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The visible unity of the Catholic Church maintained against opposite theories (Volume 1) online

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plains it : —

ULi suiira. ' Nor let anyone be surprised tJjat, whilst the form of

tiie other sacraments either absolutely signifies what the
sacrament effects, as when we say, " I baptize thee ; " or " I
sign thee with the sig)i of the cross; "or is pronounced,
as it were, by way of conminiid, as wlien,in administering
the Sacrament of Order, it is said, " Eeceive power ; " this


form alone of Extreme Unction is accomplislied l)y a
certain prayer. For with very good reason has that been
ordained ; for since this sacrament is administered, in order
that, besides the spiritual grace whicli it imparts, it may
also restore health to the sick ; yet because it does not
always follow that the sick recover from their illness, there-
fore does the form consist of a prayer in order that we may
obtain from the goodness of God that which the virtue of
the sacrament is not wont to effect in a constant and con-
tinual order. Peculiar rites, however, are employed in the
administration of this sacrament also, but the chief part of
them contains prayers which the priest uses to obtain health
for the sick person. For there is no other sacrament which
is accomplished (coyificiahvr) with more prayers ; and with
reason, for at that time most especially are the faithful to
l)e assisted by pious prayers. Therefore also all others who
may happen to be then present, and paiticularly parish
priests, ought to pray to Grod with all their heart, and with
all earnestness to commend to the divine n.ercy the life
and salvation of the sufferer.'

In the Eoman Eitual, immediately after the order
for administering Extreme Unction, there follow the
seven penitential psalms with the litanies, under the
heading — 'For the sick, whilst they are being
anointed with the sacred oil, or for other necessity.'

I have dwelt at some lengtli on the special pro-
minence given to prayer in connection with Extreme
Unction, because it tends to explain certain passages
in wliicli its effects appear to be attributed to the
prayer, apart from the anointing. But, just as the
term ' holy oil,' which is only the matter of the
sacrament, is frequently used to express the sacra-
ment itself, without mention of the prayer which is its


essential form., so it may easily happen that the single
word oratio is likewise employed at times, as suffi-
ciently designating the whole of the Sacrament.-^ Thus
Ch. V. 15. St. James, in his Epistle, seems to use the expression
in this sense ; and the Eoman Catechism also, in
the following exhortation to faith and confidence : —

ULi supra. ' Let parish priests strive to persuade the sick man to

offer himself to the priest to be anointed, with that faith
with which of old those who were to be healed by the
Apostles were wont to offer themselves. But first there
is to be sought the salvation of the soul, then the healtli
of the body, with this adjunct, if it should be profitable for
eternal glory. Nor indeed ought the faithful to doubt,
that those holy and solemn prayers are heard by God,
which are' used by the priest, not in his own person, but
in that of the Church, and of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

Two, if not all, of the three following collects, used

after the anointiiiii, i)ray expressly for the healing of

the body : —

Rituale Romainim, ' Lord God Almighty, who hast spoken b}^ thine Apostle

Ordo Extmn. James, saying: "Is any man sick among you? let him

bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over

' In a note at p. 22G of the ' Eirenicou,' the following quotation
is given from ' a catena ' to .show, that, ' in Victor, the efficacy is
ascribed to the prayer': — 'The oil, then, wherewith one is
anointed, signifies both the mercy from God and the healing of
the disease, and the illumining of the heart. For that 2JJai/er
irorketh all is plain to evei-yone ; hut the oil is the symhol of these
thiufjs.' The passage is from the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas
Aquinas on St. Mark vi. 13, and it is there attributed to St. John
Chrysostom ; but critics say it is from Victor of Antioch. I
subjoin the original : — ' Significat autem oleum imctionis Dei
misericordiam, infirmitatis medelani, et cordis illuminationem ;
f/i/od totum (ii-alio ope rat nr.'' The word oratio is evidently here
tisod for the whole S.-ifnnnciit. The italics are my own.


him, anointing- him with oil in tlie name of the Lord, and
the prayer of faith shall save the sick man ; and the Lord
shall raise him up : and if he be in sins, the}'- shall be fur-
given him :" cure, we beseech thee, our Eedeemer, by the
grace of the Holy Spirit, the languors of this sick man ;
heal his wounds, and forgive his sins : drive out from him
all pains of mind and body, and mercifully restore to him
full health, inwardly and outwardly, that, being recovered
by the help of thy mercy, he may return to his former
duties. Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest
and reignest Grod, world without end. Amen.'

* Regard, we beseech thee, Lord, thy servant, N.
exhausted under the infirmity of his body, and revive the
soul which thou hast created ; that being amended by
chastisements, he may perceive himself to be saved by thy
remedy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.'

' holy Lord, Almighty Father, eternal God, who, bs^
infusing the grace of thy blessing into sick bodies, dost
preserve, by thy manifold goodness, the work of tliy hands,
graciously be present at the invocation of thy name, that,
delivering thy servant from sickness, and bestowing health
upon him, thou mayst raise him up by thy riglit hand,
strengthen him by thy might, defend him by thy power,
and restore him to thy Holy Church, with all desired jiro-
sperity. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.'

It is, then, evident, that the healing of the body,
when God sees lit, is prominently regarded as one
of the effects of Extreme Unction. But undoubtedly,
as with all the sacraments, its primary end is spiri-
tual ; nor can the words of St. James be restricted
to the body. It is a healing balm for all spiritual
Avounds ; a celestial cordial for all spiritual languors.
In the words of our Entrlish Catechism : — ' It com- chupiti- vi.



forts the soul in her last agony, it remits sin, and
also restores health when God sees it to be expedient.'
The Church's practice accords with her teaching.
Her working clergy could produce instances in abun-
Eirenieon, p. 219. dauce, rescmbliug the one quoted on the authority of
a Eussian Priest of a man raised up three times from
dangerous illness by means of Extreme Unction.

of the


of the


previous to


Council of Trent.

Eiren. p. 22

The Chiuxh, as may be seen above, urgently
exhorts her children not to postpone the reception
of Extreme Unction to the last moment of their
lives. But we all know how often sick men will
not own themselves in danger ; and how the false
kindness of friends conceals from them their peril,
and shrinks from calling thefr attention to the neces-
sity of preparation, whether as to their spiritual or
even their temporal concerns. Thus, if the sacra-
ments are too often delayed till the end, it is not
through the fault of the Church or of her ministers,
but it arises from the human weakness of so many of
her individual children. Nor is this reluctance to
contemplate the approach of death by any means
peculiar to Cathohcs.

The 'Eirenicon' refers to an 'abuse before the
Counril of Trent, Avhcn Extreme Unction was cus-
tomarily athninistered to those only, of whom there
was a moral certainty that they could not recover ;
and, if they should recover, it was a question whether
it ^^liould be again administered to them when they
should af^ain l)e sick.'

The 'Eirenicon' docs not imply that this abuse

posTPO^'^]^rEXT of extreme uxctiox. 1 1 7

was in any way sanctioned by authority ; but it may

be questioned how far it had become 'customary'

excepting witli the ignorant. Certainly it would he

manifestly contrary to the mind of the Church. It

may be seen above how strongly it is condemned in

the Eoman Catechism ; and tlie afore-cited decree of Hard. Acta Concii.

Pope Eugenius IV., a century before tlie Council of

Trent, expressly taught, that the proper subject for

extreme unction is ' a sick person for whose deatli

there is apprehension (de cujus morte timetur).'

But, it is undoubtedly a fact, that tlie abuse of
putting off tliis sacrament to tlie last, was too common
at one time, amongst the more ignorant of the people.
Benedict XIV. observes, that but a slight knowledge instit.Ecciesiast.
of ecclesiastical history will suffice to show, that the
evil custom of putting off Extreme Unction till tlie
very j^oint of death, arose out of a false notion
whicli pervaded Great Britain in tlie 13th century,
that a sick person who recovered after receiving it,
must afterwards lead a life of entire continence, even
if married ; and must never more eat flesh meat, or
walk with naked feet (perhaps out of respect for the
holy oil with which the feet had been anointed). He
says elsewhere that this foolish idea seized upon De Synod. Dicp^-cs.
many minds. It was productive of great evil ; leading ' ' ^'"' '^^' ''
ignorant persons to postpone, and incur a risk of alto-
gether losing, the Sacrament of Extreme Unction ; as
is stated in the decrees of the Synods of Worcester Hard. Acta Concii.
(an. 1240) and Exeter {an. 1287), both of which coi. saTanVi'iosi.
condemn the error as heresy. They speak also of



tlic twofold end of this sacrament, both for soul

and body; and the last-named Synod further enjoins

on parish priests to instruct their people that it may

lawfully be repeated. Directions against the same

Quoted i.y crror are found also in the Constitutions of Eichard,

inTo'co citato. Bishop of Sahsbury, a.d. 1217. Later, there arose a

foolisli notion, tliat no one could make a will after

Hard. Acta Concii. haviug receivcd Extreme Unction. This was con-

toni. X. col. 1746. ^ -^^ i • a -I -\r T -ir>r\<-r

demned by a l5elgian feynod, at JMalmes, a.d. 10U7.
De Synod. Dioeces. ' In our owu age,' adds Benedict XIV., ' the faithful

Ubi eupra. „ „ , . -■ . ,

are n'ee from these prejudices, but nevertheless the
enemy of man has instilled the notion into many
ignorant and uncultivated minds, that there is an end
of this life for any one who is anointed, and that the
tomb alone remains for him.' He then shows that one
effect of the sacrament is to heal the body as well as
the soul, if God sees it expedient ; and concludes : —
' Therefore the end of hfe, when he is now breathing
his last, is not to be waited for for the anointing
of the sick : for tlie sacrament does not work this
effect by way of miracle, as would be necessary
under those circumstances, but by a certain virtue —
supernatural it is true, but in some sense ordinary —
which assists the natural causes.'
Sum. Theoi. St. Autoniuus tauglit :— 'This sacrament (of Extreme

Unction), when devoutly received, increases grace,
which is the health of the soul ; nay, it also sometimes
remov^es the sickness of the body, gradually restoring
its strength, when indeed it is decreed for any one to
rf"^overfrom sickness, and if siicli l)e profitable for the

Pars. IJI. Tit. 14,
cap. viii.
He died

A.D. H.JO.


salvation of his soul, which is prinripally to be sought
for. But even if it should be decreed that they should
die, yet death is not hastened by receiving this sacra-
ment, as is thought by some foolish people. Nor
ought it to be deferred till the last, when understand-
ing and devotion are no longer possible.'

This is one with the doctrine of our own day. Prieipot. Thcoiog.
Thus, Father Perrone teaches, that, although Ex- cap. ii. 43.

-r-r . ■ r .1 • i • i T " • • Ed. 31ma Taur. et

treme Unction is tor the grievously sick alone, it is Mcdioi. 1866.

not meant that it should be postponed till tlie very

last. ' Such mode of acting,' he adds, ' is against the

mind of the church, and contrary to the secondary

end of the sacrament, which is to confer health, if

expedient to the salvation of the soul. For since

this sacrament does not produce this effect by way

of miracle, it ought not to be deferred till a miracle

may be necessary.'

Benedict XIV. says that, towards the end of tlie Thedoctrino
eleventh and early part of the twelfth century, and repetition of

, n • • xi . T^ ' . t^i'*^ Sacrament.

even later, some were 01 opuuon that iixtrcme De Synod. Diceoes.
Unction could not be repeated. On the other hand, ' ' ^"'" ^^^''
there were those who thought that it might be re-
peated even during one and the same state of danger
from illness. Sardagna, however, observes that it isThcoi. Dogm.-Poiem.

^ ... . De Extrem. Unct.

uncertain whether the repetitions in question were No. 395.
not merely ceremonial. However this may be,
Benedict XIV. states also that the usually received
and approved doctrine was that which was afterwards
infallibly confirmed by the Council of Trent — viz.



that Extreme Unction can be repeated if the sick

should recover after receiving it, on the recurrence of

' another hke danger of death.' The instruction in

De Sacramento the Eomau Pdtual interprets this by the direction,

Estremse Unctionis. , . i • i -n i

that It cannot be repeated \n the same ilmess unless

it be one of long duration, in wliich the sick person

after recovery shall relapse into danger of death.

The manner in wliich the subject was discussed by

IV. Lib. Sentent. Peter Lombard, the Master of the Sentences, shows

TJist. xxiii.

that in his day (the twelfth century) there was a de-
gree of doubt upon it (arising from a fear of dis-
respect to the sacrament). But he says that Extreme
Unction ' is repeated often in nearly all the Church
(in onini pene Ecclesid scepe repetitur).' In the
thirteenth century, St. Thomas taught precisely the
same doctrine on this point as that which the Church
confirmed at Trent in the sixteenth. He says : —

3ti;e partis Kupplp- * No Sacramental, or sacrameut which has perpetual
in'i'Lib .^Tpnt effect, ought to be repeated, because thus it would appear
ili.st. xxiii. q. ii. that the sacrament was not of sufficient efficacy for that end,
and so a wrong would be done to that sacrament. Rut a
sacrament whicli has an effect which is not perpetual, may
be repeated without wrong to it, that the effect whicli is lost
may be recovered by its repetition : and since the health
of body and mind {sanitas corporis et mentis), which are
the effects of this sacrament, may be lost after they have
been wrought by the .sacrament, therefore this sacrament
may be repeated without aii}- wrong to itself.'

Again he say.s : —

It'id. ' This sacrament does not regard the sickness alone, but

also the state of the sickness, because it ought only to be
given to those sick persons, who, according to human


judgment, appear to be drawing uear to death. For some
sicknesses are not lingering ; so that if the sacrament is
given in these cases, at the time that the person arrives
at a state when he is in danger of death, he does not
leave that state unless the sickness is cured, and so he ought
not again to be anointed : but if he should sutFcr a relapse,
it will be another attack of the sickness, and there can be
another anointing. But some sicknesses are of long dura-
tion, as hectic fevers, and dropsy, and others of this sort ;
and in such diseases the unction should only be made when
they appear to bring on danger of death ; and if the person
passes that point while the same sickness lasts, and is again
reduced to a similar state by that sickness, he can again be
anointed, because it is, as it were, another state of sickness,
although it is not simply another sickness.'

Such was llie doctrine of the Angelic Doctor ; and
it was that also of St. Bonaventure, styled the Sera-
phic Doctor, and of others ; tliree centuries before
the Council of Trent.

The ' Eirenicon ' very reasonably asks for an expla- sins remitted


nation of the dogma that Extreme Unction ' remits Extreme'unciiou
sins ; ' it beins; a sacrament for persons in a state of Eirenieon.

, , . . . • 1 • , IT- 223-227.

grace, and not being ' given to remit venial sin.
Bellarmine also is quoted to show that theologians
differ as to what is intended by ' remains of sin.'

Now the Canon defines that Extreme Unction Explanation.
remits sins, but it does not say, deadly sins ; nor
that the remission of sins, either venial or mortal, is
the primary object for which it is given. All that is
of faith is, that remission of sins is one of the effects
of Extreme Unction. There is no question thai a
conscious state of mortal fiuilt is an obstacle to its


graces. But it is conmiouly tauglit tluit it will remit
even mortal sin in one invincibly ignorant of it^ and
otherwise properly disposed ; or in one become
incapable of any moral act, provided that, at the
moment wlien he lost his mental faculties, he pos-
sessed that imperfect contrition which, under such
circumstances^ would suffice for this sacrament, but
of itself, be insufficient for justification. It is un-
necessary to discuss whether, under the pressure of
Eircn. p. 224. sickucss or mortal agony, even ' one of well-instructed
conscience ' might not be invincibly ignorant of a
state of mortal sin. For many dying pei'sons who
receive the sacraments are, unhappily, without the
habits of a well-instructed conscience.

It is true that opinions differ as to how far such

guilt appertains to the ' remains of sin,' and as to

the mode in which the sacrament of Extreme Unction

remits it ; but this difference does not regard the

De Synod. Diceces. dogina. Sucli points, saj^'S Benedict XIV., curiose

lib. viii. cap. 7. , ... . ,

niagis, qiiam utihier, investigant ScJiolastici.

The Eoman Ritual expressly refuses Extreme
Unction ' to the impenitent, to those who die in
manifest mortal sin, to the excommunicated, and to
I'ait ii. i-bap. 6. tlie unbaptized.' ' Kothing,' says the Tridentine Cate-
cliism, ' is more opposed to the grace of this sacra-
ment than tlie consciousness of any mortal sin.'
Accordingly, if possible, it is invariably preceded
l^y sacramental c(jnfession and absolution ; and, by
})rescnt custom, the Holy Eucharist is also previously
administered. But these sacraments may have been
defectively I'eceived ; the sick man nuiy have un-


consciously failed in the requisite dispositions ; or,
tlirougli cidpable iguoi'ance, or even knowingly, lie
may have concealed some mortal sin, thus adding
guilt to guilt. Or, strong temptation may have
betrayed him into some mortal sin of thought, even
after a good confession and communion. He may
have subsequently lost his reason before he has made
a sign ; but not before God's watchful mercy has
aroused him (if only through the fear of judgment)
to some degree of sorrow, together with hope of par-
don, and resolution not to sin again. In short, his
dispositions in themselves may be insufficient for
justification, but such as to become sufficient through
the grace of the sacrament. In which cases Ex-
treme Unction remits guilt, supplies defects, and
rescues the immortal soul from the jaws, as it were,
of hell.

Again, a man's reason may fail utterly, or be sus-
pended by delirium. An unforeseen accident or
sudden lit may paralyze the senses and take away
all consciousness. No confession can be made nor
wish for absolution manifested. Eternity is at the
door and mortal guilt is on the soul. But that same
grace of attrition may have been in tlie heart when the
moral action ceased ; and if God has seen it there,
Extreme Unction will remit the guilt. Such is the
case referred to, as follows, by Pope Benedict XIV. : —

' It is to be presumed of every one of the faithful, eon- De Syuo<l. I)i..v.s,
cerning whom the contrary is not manifest, that he would ^''^- ^''"" *^"'*P" ^''' '^•
have sought this sacrament if he could. All, as it seems to
us, should be furtitied with Extreme Unction, who, l)eing

ISi THE rowKii OF extheme lwction.

oppressed by the suddeu force of disease, are deprived of
their senses, and unable to signify any desire for the sacra-
ment ; and those especially whose known piety and faith
afford an evident argument of their desire, which they would
signify if they could. This practice indeed is approved by
instnut.Extr.Unct. St. Thomas, all the Ivituals, &c., &c., and St. Charles
P. 2. De Sacramentis, Borronieo. — Nay, Suarez observes that it is most neces-
'''^' ' 8 • sj^i-y to assist such a sick person, deprived of his senses
and incapable of the other sacraments, with the remedy of
Extreme Unction : "Because," he says, "one of the princi-
pal ends of this sacrament is to supply the place of the
Sacrament of Penance, either when that cannot be applied,
or when, in fact, it is not applied with sufficient utility."
On this account many theologians permit a priest to inter-
rupt mass, in order to administer Extreme Unction to a
sick person near to death, to whom no other sacrament
could be given ; because in such case, by Extreme Unc-
tion alone, if he have sufficient attrition, he can obtain
the first grace of justification, which it is possible he may
stand in need of.'

St. James V. 15. It shoulcl be obscrved, that the words of the Tri-
dentine decree, like those of St. James, are condi-
tional : — ' If lie be in sins, they sliall be forgiven him.'

Riinains of Hill. Thcolugians eonnuonly understand by the 're-
mains of sin,' in the first ])lace, the evil effects which
sins have wrought upon the soul; sucli as mental
languor, torpoi', sadness, over-anxiety, trouble ofcon-
sc;ience, blindness and deadness to spiritual things,
di-ead of the world to come, weakness and inability
to raise the mind to heaven, distrust of God, de-
sjwndency, and the like ; which are wont to oppress,
iind (li^lmb. and ener\ate the spiiit, and tempt the
soul t()des])air, especially at the jipproach of death.


St. Alphoiisiis Ligiiori says : — ' Ba])ti5m aud Pen- Thooi. MoimI.
ance differ from Extreme Unction, inasmuch as tliey Tract v. x.i. 731.
are instituted principally to blot out actual or original
sin ; but Extreme Unction (as St. Thomas teaches) is
instituted principally to remove tlie remains of sins —
namely, the debility and infirmity which remain
from actual sin ; but because the remains cannot be
removed when sin is found in the soul unless the sin
be first removed, therefore, as a consequence (eu:
consequenti), this sacrament takes away sin.'

Father Perrone explains the meaning of the term Prseieet. Theoiog.
' remains of sin,' as follows : — ' By this name is under- eaix ii' 4.5. Note '3,
stood that languor and infirmity of the mental
faculties, by which we are draAvn away from doing
right, and from tlie pursuit of virtue ; as well as that
perverse and preposterous inchnation of the will,
through which we have a propensity for vice, and
are impelled, as it were by a kind of pressiu'e, to
the gratification of our passions. But the more
hurtful this twofold affection of the mind, Avhich is
contracted from a multitude of sins, the more ought
it to be healed by a seasonable remedy ; especially
when, being afflicted by grievous disease, there
impends over us the danger of the loss of life. For
we very much fear to die ; and this fear is increased
both by the consciousness of our past life, and by
our anxiety and reflection concerning the dreadi'ul
judgment of God, shortly after to be undergone.
Therefore, lest the mind should be overwhelmed with
these fears, and that it may the rather ex[)ect death


Avitli tranquillity, it ought to be encouraged and

raised up, filled ^vitli a certain pious and holy joy,

and freed from the remains of sin.'

In lib. iv. Sent. St. Tliouias says, that, ' as baptism is a certain

Q.'i, Art. 2. spiritual regeneration, and penance a certain spiritual

3iuE partis^upp em. j.ggi^jgQ<;Qj;iQji^ go extrcmc uuctiou is a certain spiritual

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