Who should give the Last Rites?
At 1:45 a.m. my mother became seriously ill and the hospital doctor said she was dying and needed a priest. We phoned our parish priest who refused to come. In desperation we phoned our former parish priest who came, although he said it was his policy not to perform sacraments in other parishes. May only priests anoint the sick? May a priest refuse to give the last rites? May he refuse to do a funeral? Must he be paid in advance?
The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is conferred with sacred oil and pronouncing the prescribed liturgical words. It asks Our Lord, who suffered and was glorified, to strengthen, support and save the sick person. Only a priest can validly administer this sacrament.
According to Canon Law priests having the care of souls have the right and the duty to administer this sacrament to those entrusted to their pastoral care.
A priest may refuse to administer the anointing if a sick person does not want it or clearly is not sorry for grave sin; also, if it is certain that the person has died. But when there is doubt, the priest should peform the rite. If there is an appointed hospital chaplain, it is he who is called to anoint the sick. If the chaplain is not a priest, then the obligation normally falls on the parish priest in whose area the hospital is situated. In the case you mention the appropriate priest was not entitled to refuse unless he was seriously impeded from doing so. The parish priest is responsible for the administration of all sacraments within his parish, so it would be unusual for a priest from another parish to anoint without the consent of the responsible priest.
However, Canon Law specifically allows another priest to administer the anointing for a reasonable cause and with at least the presumed permission of the responsible priest. In this case your former parish priest acted correctly. A priest will not usually refuse to perform funerals in his parish but there may be circumstances when another priest, deacon or lay person can do so instead.
A voluntary offering to the minister may be made directly, but it is normal for the undertaker to include the minister’s fee with the overall funeral costs. Under no circumstances may a priest perform a funeral only on condition that he is paid for it.