ASK FATHER: Does the Sacrament of Anointing *always* forgive sins or are there conditions that must be met?

From a reader…


I have received extreme unction four times since April.
Does the Anointing *always* forgive sins or are there conditions that must be met. I’m worried now since through my own lack of planning COVID-19 and just being disabled, and sick I’ve not confessed since last year. I know i know. But it’s no longer a wheelchair ride away.

Anointing forgives sins sometimes, not all the time.  There are conditions.

The effects of the Sacrament of Anointing or Anointing of the Sick or, sometimes, Extreme Unction, are:

  • To increase sanctifying grace in a moment of great need (danger of death)
  • To console the person
  • To strengthen against temptation
  • To heal the body
  • To forgive mortal sins when a person is incapable of confessing them or is unaware of his state of soul

Anointing was placed in the category of “sacraments of the living”, a handy way of saying that for them to be as effective as they can be, we must receive them while “alive”, that is, not “dead in sin”, that is, in the state of grace.

If a person is compos sui and can make his own decisions and understand what is going on, he must be given a chance to make his confession before being anointed. Even 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 impart forgiveness of mortal sins.

If a person in the state of mortal sin – who is able to confess and receive absolution – receives the sacrament of anointing, the sacrament will not be effective in her in the way Christ and the Church intend.

If a person is NOT able to confess, then the sacrament also forgives mortal sins so that the sacrament can be effective.

How merciful is our God?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    I hope I haven’t shared this story before, excuse me if I did. My sister suffered for two years from cancer, the last year very rough. She was courageous, but not in the way so many people are today, relying on themselves. She didn’t say much about it, but she relied on her faith in God, and told me she felt at the end Jesus was very close and taking care of her. She was a picture of joy, although she went through so much. I see young thugs who act tough, they have nothing on people with cancer. I used to pick her up and we would go for drives, one of the things she could do. When she was still mobile, one day we stopped at our diocese, which had been beautifully renovated, and we happened to stop during Confession, which she received, and I never thought it was a coincidence we stopped then. She did two things I’ll never forget, at the end as she was in the hospital, surrounded by family. She gave me the most happy and lovely smile, and she received viaticum, the last thing I saw my sister do in this world.
    I know this is just a personal anecdote, but believe me, this consoles me more than I can express.
    I had a dream that was more like a visitation, the day or so after my sister passed. Her face beamed like the sun, she radiated happiness and health and she communicated that to me without a word. I’ve never had a dream like it. My point is, I was heartbroken about my sister, but even I received such consolation because she received viaticum and then off she went into the hands of God.
    The sacrament is just not for the people who receive it. It gives powerful consolation to the loved ones left behind. I pray for my sister, but I don’t worry about where she is.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    I’m sorry, I meant to say also that I wish I could hug the person who wrote to you, Fr. Z.
    People have such courage and faith! They are going through the ultimate experience, and they focus on what is truly important, the state of their soul. It’s very inspiring. God be with that person and everyone who is dealing with what we will all deal with sooner or later.

  3. JonPatrick says:

    Thank you Kathleen10 for sharing your story. It is very moving.

  4. Irish Timothy says:

    Amazing! Thank you Kathleen10 for sharing that!

  5. Mariana2 says:

    Thanks, Kathleen10!

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