VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican has strongly reaffirmed that only priests can administer the anointing of the sick, and said this doctrine must be “definitively” accepted by Catholics.
The statement came in a one page note and three page commentary from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The note was dated February 11, and Catholic News Service obtained a copy in March.
In recent years, Church groups, deacons and some bishops have requested permission for non-priests, including permanent deacons and lay people, to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
They have said the priest shortage in some areas means that seriously ill Catholics cannot always receive the sacrament in a timely way.
The doctrinal congregation, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said it was issuing the note because it wanted to make it clear that the Church’s teaching would not change.
In 1998, bishops attending the Synod for Oceania asked that consideration be given to allowing non-priests to administer the sacrament.
The Vatican has consistently said no to such requests.