“This is a fundamental part of any investigation to ensure the best possible chance of securing justice for any victim and their family.”
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 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.
“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,” he commented, calling the absense of guidelines “totally unacceptable.”
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: “If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament [of the anointing of the sick] can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the ‘viaticum’ for ‘passing over’ to eternal life.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, the lower house of the U.K. Parliament, on Oct. 19, the Catholic MP Mike Kane suggested that lawmakers pass an “Amess amendment” guaranteeing priests access to those requiring last rites.
He said: “[Amess] participated fully in the liturgy of the Church. He participated fully in the sacraments of the Church.”
“While I have the attention of those on the Front Benches [government ministers], Catholics believe that extreme unction helps guide the soul to God after death, so maybe we could come up with an Amess amendment so that no matter where it is, in a care home or at a crime scene, Members, or anybody, can receive that sacrament.”
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