Monday, July 18, 2011

Why can't young children receive Anointing of the Sick?

Nearly all priests, and even the majority of moderately catechized lay persons, know that the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick cannot be given to young children who have not yet acquired the use of reason. Such is the clear teaching of the Church: “The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger of death by reason of illness or old age.” (Canon 1004.1)
In previous articles, we have discussed whether Anointing can be given before surgery and also how sick one must be in order to receive Anointing of the Sick, we now offer a final article on why young children who have not yet reached the use of reason cannot receive this sacrament. Indeed, although most priests know this fact, it is likely that many do not understand why this is the case. In my own experience of seminary formation, I was shocked to discover that (at what is supposed to be a conservative and academically rigorous seminary) the priests on faculty entrusted with teaching the seminarians about Anointing of the Sick could not explain why this sacrament is not given to young children.
We will say this: If a priest cannot explain why Anointing of the Sick is not given to children who lack the use of reason, he has not yet come to even a most rudimentary understanding of the sacrament – such a priest really knows nothing at all about Anointing of the Sick. Conversely, a careful consideration of this question will lead us to the very heart of the sacrament of Anointing.

The primary effect of this sacrament: Spiritual healing
As we have discussed in previous articles, the sacrament of Anointing effects a spiritual healing by means of the sacramental sign of a physical healing (recalling that oil has traditionally been understood to possess a medicinal quality). And, just as it matters nothing at all if the waters of Baptism do not literally wash the body, or if the Eucharistic species does not provide any substantial physical nourishment to the body, so too it makes no difference whatsoever if the oil of Anointing not produce a physical healing of the body.
Still, if the person does not suffer from loss of bodily health (i.e. if they are in danger of death due to serious illness or old age), they are not able to receive the sacrament of Anointing. And, if physical sickness is a necessary quality in the recipient of this sacrament, how much more is spiritual sickness necessary! Unless a person be spiritually sick – unless he be weighed down by the weakness of actual sins, in particular – he is not able to receive this sacrament.
The primary effect of Anointing of the Sick is spiritual healing, therefore one who has no need of spiritual healing (i.e. one who has not sinned) has no need of this sacrament. And, since the sacraments are not to be given without effect, only those who have committed some actual sin are able to receive this sacrament.
Anointing and Confession
While it is certainly true that the sacrament of Anointing will forgive any sins which continue to weigh upon the soul of the recipient (including even mortal sins, if the man is unable to confess them), the primary spiritual healing which Anointing produces is to strengthen the individual against despair, doubt and discouragement as he faces the possibility of death and the particular judgment (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1520).
The difficulties which the individual faces as death approaches stem from the wounds which his actual sins have caused. One who has not sin has no need at all to doubt or be afraid; once his original sin is forgiven in baptism, heaven is certain until he fall again to sin. Therefore, the theologians tell us the Anointing is given to strengthen men against the “remnants” of sin and the heal the wounds which sin has caused – particularly when an individual begins to be in danger of death, special graces are needed to confirm the soul in the grace of Christ.
In this sense, Anointing of the Sick may be characterized as a quasi-completion of the sacrament of Reconciliation. The sins have already been forgiven through Confession, but the remnants of sin (which cause doubt in the soul which faces death) still remain. By a certain analogy, we may say that, as Confirmation “completes” Baptism, Anointing of the Sick “completes” Reconciliation. And, just as one who has not received Baptism cannot receive Confirmation, so too only those who have had a need for Confession (and who have at least desired to receive absolution through the sacrament of Reconciliation) can receive Anointing of the Sick.
From this, we can see why the Church has always maintained a connection between Reconciliation and Anointing. It is recommended that those who receive Anointing of the Sick receive also the sacrament of Penance, at least some time relatively close to the reception of Anointing. And, moreover, any who neglect to participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation are unfit to receive the sacrament of Anointing.
Why young children cannot receive Anointing of the Sick
It should now be quite clear why children who do not yet have the use of reason cannot receive Anointing of the Sick – since they have not committed any actual sin (and are, therefore, not spiritually sick),  they have no need of the spiritual healing. Just as the physically healthy cannot receive Anointing, so too children who are spiritually healthy cannot receive this sacrament. In other words, it is a good thing that young children cannot receive Anointing: They have not sinned!
Nor can any say that such children have need of Anointing on account of original sin, for this has already been remitted through Baptism – in this regard, the children ought to receive Confirmation rather than Anointing. Children who lack the use of reason and who are in serious danger of death should be given both Confirmation (obviously, preceded by Baptism when necessary) and even first Communion (when able).
When will Anointing of Sick cause physical healing?
Finally, we may consider a possible objection: It would seem that the sacrament should be given to young children in danger of death, because they still have need of physical healing (which is an effect of this sacrament).
In response to the objection, we reply that the physical healing which may be caused by the sacrament is not given for its own sake, but rather as a means to assist in the salvation of the individual. Thus, if the sacrament effects a physical healing of the body, it is only insofar as that healing is conducive to the spiritual healing of the soul. “The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: […] the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of [the sick person’s] soul.” (CCC 1532)
As infants and children under the age of reason who have been baptized have most certainly not committed any actual sin, it is quite certain that they have not lost the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which was given through Baptism. Therefore, their salvation is not in jeopardy and a physical healing would in no way contribute to their spiritual healing.
Here we must note a serious error in the way many persons (including priests) approach the sacrament of Anointing: Many people reduce this sacrament to a matter of bodily and psychological health. They act as though the primary purpose of the sacrament were to make the sick person feel better (both physically and psychologically). Such an approach radically distorts the nature of the sacrament, which was instituted by Christ as a means unto eternal salvation, not worldly benefit. Indeed, the naturalization of the sacrament of Anointing reveals just how secular many in the Church have become.

UPDATE: Because some have questioned whether this teaching is truly from the Church (as though the clear teaching of the current Catechism and the Code of Canon Law were not enough), I will add a citation from the Catechism of the Council of Trent: "Furthermore, all those who have not the use of reason are not fit subjects for this Sacrament; and likewise children who, HAVING COMMITTED NO SINS, do not need the Sacrament as a remedy against the remains of sin." 


Alessandro said...

Dear Reginaldus, I found this article very interesting and it made me think about the risks present-day children are exposed by the delaying of Christian Initiation (I mean Confirmation and First Communion). In fact, there may well be children who are in the age of reason far before the age they are admitted to Penance and the other sacraments to complete their initiation. The fact that the Church, in an administrative sense, doesn't value the need for a more "personal approach" in considering the maturity of a child as a candidate for Penance, Confirmation and Eucharist, may be detrimental for those children who may commit actual sins and acknowledge them because they reach the age of reason far before the established age of reason according to the use of the local church. That exposes these children to the risk of dying in actual sin (even mortal, why not?)because they are impeded to receive Penance and ultimately the Anointing of the Sick.

What do you personally think about this, Father?

Vince K said...


I thought children could actually sin, just not mortally? Re-reading the post, I guess they would have no need of the grace "to strengthen the individual against despair, doubt and discouragement as he faces the possibility of death and the particular judgment" if they have not sinned mortally. Is that correct?

But does Annointing not take away temporal punishment for venial sins? I'm sure my two year old has some temporal punishment stored up for her that needs remitting . . .

Cordelia at Catholic Phoenix said...

I recently received the Sacrament of the Sick having cancer and a pericardial effusion and needing emergency surgery to rlease the fluid around my heart. Afterwards during my two week stay in the hospital, I was totally at peace with dying if that is God's will for me. I am so grateful to my friend who called the priest to come! I can't explain how peace about dying is such a gift.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A while ago (around Pentecost), I wrote a little article arguing that the age for confirmation and communion should be at about 7years.

I very much agree with your comment ... in fact, many bishops (at least in the USA) are beginning to lower the age of confrimation and first communion ... also, we are instructed by the Church to give first confession very soon after the child manifests the ability to reason (which is generally around the age of seven).

Finally, I personally would Anoint a child of the age of 6 or 7 if he were dying ... we are to err on the side of presuming the use of reason when there is a real doubt.
So you are correct there too!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Vince K.,
I am sure your two year old has done some bad things! :) Still, these are not really sins, because such a child cannot be reflective enough to sin (neither can such a child show true love).
While discipline is still in order, this "punishment" cannot be as for a sin but is rather a means of education, teaching the child what is acceptable and what is not.

By the time a child is 7, most have acquired the use of reason and then they can sin both mortally and venially .... I am quite certain that a baptized child will usually only sin venially, especially at first.
Hence, before this age, Anointing is not needed.

Jack Quirk said...

With all due respect, Father, I must compare and contrast Canon Law, which is a human attempt to comply with Divine Law, plus your very well-reasoned argument, against Jesus' teaching: "Let the children come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of God."

I believe that as a Catholic I am required to obey Canon Law. I do not believe that I am required to agree with it. Unless it can be shown that I am required to agree with Canon Law, then I will be hard-pressed to agree with this provision.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

So, Jack,
I suppose you want us to marry little children too?
Or, perhaps we should ordain them (at least the little boys)?
Indeed, how dare the Church refuse any sacrament to a little child!

oh wait ... maybe there is another meaning to that verse ... like that all children should be baptized!

The point, which you seem to be missing completely, is that the little children have no need of the sacrament of Anointing! It would actually be offensive to anoint an infant, since this would say that the infant isn't assured of salvation! Let the little children come indeed!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

(also, the restriction of Anointing to people of have come to the use of reason is NOT A HUMAN LAW, it is divinely instituted together with the sacrament itself -- just like bread and wine are the matter of the Eucharist, so too the recipient of Anointing is a sick person who has had the use of reason ... it is beyond the control of the Church [unlike whether infants can receive the Eucharist or Confirmation, which can change according to Church Law])

Anonymous said...

What are the remnants of sin left in the person after Confession???


CM7 said...


I have a question about the below line in your article.

"As infants and children under the age of reason who have been baptized have most certainly not committed any actual sin, it is quite certain that they have not lost the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which was given through Baptism."

I tend to agree with you here and have argued many times that a person in "mortal" sin does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. The usual response I get is that once you have the Holy Spirit, via baptism, He is always there. We just suppress Him to the point that the light is not seen. How do you respond to this argument or are they correct? They also make the claim that if God did not dwell in you, then you would seize to exist, which I do agree with but don't understand the fullness of this truth. It seems like there are different levels of God's dwelling in us or sustaining us.

God bless.

Jack Quirk said...

Father, in response to your suggestion that giving children the anointing of the sick would be as ridiculous as marrying them, I can only quote paragraph 1520 of the Catechism, which says:

"A particular gift of the Holy Spirit, the first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. Furthermore, 'if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.'"

So it seems to me that forgiveness of sins is only part of what the sacrament confers. Peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with serious illness seems to be something that children could benefit from, as would be healing of the body if God so chose.

Anonymous said...

I have a question/comment... because, even though a cradle Catholic, I had never heard that children were not to partake of this sacrament. In fact, my own son, at two years old, WAS given this sacrament. He had had one kidney removed as an infant, and the remaining kidney was failing. The priest at my mother's church did the anointing at her request, and never even hinted that it was not allowed. On our very next doctor's visit after the anointing, all trace of disease was gone from that remaining kidney. Miraculously. His doctors were astounded, and could find no medical explanation for the cure. This same child is now 7 years old, and has a faith that humbles his father and I. Did Jesus not heal children as well as adults? Did the apostles not heal children, as a sign of God's power and glory? I understand that the sacrament is one of spiritual healing, but Jesus also very much provided PHYSICAL healing as a sign of His power. Not knowing "the rules" about this sacrament, was having my son annointed wrong? I would never take back the sacrament that led to his miraculous healing. It has been a witness to many over the years!!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Because the child has not the use of reason, there is no need for "strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age."

The whole point of the sacrament is spiritual healing ... and a baptized infant has no need of this.
The bodily healing is only given as a means to spiritual healing ... hence an infant would NEVER receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Michael P,
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the gift of sanctifying grace. This grace is lost through mortal sin ... and so is the indwelling of the Spirit and of the whole Trinity.

Still, God remains in us as causing our existence ... this is not "indwelling" but is God's existence in all things through power, presence, and essence.

So, on a natural level (which does not bring salvation) God is still present in and to a man in mortal sin.
But, on a supernatural level, the man is separated from God and from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Hope this helps! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (7:33pm)
In fact, your infant did not receive Anointing ... because only those who are of the age of reason are even capable of receiving the sacrament.

Still, it seems that God worked a miracle through the actions of the priest ... this does not mean that it was good for the priest to give Anointing (it was a gravely sinful action on his part), but it does prove that God wants us to know that he is with us in difficult times.
[also, I should add that priests will sometimes do a blessing with oil, and not the actual sacrament ... this does cause great confusion for the laity, and priests ought to refrain from this practice]

Thus, you are quite right to not want to "take back" the great gift that was given through the priest's prayer ... we should only wish that the priest would have used the prayers for sick children, rather than expose the sacrament to nullity.

Indeed, God is soooo good! He can make use of even an imperfect situation to bring about great miracles!
Peace to you. +

Elimu said...

that is very enriching,in fact it clearly explains CCC,1307.

Ovess said...

What about mentally disabled persons who are beyond the age of reason, but are mentally like young children?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Good question! The Church teaches that if a mentally disabled person truly lacks the use of reason, he is not to receive the sacrament -- again, he has no need for this sacrament, as he has not (and cannot) commit any actual sins.
However, if there is doubt as to whether the man has the use of reason or not, then he should receive Anointing at the proper time (as well as Confession ... though pastoral sensitivity is needed here).

Peace to you! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Someone (who claims to be a "Roman Catholic Theologian", though he lacks any approval from his bishop) has accused me of making up the idea that Anointing is for the healing of the remnants of sin ... let me explain:
1) I do not say it is only for the forgiveness of sin ... rather, it is principally for the healing of the wound left by sin even after it has been forgiven (esp. through Confession).
2) The Church is extremely clear -- Anointing is for spiritual healing, even the physical healing would only be given in order to effect a spiritual healing (cf. CCC 1532, cited in the article above). The spiritual healing is only needed for those who are spirutaly ill ... i.e. those who have committed some actual sin which, even after being forgiven, still has weakened the soul.
3) The Catechism of Trent speaks clearly to this point: "Next is Extreme Unction, which obliterates the remains of sin and invigorates the powers of the soul" (from part II, on the Sacraments in general)
Again, "When the Apostle [James] says that sins are forgiven, he ascribes to Extreme Unction the nature and efficacy of a Sacrament." (from part II, on Extreme Unction) -- here we see that Anointing is connected specifically with the healing of the wounds of sin.

Finally, and most clearly, we point to the words of the Catechism of Trent which explain why young children are not to receive this Sacrament:
"Furthermore, all those who have not the use of reason are not fit subjects for this Sacrament; and likewise children who, HAVING COMMITTED NO SINS, do not need the Sacrament as a remedy against the remains of sin."

Any so-called "Roman Catholic Theologian" should have know this, let the detractor be silent.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Related to some of the comments, I should like to point out that there are many sacraments which benefit people without any reference to sinfulness.

Hence, for example, Confirmation is not primarily about sin and the individual (even a child without the use of reason) can benefit from this sacrament ... because Confirmation isn't primarily about sin.
However, Anointing is the completion of Penance (as per the Council of Trent, Denz. 907) -- this is quite clear especially in the writings of the Church Fathers. The nature of Anointing makes it to be only for those who suffer from the wounds of actual sin (i.e. who are spiritually ill) ... it is related to Confession, which also can only be given to those who have actually sinned.

Thus, it is not as though all the sacraments are only for sinners (though, of course, without the Fall it is doubtful that any of the sacraments would have been instituted -- excepting Marriage, which would still take on a different form than Christian Marriage today) ... but Confession and Anointing have this particular characteristic, that they are for the healing of actual sins. Hence, according to the manifest teaching of the Church (from the Fathers, through the Scholastics, the Catechism and Council of Trent, and even in the current Catechism) this sacrament is reserved to those only who have committed some actual sin -- hence, young children who lack the use of reason and cannot commit any sins, are not to receive this sacrament.

I hope that this is clear.
If any theologian or priest cannot understand this simple point, he clearly knows nothing at all about the Sacrament of Anointing.

Jack Quirk said...

Father, I can only suggest that those who would say that a child would not need "strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness" hasn't been around many of them.

Now, in raising the points I do I am using the language of the Catechism, which, perhaps, renders me an unsophisticated theological thinker. Continuing in my simplicity, I quote the following words of the Catechism as to who receives the sacrament:

"1514 The Anointing of the Sick 'is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.'

1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced."

There's nothing here to indicate that an age requirement is of the essence of the sacrament, or that even the use of reason is necessary, nor can I find it anywhere else in the Catechism. I'm sure you have sources that wouldn't be known to me, who may not even qualify as an amateur theologian. I don't mean Canon Law, of course, which is changeable, but some authoritative source that shows that I have misunderstood the nature of this sacrament as it was given to us by Christ.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I am happy that you are reading the Catechism, that is great!
My argument has been based almost entirely on the Catechism ... which states very clearly that the sacrament is for spiritual healing and that physical healing is granted insofar as it is needed for spiritual healing.
The whole point of the CCC is that the sacrament is for spiritual healing ... I have provided many quotes in the article above and also in the comments.

The Catechism of Trent is even more clear ... please see my comment of 8:31am, July 19.

Also, as I have quoted from Paul VI in the previous articles, it is clear that the sacrament is only and can only be for those who have attained the use of reason.

This is the problem I have with your comments ... you are citing little pieces of the CCC, out of context. You are ignoring that the CCC is very clear that the effects of the sacrament revolve around spiritual healing. You are insisting that the sacrament can (theoretically) be given to children, even though this is contrary to the entire tradition of the Church (both in the East and the West).

Now, if you would have asked a question, I would have been very happy to discuss the points.
But, instead, you cited the Bible at me, as though I (and the Code of Canon Law, and Paul VI) are somehow refusing the "little children" whom Christ has called.
That is extremely offensive...

I do not criticize you for not being a theologian ... I don't present myself as a theologian ... I don't criticize you for not understanding the Church's teachings immediately, we all have a lot of room for growth ... I do, however, criticize you for dismissing the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of Trent, and the current Catechism ...

In particular, I think you are out of line when you suggest that the pastors of the Church don't understand children and haven't (as you said) "been around many of them" (perhaps this is a subtle shot at celibacy?) ...

In any case, you have asked for a citation from "some authoritative source" ... and I am left wondering: Is not Paul VI, the Code, the CCC, the Catechism of Trent, and the Ritual Book for Anointing enough?
I guess that there is just no pleasing some people ... especially since I have no children of my own ...

Jack Quirk said...

Well, blow me down, you're right! Here it is in the old Roman Catechism (which is still operative):

"Furthermore, all those who have not the use of reason are not fit subjects for this Sacrament; and likewise children who, having committed no sins, do not need the Sacrament as a remedy against the remains of sin. The same is true of idiots and insane persons, unless they give indications in their lucid intervals of a disposition to piety, and express a desire to be anointed. To persons who from their birth never enjoyed the use of reason this Sacrament is not to be administered; but if a sick person, while in the possession of his faculties, expresses a wish to receive Extreme Unction and afterwards becomes delirious he is to be anointed."

That's it, then, on the question at hand. Sorry, but from your original article, I thought you were defending a provision of canon law only, and I can't find anything in the CCC that says that children should not receive anointing of the sick.

I will forbear defending myself on the charges you have leveled against me, since (1) I might have incited you to them through my manner of presenting my point (you're not the first person I've irritated), and (2) they are completely beside the point.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

If we have come to a deeper understanding of this sacrament through our little debate (which, I will be the first to admit, was more harsh than it should have been), I give praise and thanks to God, and to you my brother!

I should have included the citation from the Roman Catechism (the Cathecism of Trent) in the original article ... I only refrained from doing so because some people react very negatively to that Catechism.
I am more than delighted to see that you have a love for it!

In truth, answering your comments did help me to come to a much better mode of explaining the faith; so I am greatly indebted to you for that!

God's blessings to you, and please forgive me for my quick and somewhat harsh comments.

Michelangelo said...

Hi Father,

Excellent post. I too, with my 16 years of Catholic education and thinking I had read the Vat II documents and the Catechism, didn't know that the Anointing is not to be administered to children who haven't reached the age of reason. Now, I'm being lazy, I didn't see the question answered: in the Rituale are there prayers that may be said by the priest for sick little children that are not part of the Sacrament of Anointing? Thank you and God bless you.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Yes! There are prayers and Scripture readings for sick children -- they are found in the Ritual Book "Pastoral Care of the Sick" (which is the modern ritual book for Anointing of the Sick).

Peace! +

Carlos said...

Dear Reginald,

In the Byzantine tradition, the Church offers the Mystery of Holy Anointing during the great fasts of the church. This is primarily for the spiritual healing of the christian who during the fast is at most need of this for both the health of his soul and a fortification against the assaults of the enemy. Our parish celebrates it once during the Fast of the Nativity and again during the Great Fast of Lent.

As far as reason goes, I would think if a person were comatose, the Holy Anointing could still occur. Assuming this is true, I don't see how it could be withheld from a child.

Was there ever a public celebration of the sacrament in the western church tied to any of the liturgical seasons?

- Carlos

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm not quite sure what the circumstances are in the case to which you are referring ...
Certainly, no one can validly receive Anointing of the Sick if they are not seriously ill (or suffering from old age) -- so, any notion of having everybody receive as a means of entering into the liturgical season cannot be correct.
[we should not be surprised if abuses exist in the East ... Anointing Masses are often accompanied with many many abuses in the West]

Regarding whether a comatose person can receive ... certainly yes.
Because he had the use of reason at some point, and he has committed some venial sin (which has already been forgiven, probably, but the wounds and remnants of which still remain) ... hence he will benefit greatly, even though he does not have reason at the moment.

However, young children who have NEVER had the use of reason and have never sinned "are not fit subjects" of the Sacrament (as the Roman Catechism states so well), because they suffer not from the wounds of actual sin.

Hope that helps! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I see you posted our conversation over at the Catholic Answers Forum ... there, someone brought up the example of Ellen Organ (aka Little Nellie), a very holy little girl who died at the age of 4 and receive Anointing -- she inspired (it is said) Pius X to lower the age of communion.

The person who brought that up as a counter example to my post lacks all credibility and intellectual honesty ... the whole point of Little Nellie is that she attained to the use of reason at an extremely young age (apparently by a special divine grace) ... this is why she was allowed to receive her first communion on December 6 (well before her death on Feb 2).

Far from disproving my post, the story of Little Nellie PROVES MY POINT: If little Ellen Olsen had not yet attained to the use of reason she would not have been Anointed, however precisely because she reached the use of reason at a very young age, she was given the sacrament of Anointing before her death.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Well, I don't know what is going on in particular churches, but it is clear from the Eastern Code of Canon Law, that the discipline of the Eastern Rites is the same as that of the Latin Church:


Canon 737
1. By the sacramental anointing of the sick with prayers of a priest, the Christian faithful who are gravely ill and sincerely contrite receive grace, by which, strengthened by the hope of eternal reward and absolved from sins, they are disposed to correct their lives and are helped in patiently enduring their infirmity and suffering.

and Canon 738
The Christian faithful freely receive anointing of the sick whenever they are gravely ill; pastors of souls and persons who are close to the sick are to see to it that they are supported by this sacrament at an opportune time.


They must be "gravely ill" and "sincerely contrite" ... hence, they must BOTH be physically sick and spiritually sick (i.e. have committed at least some venial sin for which they are sincerely contrite).

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