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'Quick Help' Page: Misguided Lay Woman Seeks To Dispense Sacraments

 

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Hospital Chaplain

Hospital Chaplaincy

Lay Persons & Sacraments

Laity & Sacraments

Dispensing Sacraments

Sick & Dying

Sickness | Death

Last Rites

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"I'm a lay woman working as a hospital chaplain and part of my job is also praying over for the dying... I do not want to change my religion so I can just give the last rites of which is very important to us Catholics as part of the 7 Sacraments. I can call my supervisor who is a pastor to dispense the Sacraments but if the worst case scenario occurs, what can I do?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

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I can see from your comments that you care very much for the welfare of the hospital patients. Given their vulnerability and possibly their proximity to death, it is especially important to have loving & compassionate persons that they can call on. So that is wonderful. Nevertheless, the comments above indicate some confusion with regard to Catholic teachings.

First, the position of hospital chaplain is appropriately held by Catholic priests. Persons at the hospital are in need of Confession, Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction, the Holy Eucharist, and last rites/blessings. Lay persons are not ordained and therefore do not have the power to give anointing, hear confessions, etc. This requires priestly power that comes with a man's ordination to the priesthood. Lay persons simply do not have the power - and cannot receive the power - to perform these actions (a layman who receives this power is no longer a layman, but is a priest - and a woman can NEVER receive this power).

Also, lay persons should NOT be handling the Holy Eucharist. As the Catechism of the Council of Trent states...

"To safeguard in every possible way the dignity of so august a Sacrament, not only is the power of its administration entrusted exclusively to priests, but the Church has also prohibited by law any but consecrated persons, unless some case of great necessity intervene, to dare handle or touch the sacred vessels, the linen, or other instruments necessary to its completion. Priests themselves and the rest of the faithful may hence understand how great should be the piety and holiness of those who approach to consecrate, administer or receive the Eucharist."

And...

"It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church, that the faithful should receive the Sacrament from the priests, and that the officiating priests should communicate themselves, has been explained by the holy Council of Trent, which has also shown that this practice, as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained, particularly as Christ the Lord has left us an illustrious example thereof, having consecrated His own most sacred body, and given it to the Apostles with His own hands."

It is an unfortunate fact – preceded by disobedience to the Pope – that lay persons today are sometimes allowed to handle the Holy Eucharist. Nevertheless, this regrettable novelty has been condemned by the Church, for example...

"It is written (De Consecratione, distinction 12): 'It has come to our knowledge that some priests deliver the Lord's body to a layman or to a woman to carry it to the sick: The synod therefore forbids such presumption to continue; and let the priest himself communicate the sick.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

In your situation, there still are many legitimate & helpful ways you may be able help the sick, chief of these being to get validly ordained, good Catholic priests to hear confessions, perform the anointing/last rites, and dispense the Holy Eucharist. There are also many other ways lay persons can help the sick [e.g. praying for them (especially the Rosary), having Masses said, helping them to have the proper dispositions, sympathizing with them, encouraging them, giving scapulars & rosaries, doing errands, etc.)]. Of course, their spiritual welfare is of the utmost importance and lay persons can only do so much. This is why it is critical that you get validly ordained Catholic priests to visit sick persons so that they may dispense the live-giving sacraments that the sick are so in need of.

Regarding your comment that...

"I do not want to change my religion so I can just give the last rites"

...know that it would NEVER be possible for a woman to actually give last rites, regardless of what religion she was in (only men can be lawfully ordained as priests). It is, of course, good that you do not want to change your religion. Remember that Jesus founded only the Catholic Church and other religions are man-made (and are therefore false). The Church has taught over and over again regarding necessity of being Catholic for salvation. For example, consider these quotes from popes, saints, & councils...

"[E]nsure that the faithful are deeply and thoroughly convinced of the truth of the doctrine that the Catholic faith is necessary for attaining salvation." (Bl. Pope Pius IX, "Nostis et Nobiscum", 1849 A.D.)

"The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith." (Fourth Council of Constantinople)

"All who wish to reach salvation outside the Church are mistaken as to the way and are engaged in a futile effort." (Pope Leo XIII)

"If anyone is outside the Ark of Noe [that is, the Church] he will perish in the over-whelming flood." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"Anyone who dares to secede from Peter's solid rock may understand that he has not part or lot in the divine mystery." (Pope St. Leo I the Great, Doctor of the Church, 445 A.D.)

"Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith; for unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire he will undoubtedly be lost forever." (Athanasian Creed)

"Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Pope Boniface VIII, "Unam Sanctam", 1302 A.D.)

"We know that salvation belongs to the Church alone, and that no one can partake of Christ nor be saved outside the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"He who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the Church will certainly be damned and enter the gate of Hell whether he wants to or not." (St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church)

"The holy universal Church proclaims that God cannot truly be worshiped save within herself and asserts that all they who are without her pale shall never be saved." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church, 6th century A.D.)

"According to the words of Saint Augustine, who takes up an image dear to the ancient Fathers, the ship of the Church must not fear, because it is guided by Christ and by His Vicar. 'Although the ship is tossed about, it is still a ship. It alone carries the disciples and receives Christ. Yes, it is tossed on the sea, but, outside it, one would immediately perish.' Only in the Church is salvation. 'Outside it one perishes.'" (Pope John Paul I, 1978)

"Furthermore We teach and declare that the Roman Church, by the disposition of the Lord, holds the sovereignty of ordinary power over all others, and that this power of jurisdiction on the part of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; and with respect to this the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both as separate individuals and all together, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church [which is] spread over the whole world, so that the Church of Christ, protected not only by the Roman Pontiff, but by the unity of communion as well as of the profession of the same faith is one flock under the one highest shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate and keep his faith and salvation." (Vatican Council I, 1870 A.D.)

Despite your apparently good intentions, you cannot simply 'change religions' to be able to give last rites (and there is, in fact, NO way for a female to actually give last rites). Besides endangering your own soul if you were to change religions, keep in mind that so called 'last rights' given by laypersons – even Protestants who call themselves 'pastors' but lack the power of orders – would NOT be valid. Also, by your mention of 'pastor', I will assume you mean a validly ordained Catholic priest. Protestant 'pastors' lacking the power of orders are lay persons who hold & teach heresy. And, heresy is 'spiritual poison'. Consider how strongly scripture speaks against heresy & false teachers – and about those who reject the Church (for some examples, try here).

The following are some additional resources that may be helpful... (click link below to view)

* Suffering & Death (incl. suffering has meaning, how to suffer, when a loved one is suffering or dying)

* Catholic Prayers for the Sick (Topic Page)

* Anointing of the Sick / Extreme Unction (includes information on last rites, plenary indulgence when in danger of death, receiving extreme unction after apparent death, etc.)

* Sickness / Illness (Topic Page)

You might also consider the following...

* Top Reasons Why Women Can't Be Priests

* Lay 'Eucharistic Ministers': Why Not?

* Importance of Being Catholic


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Other Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

Sacraments (Topic Page)

Priests (Topic Page)

 

  

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