Continued from Page One person could not only pray with them and pray over them, but could pray the Church's most solemn prayers over them with sacramental anointing? Certainly no individual can simply take that initiative by himself/herself and act against the present discipline of the Church: that would not be a sacrainental act," the 71-yearold bishop wrote.
"But could not the universal Church together reflect on the possibility that a lay person might administer this sacrament, a wonderful focus of their already most welcome ministration of charity to one who needs to be 'raised up'?"
Lay administration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are forbidden under canon law. Canon 965 states that "only a priest is the minister of the sacrament of penance" and canon 1003 rules that "every priest, but only a priest, can validly administer the anointing of the sick". But Bishop Malone insisted that his reflections were not meant to provoke disobedience among the faithful. "Such thoughts are not intended as an incitement to rebellion; rather they are a quiet reflection on what is meant by healing priesthood," he wrote.
A prominent Catholic lay woman, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's not a parallel with ordinary medical doctors. There when people want a woman it may be a certain pudency about their body. But the priest is standing in persona Christi, whereas a woman isn't no matter how sympathetic she is."
An ordained Catholic theologian commented: "The theol
ogy of it is unsound. Women cannot exercise priestly ministry in the Church, because they are not capable of receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
"It's not that the Church won't do it; she does not have the power to do it."
Darton, Longman and Todd, publisher of Healing Priesthood: Women's Voices Worldwide, describes the book as a "critically engaged collection of essays and comment". it is co-edited by Angela Perkins, development officer of the NBCW, and Verena Wright.