Can a divorced person be denied a Catholic burial?

My friend is 65 and finds himself single. He was told by his priest that he cannot be buried in his church that he attends since he is divorced. He wants to be buried in the family plot which is on church property. Is this catholic teaching? His church is happy to take his tithe but refuses to let him be buried with the rest of his family.

Assuming that your friend has not misunderstood his pastor, we should note that every Catholic has a right to a Church funeral except:

Can. 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:
1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

§2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.

It would appear that your friend’s pastor is assuming that condition number 3 applies to the divorced. It does not, divorce alone does not make someone a notorious sinner since there can be legitimate reasons for divorce.

Even if he is currently remarried in a civil marriage not recognized by the Church condition number 3 still wouldn’t normally be considered to apply because not only does the person have to be a manifest sinner but granting their funeral would have to cause a scandal. This is rarely the case with an irregular marriage, as the commentary on canon 1184 notes:

Not included [in condition number 3] are persons in irregular marriages or persons who commit suicide. Since deprivation of a church funeral not infrequently causes as much if not more scandal than granting it, it would be prudent to refer any such case to the local ordinary.

Your friend should first try and be sure he understand the pastor correctly. If the pastor really and truly is saying that he cannot receive a Catholic burial then he should contact the Bishop’s office and determine if the Bishop agrees with that decision.

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