The sick must be anointed in good time
SIR – Melanie McDonagh’s mother (Charterhouse, August 30) is blessed with a priest whose pastoral care for the dying is consistent with Catholic doctrine and canon law; other people are not so blessed. I knew a priest whose criteria for visiting and anointing the sick were more exclusive than, even contrary to, those of the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives clear instruction on the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, its benefits and administration; and canon law insists that “All priests to whom has been entrusted the care of souls, have the obligation and right to administer the anointing of the sick to those of the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care.” The Catechism says unequivocally that the sacrament is not to be kept for the moment of death.
This is not new teaching. In a 1948 instruction, Fr JP Arendzen convincingly dismisses objections to administering the sacrament early. (The sacrament was then called Extreme Unction.) He says that the delay in administration until death is near or almost inevitable, is “a lamentable abuse”. He quotes the contemporary Catechism: “It is a very grievous sin to defer the Holy Unction until, all hope of recovery now being lost, life begins to ebb and the sick person is fast verging into a state of insensibility” (Catechism of the Council of Trent).
The Church’s instructions on the Anointing of the Sick ought to be taught to all Catholics and obeyed by all priests.
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
No tears shed for the dictator Mugabe
SIR – I am very happy that Robert Mugabe has passed on. For 37 years Zimbabweans, including me, endured his dictatorship and brutal rule. We suffered many hardships, more than the vast hell can accommodate. His brutality will almost never be forgotten.
As a result of his misrule many Zimbabweans fled the country to seek asylum and better economic conditions – to South Africa, Namibia, Britain, the United States and Australia, putting a huge strain on these host countries.
It is disappointing that Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government failed to revive the fortunes of this resourceful country. Instead, human rights abuses have increased, and the economy of the country is further declining. The international voice should put pressure on him to democratically change the country, reform the judicial system and revive the economy to prevent the further exodus of Zimbabweans.
SIR – Allow me to comment on the item regarding the Communal First Saturdays devotion (Britain news analysis, August 30), which asserts that Pope St John Paul II consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart.
In September 1985, 18 months after the 1984 consecration, Sister Lucia was asked this question: “Has he [John Paul II] not, therefore, done what was requested at Tuy [the Spanish town where she witnessed a Marian apparition in 1929]?” Here is her answer: “There was no participation of all the bishops and there was no mention of Russia.”
But how could Sister Lucia have said otherwise? Let’s apply our common sense to this. In order to consecrate something you really do have to mention it. And so what we are being asked to believe is that Russia was mentioned in a ceremony that makes no mention of Russia. It’s that absurd – and Sister Lucia was not going to accept that absurdity.
Why did John Paul II not mention Russia ? We have the answer to that question from a highly placed Vatican source: “Rome fears that the Russian Orthodox might regard it as an offence if Rome were to make specific mention of Russia in such a prayer, as if Russia especially is in need of help when the whole world, including the post-Christian West, faces profound problems.”
This was reported in Inside the Vatican in November 2000 as the statement of one of “the Pope’s closest advisers”. It was, in fact Cardinal Tomko. This, then, is the advice the pope was given.
The so-called consecration of Russia has been affirmed many times before now. That does not acquit us of the onus of presenting the truth of what actually took place.
SIR – Responding to Jackie Wilkinson (Letter, August 16), whose conversion is commendable, I object to the both/and defence regarding the Extraordinary Form versus the Ordinary Form.
I urge everybody to compare the following in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form:
1) The prayers from the beginning through the Kyrie;
2) The lectionary on ordinary festal – not ferial – days, in its basic structure;
3) The offertory prayers;
4) The secrets and prefaces versus the new prefaces.
These parts of Holy Mass had the same arrangement and prayers – excepting later propers – for almost 500 years, and were similar perhaps 400 or more years longer. Their suitability was vouched for by the Church and Her saints for centuries. In 1970, they were changed beyond recognition.
Substantial changes to the immemorial practice of the Roman Rite were made without certainty that they were improvements. Comparing them honestly, can any person say with reasonable certainty that these are even equally as fitting as the old forms, let alone improvements?
I lack humility, but I can ask: how are such changes not an act of monumental arrogance? Are we not guilty of the same arrogance, who, still uncertain that these are improvements, blithely say it was acceptable, even for a Pope and Saint and Council, to treat the received liturgy of the Church in such an arbitrary manner, and then do the same ourselves? Why not undo this mistake, which, unlike many others, we can?
Dix Hills, New York
SIR – Discussion of the Real Presence in your letters pages has overlooked the significance of the Resurrection.
Christ is not merely symbolically present or spiritually with us as a dead Christ would be, but he is alive, risen and fully present bodily in the world. In Communion we receive Christ in all his risen fullness, body and blood, soul and divinity.
Thus to deny that Christ is bodily present in the Eucharist is to fail to see the significance of the Resurrection.
Stretford, Greater Manchester
SIR – Judging from the trailer of The Two Popes, Anthony Hopkins is a good fit for Benedict XVI. But it’s a pity that we never got to see the supremely talented Bruno Ganz in the role. He might have been even more convicing.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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