Can ashes be scattered or separated

All -

Please help.

This is a question about whether or not the remains after cremation (cremains) can be scattered and/or separated?

These threads suggest that the cremains MAY NOT BE scattered…

…alternately, these articles suggest that the cremains MAY BE scattered…

…so what is the truth as of now?

At least one friend I know wants to take some cremains for a crucifix to keep on his/her neck and also perhaps keeps some on the mantle and also scatter some at sea and also bury some in his/her garden and also bury some next to the deceased’s mother. While, none of this would be done for pantheistic or other non-Catholic intentions; but, I still think the ashes need to stay together and be buried in 1 place (at home, in a cemetary, or other appropriate place) but need the Church documents to back up this position, etc.

(Please, I urgently need direct references to official Church teaching on this in order to help keep from having an issue in our family regarding this matter.)

Please advise.

Thank you.

Slave To The Virgin Mary, I am yours…

  • Mark Kamoski

Ashes may NOT be scattered or seperated!!!

This from the Order of Christian Funerals (OCF):

“The Church’s belief in the sacredness of the human body and the resurrection of the dead has traditionally found expression in the care taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for burial.”(OCF 411)
“This is the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. This is the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing. Indeed, the human body is so inextricably associated with the human person that it is hard to think of a human person apart from his or her body. Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God.” (OCF 412)
Thus, while “cremation is now permitted, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body…The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in its rites.” (OCF 413) However, “when extraordinary circumstances make the cremation of a body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised by all who minister to the family of the deceased.” (OCF 414)

The rites for burial of the cremated remains of a body may be found in the appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals. This appendix recommends that when cremation is chosen, the body be cremated after the Funeral, thus allowing for the presence of the body at the Funeral Mass. When pastoral circumstances require it, however, cremation and committal may take place even before the Funeral liturgy.

Any catechesis on the subject of cremation should emphasize that “the cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition.” (OCF 416) While cremated remains may be buried in a grave, entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium or even buried at sea, "the practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (OCF 416) The remains of the body may be properly buried at sea in the urn, coffin or other container in which they have been carried to the place of committal (emphasis added)

The Order of Christian Funerals was promulgated in Latin in 1969 and given as the only form to be used at Catholic funerals after June 1, 1970. It was mandated for use in the United States in the English edition as of October 1, 1989

In short the answer is no.

The Church has strong feelings about the fact that this body has been a temple of the Holy Spirit and requires a proper burial as a result.

thanks to above poster.

I actually just learned this recently.

…and if ashes cannot be scattered then how does that sync with the practice of relics, etc?

…perhaps because relics are expressly handled with deep veneration it makes it OK to move the remains around and keep them in a non-buried state?

(Just curious.)

SMOM has given you the official documents on the scattering.

The links you posted in the OP don’t say anything about scattering being allowed. They simply said that a Bishop made a statement that IF a person’s family wants to scatter the cremains and IF the priest conducting the funeral is aware of this, that is not a sufficient reason to deny a Catholic funeral.

Anyone know the “why” behind this? I don’t understand why a person’s ashes couldn’t be spread if that’s what they wanted done with them…

Although I understand the verneration of relics, and my wife actually has about a dozen reliquaries in our living room on a special shelf, I must admit that the practice has always given me the creeps. I guess I just don’t understand it. Therefore I will pass on this one.

It is an excellent question though.

I have always wondered about this too.

It may be because when someone holy dies, they are first given a Christian burial. First class relics are typically obtained only when a body is exhumed, usually as part of an examination or reburial along the way to canonization.

That’s just a guess on my part.

Contrary to popular notions, our bodies are not “ours” to do with as we please. We belong to God. (Evangelium Vitae)

Cremation and the scattering of ashes is a denial of the sacredness of the vessel which held the life bestowed by God, and visibly demonstrates a denial of faith in the final resurrection of the body, as we pray in the Creed.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2300 The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy;92 it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.
2301 Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious. ***The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.******93 ***

I am aware that are bodies and souls belong to God. I wasn’t suggesting otherwise. The act itself of scattering of the ashes wouldn’t be denying the resurrection, God doesn’t need a whole body to perform a ressurection, there are bodies that are completely decomposed already that will still be resurrected when the time comes… Not to mention that one can bury their body whole and still deny the resurrection if they don’t believe in it. If relics can be taken, organs can be taken, and the bodies of the incurruptables torn to pieces to display then why would the ashes being scattered matter?

I am sorry my explanation and citation to Church teaching is unsatisfactory to you. However, the Church simply disagrees with your view that “[t]he act itself of scattering of the ashes wouldn’t be denying the resurrection.” And, maybe more to the point, as I said: " Cremation and the scattering of ashes is a denial of the sacredness of the vessel which held the life bestowed by God."

As for “the bodies of the incurruptables torn to pieces to display”, I gotta admit I think you have a point. Give me the creeps.

The difference in scattering and the removal of relics is that, after being scattered, the person’s body cannot be respected (just as you would in visiting a gravesite), while a relic (a small part of a body or the complete remains of the person, buried or cremated) are always available for veneration.

In other words, if a person’s ashes were scattered on a beach, the body doesn’t have a focal point one can visit. Every bit of the body is lost among the sands and the sea.

If we have a body (even a tiny bit of it), and give it the respect a body is due, then we are able to pay our respects. A relic is a focal point, but it comes from the larger focus of the body where it is entombed.

While God will resurrect a body in any state, it is up to us to treat that body with the integrity it will earn at the end of time. The world itself is not a temple and so a body cannot be scattered about until its main focal point cannot be identified.

I don’t understand your statement about the bodies of incorruptables being “torn to pieces.” A canonized body of an incorruptable is treated with respect and often left whole. It may be that, in older times, some parts of a body that were separated are placed in veneration–but again, that is the point. You cannot venerate a beach where ashes were. You venerate the person, even if only a tiny bit. But there should still be a larger bit of that person in a respectful place somewhere as well.

To dump ashes randomly is not respectful of the body. To place ashes in an urn and to bury it or entomb it is OK. To remove a small amount from either said place is also respectful for veneration, especially in the formal processes of beatification and canonization.

Well said. Thank you. That helps.

I aslo didn’t see in the Catechism quotes that you supplied that it is not allowed. It simply said that creamation was allowed as long as it was not a denial of the resurrection. I know someone posted a link earlier, but I haven’t had the the chance to read it since my broadband card is messing up on me :mad: I’m sure there is a reason if the Church does teach that way, so far there have been good, reasonable explinations of all the Church teachings that I’ve studied.

Go to my first post above, where I cite the Order of Christian Funerals. In the highlighted portion you can see where it prohibits the scattering. Some explanation is provided as well in the prior provisions of the OCF which I provide.

Those are good points and a good explination, thank you :slight_smile: Maybe my verbage was a little strong when I said “torn apart” I was really just referring to when the bodies were split apart. Anyone have any other sources? I’m still a little curious, though this explination makes a lot of sense:D

History shows that many bodies of the venerated were partially disassembled in older times. Today that’s not customary but, back then, the significance of the holiness of a body was recognized, thus, the occasional partial disassembly. It’s like the anecdotal stories of 1960’s rock stars and zealous fans trying to tear parts of their clothing off, to have something of them. Today, we just get autographs or a photo.

You might appreciate this article on FishEaters, which tells more on the nature and disposition of relics, lists some saints and where their relics may be, including if there are more than one location where relics reside. It also goes into detail on incorruptability.

The funeral and cemetary industry has got to love this thread.

Given the changes in practices over the centuries, edicts by the church, and sometimes revisionist interpretation of intent, I must admit to confusion and some degree of disagreement with the scattering issue as long as the situation does not demonstrate a denail of faith in the resurrection of the body.93

We have bits of the venerated scattered all over Europe. According to current catechism, they are in a heap of trouble.

Must admit, I need to study this more.

The Church teaches that the deceased must be afforded dignity, and if we do not scatter corpses around the meadows or dump bodies into the sea (when land burial is otherwise available) then we do not likewise scatter cremains.

Just because someone asks for something does not mean that Catholics are obligated to provide it. We need to always follow what Christ asks of us, through His Church.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit