'Exhausted' priest refuses to give last rites

A priest in Melbourne's northern suburbs says he refused to visit a dying patient to administer the Sacrament of the Sick because he was so exhausted that it would have been dangerous for him to drive.

The Age reports that Fr Michael Watai, a PNG-born priest of the Spiritan order, "refused point-blank" to administer last rites to a woman who died that night.

He son Jay Kemp told the paper's Religion Editor Barney Zwartz that the woman's 10 children were gathered around her bed when the priest told his sister on the phone: "I've just been given a bowl of soup. I'm going to eat it and go to bed. I'm not coming."

Mr Kemp said his sister was very distressed, and rang back to plead with him and offer money, but the priest refused.

The last rites, known as the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, is given to the seriously ill or dying to prepare them to meet God.

Fr Watae told The Age that but he had been "so exhausted that it would have been dangerous for him to drive".

"By the time they called I was totally, totally, totally drained," he said. "The lady just hung up on me when I wanted to explain."

"Normally, whoever calls I just go. Ask the parishioners here. I go all hours of the night, but that night I couldn't."

Fr Watai said he would love to meet the family and talk to them.

Melbourne Vicar-General Monsignor Les Tomlinson said the Church considers the sacrament extremely important, and if a priest is exhausted he should arrange for another priest to go.

Fr Tomlinson said it was rarer today for a priest to give the sacrament in an emergency.

"Now people tend to call the ambulance first, then the hospital chaplain does it," he said.

'Drained' priest refuses to give last rites (The Age 11/8/05)
Response to Letter of Complaint to Archbishop John Bathersby from Mr Quang van Nguyen (Archdiocese of Brisbane 9/8/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Melbourne
On the Road to the Priesthood: Fr Michael Watae CSSp
Spiritans - Holy Spirit Fathers (National Vocations Directory)

Busy priest fails to administer sacrament to dying baby (CathNews 8/8/05)

11 Aug 2005