ASK FATHER: Dying man hasn’t asked for sacraments. Can he be anointed?

Extreme UnctionFrom a reader…


We have a question and prayer need for a man dying of cancer. He is a remarried Catholic without an annulment who doesn’t receive Communion.

Not sure if he attends Mass. His daughter-in-law’s pastor said he could receive the Anointing of the Sick and Communion because there was an exception in the case of the dying. The patient has not requested the sacraments or has agreed to a visit from the priest.

However Father said that Canon Law allowed for an exception in these cases. So assuming that this ill man would not be living in sinful actions on his death bed, if he desired to go to confession would that be sufficient to receive Communion? Second question, could he receive Communion if he did not express a desire to confess?

The pastor offering the sacraments to this man is a canon lawyer as well.

A Mass has been offered for this man.

Thank you for having Mass said for this man.  Why wait until a person dies to have Masses said?

While it is true that in case of danger of death there is a great deal of flexibility given in the administration of sacraments, the sacraments – and the persons own will – are to be respected.

The Sacrament of Anointing, is one the sacraments “of the living”, that is, they are to be received by one who is in the state of grace.  If a person is compos sui and make his own decision and understand what is going on, he must be given a chance to make his confession before being anointed.   Otherwise, if his communication is impeded, he should indicate by signs and respond to the priest’s questions.  If a person is not sui compos, cannot respond, and isn’t aware of what is going on, such a person can be anointed and, in that case, the sacrament can also act for the forgiveness of sins.

He he says he doesn’t want to be anointed, doesn’t want the priest, etc., … well… there it is.

The same is said, of course, for Communion, as Viaticum or not.  If this person is not in the state of grace, if he is able he should make his confession before receiving any sacrament.

Of course danger of death can accelerate things greatly, but, if a person is able by signs or speech to indicate at least sorrow for sins and love of God, that should first be ascertained.

Everyone: GO TO CONFESSION!  You don’t know when it will be your turn.  Today?  Tomorrow?  It will happen.

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ASK FATHER: Date for 2nd marriage set at parish before Tribunal decision

From a reader…


My in laws divorced one year ago. My father in law is remarrying one month from now. He filed the annulment paperwork late last year and was told by the deacon handling it that it would “come through” last month. Nothing yet. My husband and I are disturbed by the fact that his parish (not in our diocese) allowed him to set the wedding date and complete marriage preparation courses even though he is already married in the eyes of the church. Now we’re concerned about what may occur if the annulment is not granted in time. We are considering writing to the bishop of that diocese to express our concern about this situation. It really doesn’t make sense in light of the church’s teaching on marriage and annulment. Do you agree that a letter to the bishop is warranted? Or are we being too nitpicky since no sacraments have been given falsely?

First, allow me to nitpick.  Some people, even informed people working in the Church who ought to know better,  use phrases like “granting an annulment” (or not “granting one”, as the case may be).  This is imprecise terminology which leads to confusion. The Church does not “grant” an annulment as though an annulment were some sort of a prize, or honor, or distinction… or a divorce.  Rather, the Church, through Her tribunal system of educated professionals, examines the facts presented in an orderly way and then makes a declaration based on those facts. It’s similar to a doctor making a diagnosis. We don’t say, “Doctor Bombay granted me a diagnosis of rickets.”

If we stop using unhelpful terminology, we might stem the tide of looking at a declaration of nullity as some sort of reward that the Church either kindly bestows or stingily withholds, or indulgently squanders or righteously refuses to grant. Rather, if we use more precise terminology, such as “The Tribunal determined the marriage was null,” or even better “The Tribunal was able to find sufficient proof of nullity,” or “The Tribunal was not convinced the marriage was null”, then we demonstrate a better grasp of reality.

Anyway, it is a Really Bad Idea™ for a parish (priest or staff) to set a date for a marriage until it is certain that both parties are free to marry.

In this case, no date should have been set until and unless the Tribunal issued a declaration of freedom to marry, stating not only that the previous marriage had been declared null, but also that no restrictions were placed on the party.  In some cases, even if the marriage is proven null, the Tribunal has the ability to place a restriction on one or both parties, stating certain conditions which need to be met (e.g., psychological counseling) before a subsequent marriage can take place.

Ideally, Catholics should not consider moving towards a prospective marriage until their freedom to marry has been established. That said, we do not live in an ideal world.  “Kind” pastors who ignore these norms in order to give people what they think they want end up creating more problems than they solve.

The question you ask is whether a letter to the bishop is warranted in this case.

Perhaps, but there are a lot of variables that come into play.

On the one hand, the bishop should know what is going on in his parishes.  Was this, for example, a one time stupid mistake? Or is this part of a larger pattern of imprudence or disobedience?  Some bishops might act swiftly and mete out the appropriate discipline. Some bishops, themselves of the mistakenly “pastoral” school of thought, might react by putting a fire under the tribunal to grind out a decision more quickly, thinking that will eliminate the scandal. Yet other bishops might just shrug and ignore the matter.

I think a more helpful course of action would, first, to have a conversation with your father-in-law. Ask what his plans are should the declaration of nullity either not be issued, or be issued after the date of the proposed wedding, or be issued with a restriction.  Perhaps a phone call to the pastor asking why a date was set without the freedom of both parties to marry being established is warranted. The response you receive from your father-in-law and from the pastor in question might help answer your question of whether a letter to the bishop is appropriate.

Whatever course of action you take, do it prayerfully, with patience, and without acrimony or an accusatory tone.

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PODCAzT 144: Pope Francis’ ‘Amoris laetitia’, Ch. 4: “Love in marriage”

UPDATE: I fixed the glitch at 24:02-24-22. Sorry about that. It was a lot of reading – with interruptions – and editing together.  If you had an “overlap” in that time range, you can download again or listen again and it should now be okay.

There has been a lot of controversy about the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, the Joy of Love, as it is being called in English. Most of the controversy surrounds the 8th Chapter. And yet many have pointed out that the Exhortation has some great strengths, among them Chapter 4, entitled “Love in marriage”.

So that you do not know only the controversies, and so that you have really heard what the Holy Father says in Chapter 4 … here it is.

The text I read, as carefully as I can, is as it appears on the Vatican’s website. They may alter or amend it in the future, but here is the text as it stands now.

For the purpose of a smooth reading, a first experience of the chapter, I don’t read footnotes. That would be too ponderous. Also, I won’t quote the inline chapter and verse references to Scripture. You can see both of those when you read the text, which, at the time of this writing, you can download as a PDF from the Vatican’s website HERE.

I hope this will be helpful to you, in whole or in part. I can tell you that it was extremely useful to me. I had read it when it came out – before it came out, but silently, Reading it aloud, and trying to give sense to the black on the white, turned out to be, among other things, an examination of conscience for me.

Therefore, I urge you, not only to listen to this, but to go back and read the document – especially so you can get the notes and references which I left out – but also to use it as a mirror in which you see yourself.

Remember: Amoris laetitia is an exhortation – an urging -an encouraging – from Peter.

We must allow ourselves to grasp what he is saying and then work with it with honesty.


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Is #AmorisLaetitia being beta tested?

beta testSoooo…. Amoris laetitia is out.

Or is it?

Not a few times on this blog have I pointed out that, by the time the texts of documents are released officially in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) changes are made.

When we got the name of the document in Latin (called the “incipit”), I wrote to someone in Rome asking what the rest of the sentence was.  Some people were having a little fun with Amoris laetitia as, for example, “The Pleasure of Lust”, which , standing free, it can mean.  I didn’t get any (serious) response back.

Anyway… here is an exchange from the combox under a different thread:

Charles E Flynn says:

There should have been a beta version of Amoris laetitia.

[What’s out IS the Beta Version. The final, official version will be in Acta Apostolicae Sedis.]

What is “beta testing”?  As I understand it, software goes through an initial trial called alpha testing inside the company that made it.  That works out big problems.  Then comes beta testing, which goes on outside the company that made it.  After beta testing, the final version is released to the public.


Acta Apostolicae Sedis? What’s that? Are you saying that AL is just a work in progress?

[AAS is the official gazette of and instrument of promulgation of the Holy See. Definitive texts are found in the AAS, usually some months after their initial release! I think this is a serious issue, because people rarely if ever go to the AAS and work from the official text. They rush to use what was originally released, in various languages, without double-checking them against what is officially published later on. For example, between the initial release of, say, the Latin of Veritatis splendor (yes, it was released also in Latin on the first day and the Latin text was published in L’Osservatore Romano the next day), and the release of the official text in AAS, there were hundreds of text changes. I know. I looked at them side by side. Most of them were small things, but they were changes. So, until we have an final, official version in the AAS, yes, this is a BETA. It’s been done this way for a while now.]

I have mentioned numerous times on this blog, problems with translations of documents.

I wrote years ago:

For a long time I have warned people about bad English translations of papal documents. 

There are methodological problems in that the documents are no longer composed in Latin.

The Latin text, which is the official text, is itself a translation.

However, since no one refers to the Latin text… few people know this.  Thus, they are always working with compromised versions of documents.

Moreover, the texts they are working with were those released at the time of the presentation of the document, even though the LATIN is itself revised [there is not Latin of Amoris laetitia, which is hilarious, given that we have an incipit!] before publication in is final official form in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.  But no one goes back to revise the vernacular versions in keeping with the changes in the Latin! Lot’s of people are misquoting documents because the vernacular docs themselves were never updated.

Imagine, for example, doing your doctoral thesis on something that involves papal documents.  Because you are modern doctoral candidate at a hip school that shuns Pharisaical nitpicking, no one expects you to know Latin, right?  So, you are stuck using vernacular versions of documents that were released to the PRESS many months before the official Latin version appeared in the Acta.  Remember, once the version appears in the Acta, that’s the official version.  How d’ya like them apples?

So, is Amoris laetitia being beta tested?  If I were still around the Press Office, I’d be asking that question until I got an answer.

Moderation queue is ON.

BTW… the online ACTA is about a year behind.  HERE  But it has been behind since about 1909.

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POLAND: Eucharistic miracle! Bleeding Host is human cardiac tissue

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a less than enjoyable time for a while now. That said, in this time I have also hardened my resolve in several spheres.

And yet, there are little bright points. Remember that scene in the The Return of the King when Sam and Frodo, in Mordor, see a break in the lowering clouds and spy a star?  Forget the iffy movies, here is the text:

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

I spotted this at Aletheia (it was a writer from Aletheia, by the way, who asked Card. Schoenborn the question that got the tangled response about development of doctrine that has made us scratch our heads).

Eucharistic Miracle in Poland Approved by Bishop After Testing

Sometimes, yes, the supposed “bleeding host” will prove, upon examination, to be mere red bread mold.

But sometimes, a “bleeding host” is put under the microscope and through the tests and it’s discovered to be human cardiac tissue.

In 2013, in Poland, a bleeding host proved to be precisely that, as it was announced today by Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski, of the Diocese of Legnica:

“On 25th December, 2013 during the distribution of the Holy Communion, a consecrated Host fell to the floor and then was picked up and placed in a water-filled container (vasculum). Soon after, stains of the red colour appeared. The former Bishop of Legnica, Stefan Cichy, set up a commission to observe the phenomenon. In February 2014, a tiny red fragment of the Host was seperated and put on a corporal. The Commission ordered to take samples in order to conduct the thourough tests by the relevant research institutes.

In the final announcement of the Department of Forensic Medicine we read as follows:

In the histopathological image, the fragments of tissue have been found containing the fragmented parts of the cross striated muscle. (…) The whole (…) is most similar to the heart muscle with alterations that often appear during the agony. The genetic researches indicate the human origin of the tissue.  [Not just normal heart tissue, but distressed heart tissue.]

In January this year I presented the whole matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. Today, according to the recommendations of the Holy See, I ordered the parish vicar Andrzej Ziombro to prepare a suitable place for a display of the Relic so that the faithful could give it the proper adoration.

A wonderful gift to Poland, and for the many pilgrims who will be heading to Poland this year, either for World Youth Day or their personal intentions, in this Year of Mercy.

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ASK FATHER: If Orthodox schismatics can receive Communion, why not divorced and remarried (adulterers)?

From a reader…


“Amoris Latitia” contains the footnote [351] stating those living in
irregular unions can be admitted to holy communion in some
circumstances; the idea being that they may be in the state of grace, despite how (objectively) they are living in a publicly sinful state. Based on the constant practice and teachings of the Church, this is erroneous.

However, canon law permits holy communion to be distributed to schismatics: “Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned” (CIC 844 § 3).

Is not schism, and adultery, both to be regarded as publicly sinful situations? In other words, if holy communion is to be denied to adulterers, does it not have to be denied to schismatic as well (despite how canon law sanctions it)? The alternative being, if in principle schismatics may receive holy communion if “properly disposed”, does not such proper disposition potentially apply to all other categories of public sinners?

We have to be careful with words, terms.  As the old adage runs: Seldom affirm, never deny, always make distinctions.

The 1983 Code for the Latin Church, can. 751, gives us definitions of heresy, apostasy, and schism.

The Code rarely gives definitions of terms. When it does, that is how the term is to be used throughout the Code and subsequent commentaries. Other definitions of these words may hold weight in other areas, but in canon law that is how these defined words are to be used.

Canon 751 says that schism is the withdrawal (detrectatio) of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him. By this canonical definition, then, someone who was baptized into, say, the Greek Orthodox Church, cannot be canonically considered a schismatic. Why? He has not withdrawn any submission to the Supreme Pontiff because he was never in submission to the Supreme Pontiff.  He cannot be accused of the canonical crime of schism.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a schism.  It means that in the eyes of the Code that guy isn’t considered schismatic.

Most members of the Orthodox Churches are not subject to the canonical crime of schism.  Those who commit schism in order to become Orthodox… that’s another kettle of borscht. Hence, to say that they are in an objective state of sin (canon law deals mainly with crime, and tangentially with sin) would go outside canon law’s definition.


Consider a person who was baptized as an infant in the Greek Orthodox Church, and then brought up in accord with the teachings and beliefs of that Church.  It is an entirely different thing to choose, as an adult, to attempt to enter into a marriage while one’s spouse remains alive!

Even considering that one’s guilt may be diminished because of ignorance, one is still responsible for one’s actions as an adult. If those actions have placed one in an objective state of sin, the burden lies on one’s own shoulders to extract oneself from that state (with the help of a confessor) or to demonstrate (with the help of one’s pastor and/or a trained canonist) that one’s irregular situation can be regularized.

The Church’s merciful solicitude towards our separated brethren, who share our belief in the efficacy of the sacraments and apostolic succession, who find themselves in circumstances where they have no reasonable access to their own priests, must not be confused with the ill-conceived notions of mercy that would gloss over one’s responsibility to own up to one’s own actions and set one’s own house in order before approaching the sacraments… and that means Eucharist, certainly, but Penance too, since we need to amend our lives to receive absolution.

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Card. Schönborn: “sacraments” in Infamous Footnote 351 means mainly the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation)

The other day Pope Francis told journalists during the airplane presser on his return to Rome from Lesbos that, to understand the controversial bit in Amoris laetitia Infamous Footnote 351, we should have recourse to Card. Schönborn’s address at the presentation of the Post-Synodal Exhortation on 8 April.  I posted that text HERE.

Remember what the Infamous Footnote says…

“Sacraments…”  Which “sacraments”?  The only two candidates here are Penance and Eucharist.   However, we know that Communion can’t be received in the state of mortal sin.  Also, according to can. 915 of the Latin Church, those who are publicly known to be persevering in grave sin may not be given Holy Communion.

That said, Pope Francis’ words in the Infamous Footnote have been taken by many to mean that some “irregular” couples, at the determination of the priest – somehow in the internal forum – should give Communion to such couples, or indicate to them that they can go to Communion.  That seems to be contrary to what the Church perennially teaches, given Christ’s own words about marriage and… well… Catholic common sense.

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

Card. Schönborn gave an interview to Vatican Radio (HERE) in which he said that “sacraments” here refers mainly to the Sacrament of Penance!

On one point, in particular, Cardinal Schönborn offered significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“I think it is very clear,” said Card. Schönborn, “there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”

Ummm… no, Your Eminence, it is NOT “very clear”.  It is unclear.  The note says “sacraments” not “mainly sacrament of penance/reconciliation”.

Let’s see the transcript:

[…]CRA: Observers and some Synod Fathers expressed concern during the two Assemblies regarding process, direction and content: to the extent that those concerns were legitimate, can those who voiced them be satisfied with the document?

Card. Schönborn: The diversity of critiques that has been expressed during the Synod is quite large, and I am sure that not everybody will be satisfied with this document. It was never the case – I can’t remember any post-Synodal Exhortation that received applause from everybody. The fact is, Pope Francis has based his Exhortation largely on the results of the two Synods, and the texts he used for [the basis of] his own writing were voted on by an over 2/3 majority of the Synod Fathers, so there is a large consensus behind it. He is not innovating: he is continuing with what the Synod had already prepared and offered him.  [In keeping with what Card. Burke said when he aligned the Exhortation more closely to the acts of the Synod than the Pope’s Ordinary Magisterium.]

CRA: You have said that the continuity runs also between this document and another, specifically, St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio… 

Card. Schönborn: I am profoundly convinced that, 35 years after Familiaris consortio, Pope Francis has given us a beautiful example of what [Bl.] John Henry Newman calls, “the organic development of teaching.” [I wonder how many are convinced that this is so.] [St.] John Paul II has already innovated in some points: not a break with tradition, but his “Theology of the Body” was something very new; his words on graduality inFamiliaris consortio were rather unusual; his words on “discernment” in Familiaris consortio #84 were quite surprising – his strong invitation to discern different situations. Pope Francis is very much in continuity with this, and the Synod was – the two Synods were [as well]. Discernment was a key word in Pope Francis’ Exhortation. It is very “Jesuitical” – discernment of spirits – and that leads him to an attitude that was already present in Pope Benedict’s teaching, in Pope [St.] John Paul II’s teaching, that the Church offers help to those who are in so-called “irregular situations”. [Nota bene:] He adds a little note, where he says, “In certain cases, also, the aid, the help of the sacraments.” That’s all he said.

CRA:  That brings us nicely to the point, because, when we are talking about discernment, we are inevitably also must discuss conscience – but we must let Mother Church form our consciences – and Pope Francis certainly knows this, though it does bear mention. [And the Big Question…] The sacraments: which ones, and in what order?

Card. Schönborn: I think it is fairly clear: [Please, Your Eminence, make it clear!  And is it “fairly clear” or “very clear” (above)?] there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified. [Ummm… “clarified”?  What does that mean?  Also, these people either have a firm purpose of amendment (in regard to sinful behavior) or they don’t, even if they must stay together for some good reason (e.g., care of children, care of the sick, etc.).] Pope Francis has himself given an example: when a woman [in an irregular marital situation] comes to confess her abortion – the sin, the grave sin of abortion – not to relieve her, even if her situation is irregular – the discernment of the shepherd can be, and I would say, “must be”: you have to help this person to be freed from her burden, even if you cannot tell her that her marital situation has been regularized by this absolution – but you cannot [let her leave] the confessional with the burden of her grave sin she finally had the courage to come to confess. [Ummm…. you can’t target one mortal sin among others for absolution, leaving the others unabsolved.  Censures, yes.  Sins, no.  It’s all or nothing.  So, is he saying that even in the absence of a firm purpose of amendment regarding sexual relations in that “irregular” relationship, the priest “must” still give absolution?] That was the example he had given, and I think it is a very good example for what this little note could mean in certain cases: i.e. “[…]even the help of sacraments.” 

I guess I still have questions about what the Infamous Footnote 351 means.

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RECENT POSTS and THANKS! Mass for Benefactors

First, help each other…

Your Urgent Prayer Requests

Next, please contribute to this worthy project…

ACTION ITEM UPDATE! Pontifical Vestments Project new PHOTOS

And now some of the posts that have have and will scroll off the front page.  Since the release of Amoris laetitia, I’ve been busy.

I daily send up prayers for all those who have asked me to pray for them or for some petition that they have.  I get a lot of these requests.  Even if I don’t respond by email, I do it.

I daily offer prayers also for everyone who donates using the button on the side bar or who has subscribed for a monthly donation.  I am also grateful to people who send items from my wishlists on Amazon (see sidebar).  It is my duty and pleasure to pray for benefactors.

I will say Holy Mass TODAY, this afternoon, at 17:00 CDT for the intention of my benefactors.

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Please use the sharing buttons! Thanks!

Registered or not, will you in your charity please take a moment look at the requests and to pray for the people about whom you read?

Continued from THESE.

I get many requests by email asking for prayers. Many requests are heart-achingly grave and urgent.

As long as my blog reaches so many readers in so many places, let’s give each other a hand. We should support each other in works of mercy.

If you have some prayer requests, feel free to post them below.

You have to be registered here to be able to post.

I still have a pressing personal petition.  Really.

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The Continuity of Examinations of Conscience

His Hermeneuticalness, my good friend Fr. Tim Finigan, has reposted his good Examen pamphlets.  Perpend:

Confession leaflets back online

People quite often ask me for the confession leaflets that I published on the website of my previous parish. Fr Zuhlsdorf was kind enough recently to make them available via his blog. I have now found a home for them on an almost dormant website that I set up a few years ago for my own stuff. Here is a link to the downloads page. I am delighted to make them available for priests and catechists, but please don’t email me asking for permission to use them. As the page says, they are released under a creative commons licence and you can use them without asking (I do receive enough email to keep me from getting lonely, thanks.) [You could drop a note with an expression of prayers and thanks for his wonderful ministry.]


Read the rest over there.

I hope to see Father in June.

Speaking of Fr. Finigan, I will soon have a … ROSE VESTMENT PROJECT!

Remember that?

This is what I’m considering.

It isn’t baby-rattle pink and in the right light it is just about right.

And… while I’m at it…

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