the sacrament of sick for him. Of course he is baptized and there is no sin, but we wanted the healing graces of the sacrament.

Unfortunately, all of our priests were at a retreat, so only the deacon was available. He offered to bless the child and annoint him. Now I know that deacons cannot perform the sacrament of the sick, so I permitted him to proceed on the understanding that this was not Sacramental (though it may be sacramental with a little s).

Is this permitted, to use the oil of the sick in this way? This could easily lead to confusion. I had not heard or encountered anything like this until now.

This may be one for research.

Thanks,

Ron
[/quote]

Ron,
You are right. Deacons do not have the faculties to minister the Sacrament of The Anointing of the Sick.

But we can pray and bless with blessed oil and this is what the Deacon did for you son. He did not use the Oil of the Sick and did not give your son The Anointing of the Sick.

Blessed oil is oil that a Deacon can bless like any other Sacramental. So what you son received was a Sacramental not a Sacrament.

Blessings and Peace,
DigitalDeacon


#4

If I were a deacon I would not feel comfortable anointing people with any oil, because it is certain to cause confusion, and could cause scandal.


#5

[quote=arnulf]If I were a deacon I would not feel comfortable anointing people with any oil, because it is certain to cause confusion, and could cause scandal.
[/quote]

If you were a deacon and were asked to do something consistent with the faclties and graces bestowed on you by your ordination, and refused to do it because you were afraid some third party would be confused or scandalized, the confusion and the sacandal are yours.

Given the length of time the diaconate has been in renewal in the Church (>30yrs), ignorance of the order is no excuse to be confused or scandalized by the appropriate working of those who are deacons.

A deacon doing what a deacon is supposed to do is not “certain” to cause confusion. A deacon doing what a deacon is supposed to do is not a cause for scandal.

As with the thread on deacons wearing clerical garb (the clerical collar), the fear of “confusion” is not a reason to do what shold be done. That some people do not understand the office anad function of the deacon is not a reason or excuse for a deacon not doing the job he was ordained to do. To say that a deacon should put his lamp under a bushel because someone else may not understand is to submit to a lowest common denominator type of thinking that limits the ministerial effectivenes of the deacon. It perpetuates a “dumbing down” effect in a populace that certainly needs no more dumbing down.

You simply don’t refuse to do your duty because someone else may not understand or have an appreciation for what your duty is. If someone is confused or scandalized by that the problem lies with the one who is scandalized or confused, not with the minister performing his duty.

Pax Christi Tecum!


#6

[quote=arnulf]If I were a deacon I would not feel comfortable anointing people with any oil, because it is certain to cause confusion, and could cause scandal.
[/quote]

I agree with you. There is too much confusion already.


#7

[quote=Detroit Sue]I agree with you. There is too much confusion already.
[/quote]

But confusion is not the fault of the deacon if people in this day and age, more than 30 years after the renewal of the permanent diaconate began, are still ingorant of the fact that deacons are clergy, are able to wear clerical garb, and have a different office and function than priests and bishops.

It IS the fault of the deacon if a Christian soul calls to him for help, asking him to do that which his ordination has both empowered and authorized him to do, and he hasn’t the fortitude to do it because he’s AFRAID someone who has insufficient knowledge will be confused.

The deacon cannot bear the resonsibility for the confusion of others. The deacon must carry out his office as an icon of teh Servant Christ. “Deacon” and the name of the office, the “diaconate” both come from the Greek word “diakonos” meaning servant. How poor a servant he would be if he felt his first duty was to those who might misunderstand him rather than to those who need and ask for his ministry. wonder what would have happened if Jesus took that attitude and let himself be cowed by such attitudes?

Kyrie eleison!


#8

Arnulf and Detroil Sue,

How did you both come to the conclusion that you did regarding this question? ISTM that you both used your ‘private judgment’ and that possibly not in accord with the judgment of the church. I would encourage you also to be well informed as to the functions of the diaconate and the reasons for it. For it seems that you are assuming the possibility scandal where it most certainly is not. (BTW, just another question, are either of you parents and have you ever had a severely ill or injured child and the attendant fears and emotions?)


#9

Dolly,

In answer to your question, my conclusion is based on years of service as a lay eucharistic minister to the sick and shut-in at nursing homes. It used to be our practice, after giving holy communion, to bless the person with oil and pray with them. (Of course, the oil used was not one of the sacramental oils; it was taken from a special olive oil bottle which had been prayed over that it might bring healing and peace to those blessed with it.) But the third time someone asked me, “Father, does this mean I am going to die?” (If a layman can so easily be confused with a priest, how about a deacon?) - I decided that this practice was a mistake and discussed it with our priest. After reflection, he agreed with me and abolished the practice in our parish. We still pray with each person, with laying on of hands when appropriate, and the pray-er may use holy water if desired. And yes, I am the father of 3, and have suffered through many a serious child’s illness or injury with the aid of prayer; but I insist there is no need for the use of oils in prayer for healing by anyone except priests during the Sacrament of the Sick. :slight_smile:

Arnulf


#10

Thank you, Arnulf, for your response. And I’m sorry if my post was sarcastic or judgmental—that was not my intent. I should not post late at night, which is no excuse for the tone of the post, and apologize for that. I understand your position, and I suppose because of my association with the eastern church, the tightly restricted use of the Sacrament of Annointing as well as ‘sacramental’ annointing in the western church confuses me. There is a much broader and ancient use of this Sacrament and sacramental annointing historically in both branches of the church. That influences how I also approach the question----for me there is no confusion or scandal.

But the issue at hand, I believe, is the fact that a deacon is an ORDAINED CLERGY. (I’m not yelling:)) and not lay. They are trained on how to explain to people the type of annointing allowed to them, and just because there could be some people confused or scandalized because of lack of knowledge, that, as was said by another poster, is not the problem. Educating the laity by those who do understand, clergy and lay alike, on the true reasons and use of the diaconate should go a long way to help forestall confusion and scandal.

A short personal story: A few years after the end of Vat. II, my uncle was in the hospital diagnosed with cancer. He, of course, was raised when the church only seemed to use the annointing of the sick for the dying, but that was slowly changing to annointing those seriously ill. I visited him shortly after the priest was there. He said to me, “Well, it looks like this is it, I’m dying as the priest annointed me today”. I tried to tell him how the sacrament was also for healing, of course leaving ourselves in the hands of God’s will. But he couldn’t understand that and gave up completely saying there was no use in hoping. The attitude, AFTER the Sacrament, deteriorated because he was still fairly young and the diagnosis a shock.

A more frequent use of annointing with both Sacrament and sacramental, IMHO, would make for a spiritually stronger church as we see it as a means of healing the physical, emotional and spiritual through the grace of Christ, as well as last rites in preparation for death.

We are an incarnational church, death is not our enemy but neither is living in the power of God’s grace mediated to us through the means he has provided. Sorry for the lenghy answer, not trying to pontificate:)


#11

It never ceases to amaze me how many Catholics are confused about the Sacrament of the Sick. I have people asking for prayers for themselves and others who are ill or who are going to have some medical procedure. When I encourage them to ask the priest for the Anointing of the Sick, often their response is, “I’m not ready to die.”

This is one great Sacrament that brings so much peace of mind. I have been Anointed many times before surgeries and such. Knowing no matter what happens you sins are forgiven and you are ready to meet your God if that is His will is awesome!

DigitalDeacon


#12

Thank you for all of your responses to this question. I was not scandalized by it. I was most appreciative. My son is doing fine. I realized at the time that this was simply the blessing of the church from an ordained minister.

I’ve only been scandalized by the laity. The first time was in a marriage prep class and the second in a baptism prep class.

The couple told us that they found NFP too troublesome and that they used the pill. They advised us to as well and said it was okay. My future wife told them that the church was an infallible teacher in faith and morals and we should listen to them. There was an uncomfortable pause…

The second time we were informed that the church had done away with the doctrine of original sin. Also, the babies are annointed because they used to annoint wrestlers and it was a symbol of strength. Uh, also in the bible they annointed priests, prophets and kings and we are entering into Christs life and he was all of these. It might be because of that as well.

I dread attending these sorts of things and do so only out of obedience.


#13

[quote=rabarts]Thank you for all of your responses to this question. I was not scandalized by it. I was most appreciative. My son is doing fine. I realized at the time that this was simply the blessing of the church from an ordained minister.

I’ve only been scandalized by the laity. The first time was in a marriage prep class and the second in a baptism prep class.

The couple told us that they found NFP too troublesome and that they used the pill. They advised us to as well and said it was okay. My future wife told them that the church was an infallible teacher in faith and morals and we should listen to them. There was an uncomfortable pause…

The second time we were informed that the church had done away with the doctrine of original sin. Also, the babies are annointed because they used to annoint wrestlers and it was a symbol of strength. Uh, also in the bible they annointed priests, prophets and kings and we are entering into Christs life and he was all of these. It might be because of that as well.

I dread attending these sorts of things and do so only out of obedience.

[/quote]

In regards to the first scandal, as a Marriage Prep councellor, please accept my deepest apologies for those in this ministry who aught not be there. (Perhaps you and your wife should consider volunteering so that there will be some good faithful catholics in this ministry). In regards to the second issue, if someone said we use oil BECAUSE athletes used it to give strength then this is absolutely false. But if one says the early christians saw in the use of oil a conferring of strength in faith BECAUSE their culture understood oil as a means of improving strength then this is absoutly true. Remeber a sacrament is a symbol, but it is a symbol which effects what it symbolizes. The oil symbolizes strength (thats why it was used to annoint priests, prophets and kings) and the sacrament effects what the oil symbolizes. The Graces of Strength and Perserverence, the graces necessary to be a priest, prophet and king, in the case of the oil of catechumens used at baptism.

Don’t be so hard on people who at least take time out of their day to volunteer to serve the needs or your parish. Most of the time the problem at a parish is not that their aren’t enough volunteers, but rather that their aren’t enough good volunteers.

God Bless
RP


#14

[quote=Dolly]Arnulf and Detroil Sue,

How did you both come to the conclusion that you did regarding this question? ISTM that you both used your ‘private judgment’ and that possibly not in accord with the judgment of the church. I would encourage you also to be well informed as to the functions of the diaconate and the reasons for it. For it seems that you are assuming the possibility scandal where it most certainly is not. (BTW, just another question, are either of you parents and have you ever had a severely ill or injured child and the attendant fears and emotions?)
[/quote]

No private judgement here. Husband is an ordained deacon. It is scandalous to lead a sick person to believe they have received the Sacrament of the Sick. And, like it or not, when most people are “annointed,” they believe it was a priest who did it. Blessings and prayers are fine, but a priest must administer the oil.

Yes, I am a mom, I have holy oil (NOT from a Chrism Mass) in my home. We all use it, but on ourselves. My kids have known from the time they were little that it was something they did themselves.

I do consider us fortunate that one of our dearest friends is a priest who will drop everything if we need him. Most people don’t have that luxury.


#15

Please see my comments to Arnulf above.

If a deacon led someone to believe they were being annointed by a priest, surely that would be scandalous and the sin solely on the deacon. But it is not a fault of the church, the Sacrament or sacramental, or a deacon if a person, AFTER being explained still is confused, probably due to the illness itself or age. ISTM, that if they were told it was a deacon doing the annointing as a sacramental, if they did not ask to confess, then how can even the confusion be harmful? What they think is happening (as long as they don’t need to confess and have access to the full Sacrament when needed and wanted) can bring peace and certainly not scandal when they are in need.

I am sorry, but I still see this as a private judgment because you have chosen to place your view of the annointing above what the church has deemed is the proper role of an ordained clergy and, more importantly, the right of Catholics to receive both Sacrament and sacramentals—even from deacons.
ISTM that you seem to be more concerned about a ‘possible’ scandal (to whom I’m not quite sure—the sick I don’t believe will be scandalized) than the true need for ministering in the name of Christ all that is available including annointing by a deacon.

BTW, I also have a close family member who is a deacon and who disagrees with your assessment. Does your husband refuse to minister in this manner because of a perceived scandal? Am really interested in knowing the answer to that.


#16

[quote=Dolly]Please see my comments to Arnulf above.

If a deacon led someone to believe they were being annointed by a priest, surely that would be scandalous and the sin solely on the deacon. But it is not a fault of the church, the Sacrament or sacramental, or a deacon if a person, AFTER being explained still is confused, probably due to the illness itself or age. ISTM, that if they were told it was a deacon doing the annointing as a sacramental, if they did not ask to confess, then how can even the confusion be harmful? What they think is happening (as long as they don’t need to confess and have access to the full Sacrament when needed and wanted) can bring peace and certainly not scandal when they are in need.

I am sorry, but I still see this as a private judgment because you have chosen to place your view of the annointing above what the church has deemed is the proper role of an ordained clergy and, more importantly, the right of Catholics to receive both Sacrament and sacramentals—even from deacons.
ISTM that you seem to be more concerned about a ‘possible’ scandal (to whom I’m not quite sure—the sick I don’t believe will be scandalized) than the true need for ministering in the name of Christ all that is available including annointing by a deacon.

BTW, I also have a close family member who is a deacon and who disagrees with your assessment. Does your husband refuse to minister in this manner because of a perceived scandal? Am really interested in knowing the answer to that.
[/quote]

Dolly, you are giving more credit to the laity than is called for. The vast majority of Catholics who came of age in the 60s-80s are undercatechized. Most don’t know what a priest can do that a deacon cannot. One should never put themselves in a position where their role could be misconstrued. Praying with and blessing the sick are allowed, and encouraged. Using a Sacramental to imitate (and that’s exactly what you are talking about) a Sacrament is scandalous. In a high-stress situation, a deacon in a Roman collar with oil is going to be confused for a priest.

If your family member is “annointing” people as a deacon, he is venturing into what I would consider to be dangerous territory. If someone wants annointing - he should get them a priest. My husband has never refused to visit, pray with, and bless anyone who has asked for him. However he makes it clear that if they want “annointing,” he will get them the priest. It’s just that simple.


#17

Detroit Sue,

I certainly don’t want to belabor this past its due, but since I do not think you have read what I have written clearly or correctly at all (possibly letting your emotions and fears about the issue torule), please read what I’m going to say carefully and with the intent in which it is written.

You said of me, "Using a Sacramental to imitate (and that is exactly what you are talking about) a Sacrament is scandalous.

You are completely in error in the above statement and all of what I have written previously proves that. I specifically stated just the opposite, which makes me wonder why you are reading the way you are and why you would make such an accusation.

Possibly the terminology is misleading you. When someone places oil on another the term used normally in our language is ‘annoint’. If we are using theological terms, then annointing is a action limited to a priest. That much we can agree on.

So lets drop the term ‘annointing’ in regards to a sacramental and replace it with the word ‘blessing’ which word you have used concerning your husband and his ministry. Now, please tell me, why giving a formal ‘blessing’ by a deacon could not be seen as causing the same confusion that annointing with oil might? All Catholics know it is the priest who gives the blessing------why does that not confuse them when your husband does so?

You are in error of church teaching if you say that a deacon may not ‘bless’ oil and then use that ‘blessed oil’ to give a ‘blessing’ to another Catholic (which ‘blessing’ comes in the form of the deacon ‘annointing’—remember we’re using real language here). Blessing oil and using it is a licit form of the ministry for deacons. If your husband REFUSES under ANY circumstances to do such (not just that there is no opportunity), then, for the life of me, I can’t understand why that refusal would not be against his vows as a deacon. He does have the option of asking if they want a priest, but it isn’t ‘just that simple’ as you say if again, in his personal judgment, he refuses to accept the licity of what the church allows him.

Again, this is your perception of the ‘possibility’ of possible scandal, not the probability, and it’s not as if the church is unaware of that possibility, but still allows a deacon to function as an ordained clergy. (And again, a blessing from a deacon can possibly be just as confusing)

Your fears may have some validity, but when you state regarding my family member who is a deacon, “he is venturing into what I consider to be dangerous territory” you are confirming what I have said, ‘you consider’. You have placed your own judgment over against that of the church itself in allowing oil to be used by a deacon. We can all discuss whether something allowed is prudent, but that does not change the decision of the church. If a deacon, because of his own personal beliefs and judgment, refuses to allow what the church allows, I would question who is in dangerous territory…my deacon relative who will ‘bless with oil’ when appropriate according to rubrics and NOT imitating a Sacrament, or your deacon husband who won’t.


#18

ISTM that if Rome has officially spoken against all non priests annointing with oils for the sick then that should settle the matter.

Rome has released such a document called Eccelsia de Mysterio [link below] that addresses this matter specifically for laity and surprsingly enough for deacons as well. I refer to Article 9:

Article 9

The Apostolate to the Sick

  1. In this area, the non-ordained faithful can often provide valuable collaboration. (102) Innumerable works of charity to the sick are constantly provided by the non-ordained faithful either individually or through community apostolates. These constitute an important Christian presence to sick and suffering of the greatest importance. The non-ordained faithful particularly assist the sick by being with them in difficult moments, encouraging them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, by helping them to have the disposition to make a good individual confession as well as to prepare them to receive the Anointing of the Sick. In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or ony other oil.
  2. With regard to the administration of this sacrament, ecclesiastical legislation reiterates the theologically certain doctrine and the age old usage of the Church (103) which regards the priest as its only valid minister. (104) This norm is completely coherent with the theological mystery signified and realized by means of priestly service.

It must also be affirmed that the reservation of the ministry of Anointing to the priest is related to the connection of this sacrament to the forgiveness of sin and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. No other person may act as **ordinary ** or extraordinary minister of the sacrament since such constitutes simulation of the sacrament. (105)

The point is clear the church does not want anyone who is not a priest to use any form of oil in public ministry as they minister and pray for the sick. The absence of the term deacon is accounted for the central focus of the document being directed at the abusies of the laity yet it is inescapble that they also mean deacons as well. In the last paragraph by mentioning other “ordinary” ministers they are expliciting saying deacons since deacons are the only other ordinary minister in our church.

Ecclesiae de Mysterio
sainthenry.org/library/collmin.htm


#19

The statements directed to the non-ordained is not “inescapable that it means deacons as well”. That seems to me to be your own unconfirmed conclusions. I would suggest that you make very sure that YOUR interpretation of the meaning of this article in the document is actually the interpretation given by the church regarding deacons. The article is speaking of the Sacrament of Annointing and any simulation of it by someone OTHER than a priest. I have already granted that if a deacon tried to ‘simulate the Sacrament of Annointing’ that would be in error and could be scandalous.

A Deacon is a not a lay person in some instances, and an ordained person in some others. The diaconate is ordained clergy. If you are studying for the diaconate, I hope your formation is complete and clear in what the ministry of deacon entails. The article in the document you provided does not make clear the issue we have been discussing. If you can, give me a direct quote from either official documents or a spokesman for the hierarchy, meaning Bishop, that confirms your interpretation and what you have just stated.

I have also asked others for some confirmation, and if anyone else can provide definite instructions from Rome that ANY annointing with blessed oil (that which is able to be blessed by a deacon) is forbidden, and for that matter, that they are not allowed to bless oil, I will accept that. But since I know personally (and spoke to today) a deacon who says that they can bless oil and use it as a sacramental and it is not forbidden, we seem to have two conflicting opinions. I am not saying he could not be in error in what he told me, I just have not seen anything from you or Detroit Sue that is other than your interpretation of the issue.


#20

One other question that might help clarify things for me:

When I read that deacons can assist at the altar (not confect the Eucharist), can preach the homily, can baptize and do the annointing at baptism (as I have seen done), can assist at a marriage and give the blessing, can give viaticum (not hear confession), and can bury the dead, please explain why none of the above (among some of the works of ministry that a deacon can perform) are not a ‘form’ of ‘simulating the role of priest’?

If the above are valid forms of ministry for the diaconate, why would a simple blessing of oil and use of the same be a ‘simulation of a priest and a Sacrament’? Seems minor to me when they can do the above IN PLACE of a priest-------why is the above not confusing and scandalous? I really and truly don’t understand the argument (and that is only my fault if I am incorrect). Would an ordained deacon refuse to do the above list and say it is only the role of a priest and it would be ‘simulating the priesthood’?


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