When is Last Rites just anointing of the sick?

By Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. (articles ) | Mar 31, 2005

Several media outlets, most notably CNN, were reporting breathlessly earlier this evening that Pope John Paul has "received Last Rites," as if it meant his death were imminent. What they don't understand is that what they call "Last Rites" is most likely just the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Now whenever an 84-year-old man in the Pope's weakened condition catches a serious infection, it's not a good thing for him and anointing of the sick is certainly called for, because it may indeed signal his imminent death. Then again it might not. We just don't know and the simple fact of his having received the sacrament doesn't really tell us anything other than that he's very sick. And we all knew that before.

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  • Posted by: Gil125 - Apr. 01, 2005 4:29 PM ET USA

    I think I just stumbled on the source of the error. The New York Times refers to the Pope's getting "last rites" twice in its main story today. With no further explanation of the term. I would guess there aren't a dozen newsrooms in the United States in which what The Times days isn't True. If it's in the Times, you don't need to search further. It is The Truth.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Apr. 01, 2005 3:06 PM ET USA

    Sure the media are reporting absurdly, with no knowledge of Catholicism. But (again, as a reporter and news director for 45+ years) they (we) do that all day every day. They make similar errors when talking about everything from aviation to zoology, because they can't have a background in everything. Also, as one who has received the Sacrament of the Sick several times validly and has almost reached the quarter-century mark, I agree that you don't HAVE to die right after it.

  • Posted by: Pablo71 - Apr. 01, 2005 1:40 AM ET USA

    Except that, under canon law, the sacrament (while repeatable) is only to be administered when a person begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age. (Canon 1004). It is not simply a sacrament you receive when you're ill, or shouldn't be.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 01, 2005 12:44 AM ET USA

    If these liberal news busybodies are going to comment on Church matters, it would behoove them to learn something of the faith, so that they (at least) SOUND savvy...a perfect example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. Come on, fer Pete's sake, anointing of the sick hasn't been called 'extreme unction', or 'last rites' since Vatican II.