The Church helps to prepare Catholics for death by offering them the sacraments of reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, and viaticum (Holy Communion.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of ‘passing over’ to the Father, has a particular significance and importance.”
The journalist Melanie McDonagh criticized the police’s decision not to admit Woolnough to the crime scene.
“The most troubling element of the [Essex Police] statement is that the police wanted to ‘allow the emergency services to tend to those in need.’ A priest is an emergency service,” she wrote in the British weekly The Spectator on Oct. 16.
“In the case of Sir David, the priest was someone who could help see him into the next world, not just keep him in this one. You don’t have to share a belief in the efficacy of confession to go along with this; you just need a very elementary knowledge of and respect for the faith to refrain from standing between a confessor and a dying man.”
Writing in the Telegraph newspaper on Oct. 18, the journalist Tim Stanley noted that according to the College of Policing, a professional body for the police in England and Wales, there is no national guidance on priests administering the last rites.
He wrote: “The lack of a national policy on the last rites implies that whether or not a priest gets access to a dying person might depend upon circumstances (understandable, because one doesn’t want to impede the police from doing their job) — or else, which is far less forgivable, upon the religious literacy of the individual officer on duty.”
MPs are due to gather in the House of Commons on Monday to pay their respects to Sir David, who served in the House for 38 years.
The 69-year-old Conservative MP established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See in 2006 and played a crucial role in organizing Benedict XVI’s landmark visit to Parliament in 2010.
In a tribute on Oct. 15, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that the pro-life politician “carried out his vocation as a Catholic in public life with generosity and integrity.”
Bishop Alan Williams of Brentwood, the diocese that covers the county of Essex, noted that the MP “had a deep Catholic Christian faith which expressed itself in great generosity and kindness to those he served in the wider community of Essex and East London.”
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“I experienced firsthand his friendliness, goodness, and concern for others; he was a very fine man who gave himself wholeheartedly to public life,” he said in an Oct. 15 statement.
“The manner of his dying is utterly shocking and I ask all members of the diocese to pray for Sir David and all those who will be affected by his sudden and painful absence in our lives.”