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I was preparing for Catechism Class tonight on the the last things, the notes in my teachers manual say that unconscious people receive "apostolic pardon" if they get the anointing of the sick while unconscious, and should go to confession if they regain consciousness. What does that mean and how is it different from absolution that comes from the sacrament of reconciliation?

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cf. Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI Indulgentiatum Doctrina

NORMS n.18—To the faithful in danger of death who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the apostolic blessing with its attendant plenary indulgence (according to canon 468, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law) Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. To use a crucifix or cross in connection with the acquisition of this plenary indulgence is a laudable practice.

From this and other reading online, the Apostolic Blessing is [a sacramental] to grant a plenary indulgence (under the usual conditions).

Therefore absolution [via the sacraments] forgives sin and the apostolic blessing with its attendant plenary indulgence is imparted for the removal of all the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin.


Please note: "Canon 468, paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law" refers not to the current (1983) Code of Canon Law, which was not yet in force at the time of Indulgientiarum Doctrina, but to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Latin translation) which was binding at the time (the numbering of sections was changed greatly between the two Codes). In that Code, Canon 468 paragraph 2 reads:

Parocho aliive sacerdoti qui infirmis assistat, facultas est eis concedendi benedictionem apostolicam cum indulgentia plenaria in articulo mortis, secundum formam a probatis liturgicis libris traditam, quam benedictionem impertiri ne omittat.

which could be translated roughly

Any parish priest at all who cares for the sick has the power of giving the apostolic benediction with a plenary indulgence at the point of death, according to the traditional form in approved liturgical books; giving this blessing is not to be omitted.


cf.
- Apostolic Blessing with the Plenary Indulgence | iBreviary.
- Apostolic blessing at the hour of death | Rituale Romanum.


Endnote

cf. "apostolic pardon" | Wikipedia. "Apostolic Pardon" = "Apostolic Blessing with attached plenary indulgence".

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