Sacred sexual touch: illness, sexual bodies and sacramental anointing in rural Bidayuh villages

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Although the sacrament of anointing has undergone a major shift in focus from the dying to the sick after Vatican II, the official ritual maintains that its administration necessitates an ordained minister. This exclusive prerogative, coupled with the number of priests that is disproportionate to an increasing growth of baptized laity, underscores the reality that anointing lies beyond the attainability of many of the ailing. This is particularly evident in certain Roman Catholic communities of Malaysia. This article aims to queer sacramental anointing through a hermeneutics of body and sexual theologies by focusing on touch and presence, and a widening of boundaries beyond its exclusive presbyterial administration. Based on my ministerial experiences with the indigenous Bidayuh Catholics in the villages under the Archdiocese of Kuching in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, I propose an alternative paradigm of anointing that focuses on embodiment through the act of touching by familiar hands, and which privileges the presence of the family members and friends of the ill.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42 - 52
Number of pages11
JournalRural Theology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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