Update: A priest friend on the other side of the Diocese texted me the following. I asked his permission to put it up. He said yes. So here’s his response to my original post below:
“Read your piece about anointing. It sickens me that priests will make excuses about just doing their job. When I get the call, I go. If there’s even the slightest reason to think someone needs anointing, I do it. I throw in the Apostolic Pardon as well if there’s any whiff of danger of death. In my mind, I will be in more trouble at the judgement for the people I didn’t anoint that I should’ve than the people I did anoint that I shouldn’t have.
“I was talking to a (Protestant) hospital chaplain about a training I want to do for the chaplains around here to help them better understand what priests do and what the sacraments are so they can secure better pastoral care, i.e. by communicating with us better. She says on their end the biggest problem is getting priests to show up, which breaks my heart. There is nothing more important when that call comes in, unless I’m in the middle of Mass.”
You have to know, most priests feel this way. I’m also personally upset about this because Jesus has provided that I meet up with priests who are really idiots when it comes to this Sacrament. I myself have a certain malady which can bring death very quickly, or leave you just barely hanging on to life until it passes. It’s hereditary. I got it from mom, who died from it, as to about 1/3 of people who have it, regardless of any would-be emergency room intervention. The priests either refused to give anoint me (sooooo disheartening) or would be cutesy cutesy and make up their own sacramental words, you know, after praying, anointing with words to the effect of “God is nice. Have a nice day.” Then they would run away (just as disheartening).
There are excellent, holy, dedicated, good priests, shepherds who wouldn’t hesitate at all to lay down their lives for the sheep in the face of the wolves. I know heaps of those good priests, so very many of them in my diocese. I rejoice. But once in a while one encounters a PoS priest who will do anything not to do the priest thing. My ire is stirred, indignant for the needs of Jesus’ little flock.
Late last night I got a call requesting, later today, a pastoral intervention in another parish that will require from some hundreds of miles of travel. I won’t say what diocese it’s in. It’s about a doctor scheduling an urgent operation for someone who is, as the hours go by, ever more in extremis, at the extremes of this life, death. When a request was made of the parish priest for Anointing of the Sick, the priest said that the policy is that no Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick will be provided to anyone whomsoever who does not trundle off to a doctor to get a note saying that such person is a candidate for the Anointing of the Sick. But that’s what the urgently scheduled operation is all about. So, someone direly sick is to make an arduous mountain journey to the in-town doctor – assuming that such appointments could ever be made – so as to get a note, and then make an appointment with the priest. As if whatever doctor (likely not Catholic and possibly atheist) could make a pastoral decision about a Sacrament of the Catholic Church. And all that could take days, or where I am, weeks, months. Well. Four letter expletives come to mind.
Dear priests, listen up. The doctrine of the Church on this is that if a person has an illness which without intervention could possibly lead a person to death, whenever that might be, such a person is already a candidate for this Sacrament. In other words, don’t hesitate. Provide the Sacrament. Bring Jesus’ little flock encouragement, strengthened in good friendship with Jesus. I mean, y’all do know the spiritual benefits of this Sacrament, don’t you?
If there have been abuses of this Sacrament in the past, so what? Are you holding that against the sheep right in front of you? That doesn’t make sense. So, this isn’t about protecting the Sacrament, is it? No. What is it about? Clericalism of the worst kind? That’s for any priest who has such a malicious and insane policy to answer.
Meanwhile, please God, I’ll be able to take care of member of Jesus’ little flock in some hours. And then I’ll see if that policy in that parish can be changed.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta often said that we don’t need more priests. Not at all. We need good, holy priests who are close to Jesus. That’s what she used to say. I agree. Jesus is calling young men to this end.
But everyone: Go to Confession. Pray for good, holy vocations to the priesthood.
My own personal update: The trip to provide this Sacrament, with Holy Communion, was very successful. The person is now under the knife. Yesterday, when I arrived with Jesus, the person was shedding tears, saying saying that this is proof of just how much Jesus loves us. It is such a joy to be a priest, hanging around Jesus, watching Jesus at work. Truly a great joy and consolation.