Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: minister of the sacrament of the sick
minister of the sacrament of the sick QUESTION from alexander james franco September 29, 2001
What is the Church's present official teaching on who can lawfully and licitly administer the sacrament of the sick? Some Permanent Deacons in our area have claimed the right to do so? Can they validly do so when there is an absence or shortage of ordained priests? What are the biblical and theologically relevant basis for the Church's teaching on just who is the proper minister of this sacrament? God bless you for this service! AJF
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on October 1, 2001
Dear Mr. Franco,
Only a priest may licitly administer this sacrament.
The priest is the only proper minister of the anointing of the sick. (16, Pastoral care of the Sick) The document continues saying that the ordinary ministers are bishops, pastors, asociate pastors, chaplains of health care facilities, and superiors of religious institutes. Deacons are not mentioned.
Liturgical documents do not and would not state if a sacrament is valid if the sacrament were attempted to be administered by a minister other than the ordinary. Consequently, I am not sure if a deacon's administration of this sacrament is valid. Although only a bishop (and some priests) have the faculty to bless the OIL, the actual SACRAMENTAL FORMULA is pronounced by the administer of the sacrament. Therefore I assume that a deacon's anointing would not be valid, since his faculties are not the same as those of a priest. I would like to check with a sacramental theologian before saying that I am absolutely sure about this, though.
For those who are interested, the sacramental form is:
Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Finally, for clarification, a deacon or a layman MAY administer Viaticum outside of Mass, which is Holy Communion for those who are dying.
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