Catholicism and Cremation

Hello everyone,
Is there an official Catholic postition on cremation? If so, could someone briefly explain?

My mother (a lifelong Presbyterian) chose to have her body cremated when she passed away 18 years ago. My father did the same a couple of years ago when he died at the age of 91. Each of their ashes were interred in urns in the family plot at the local cemetery after a Christian funeral. Both were Christians, good people and great parents. I was lucky to have them and am grateful for their influence in my life.

Their reasons for their choosing cremation were different. They were the first loved ones of mine to ever choose cremation so I was a little confused about the propriety of the practice.

For my mother, she had lost her sister with whom she was very close a few weeks before her own death. She became offended by what she considered to be a lack of respect shown for her sister’s body by some relatives (mostly younger generation), some of whom were laughing and talking loudly in the same room ( a large room) where the casket was located at the funeral home while they were milling around after the viewing. It upset my mother very much, although she internalized it at the time. She told my father and a few others in private that she wanted to have her body cremated when she passed away to avoid becoming a spectacle when her time came. My father honored her wishes a few weeks later when she died, some say, of a broken heart (heart attack) over the loss her sister whom she loved dearly.

For my father, his reasoning for cremation was simple and straight-forward. It was more economical (he wanted to leave a bigger inheritance for his children, he said) and “If it was good enough for your mother, it’s good enough for me”.

I was just curious if cremation is permissible under Catholicism.

Your friend in Christ,
Tom

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"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"

So it sounds like both of your parents’ reasons for cremation were not against the Catholic faith, because they were not doing it to deny or denounce belief in the resurrection of the body.

HTH.

Thank you for the prompt and clear reply, CatholicRaven. My mother and father definitely believed in God and in the resurrection of the body. My father even commented a few days before his death when asked by his pastor if he was ready spiritually to go meet his Savior, he replied with a determined smile, "Yes, Bring it On’. He also stated he was looking forward to seeing my mother and others again who had gone before him in faith.

The ashes must be interred, as was done in this case, and cannot be scattered etc.

Hi Chefmomster2,
Can you elaborate on why scattering of ashes is not permissible under Catholicism? Not that I would ever do that, but I’ve known a few others who have done so, and one was even a Catholic but I don’t know how practicing she was at the time. I think she had her ashes scattered in the ocean near her favorite place where she grew up.

I believe it is possible to get special permission to scatter ashes, but I can’t say that for sure. I suggest reading here:

CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS
DIRECTORY ON POPULAR PIETY AND THE LITURGY
PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES
Vatican City December 2001

Chapter 7: Suffrage of the Dead

  1. Christian piety has always regarded burial as the model for the faithful to follow since it clearly displays how death signifies the total destruction of the body. The practice eschews meanings that can be associated with mummification or embalming or even with cremation. Burial recalls the earth from which man comes (cf. Gen 2, 6) and to which he returns (cf. Gen 3, 19; Sir 17,1), and also recalls the burial of Christ, the grain which, fallen on the earth, brought forth fruit in plenty (cf. John 12, 24).

Cremation is also a contemporary phenomenon in virtue of the changed circumstances of life. In this regard, ecclesiastical discipline states: “Christian obsequies may be conceded to those who have chosen to have their bodies cremated, provided that such choice was not motivated by anything contrary to Christian doctrine”(369). In relation to such a decision, the faithful should be exhorted not to keep the ashes of the dead in their homes, but to bury them in the usual manner, until God shall raise up those who rest in the earth, and until the sea gives up its dead (cf. Aps 20, 13).

I think your parents had sound reasons to desire cremation. My mother and both paternal grandparents chose cremation, and the rest of will do the same. For one, the cost of a funeral is criminal. We simply can’t afford it. For another, no disrespect is intended in this choice toward the deceased.

Due to issues with space availability, I do think cremation will become more acceptable to people. I have no doubt that the Lord will have no trouble with our resurrection due to cremation. I suggest you be at peace with this.

As far as I know it’s the following:

  1. Burial is preferred
  2. Cremation is allowed as long as it’s not being done in denial of the Resurrection of Christ and of the general resurrection at the end of the world (as was once a heresy).
  3. Ashes must still be buried/interred and not scattered.

Thanks, Cricket2, GangGreen and all others who helped state and explain the Catholic Church’s position on cremation. Prior to posting on this subject, I was somewhat at peace on this issue regarding my parents because I knew they were Christians and knew their hearts were in the right place but I feel even more at peace now after your explanations. Thanks again and may God richly bless each of you!

I believe it has to do with respect for the body, which was once a temple of the Holy Spirit. Even when cremated, the body must be kept together - same reason you would not cut up a corpse and bury the different parts in different graves.

My church has a small newish area for interment of cremains, as in the UK, there are fewer and fewer church graveyards which are still “open” for new burials - you’d have to find a municipal cemetery which had a Catholic area. I have already bought a plot at my church, as space is very limited! I would rather have been buried, but I know my husband wants to be cremated and (although he’s not a Catholic), the church is quite happy for us to both have our ashes interred in that plot.

I was recently diagnosed with cancer and faced an extensive surgery. In order to prepare for any eventuality and not be an undue burden on my family, I purchased a cremation niche at our local Catholic cemetery. Our motives are both financial and environmental. I might add the wife and live in full anticipation of the bodily resurrection.

                                     Ski

Ski,
I am very sorry to hear about the prognosis of cancer. May the Lord be with you and envelop you in his presence and comfort at this difficult time and see you through it.You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Here are some links to answers on this from CA’s Ask An Apologist forum.

[LIST]
*]Does the Church allow cremation?
*] Catholic Burial ground?
*] What can be done with cremains?
*] Can I bury my ashes at home?
*] Is it correct to keep the cremains of a deceased relative in your home?
[/LIST]

Thanks for the info, Church Militant. As a prayer warrior, you may also want to keep Hrvatski in your prayers unless he has any objections to that. On a related note, do you know if there is a forum where prayer requests are offered for others? I see one called ‘Prayer Intentions’. Would that be it?

I’ll take all the prayer I can get. With it I survived the surgery and with it I will survive this cancer.

Ski

We’re with you on that, Ski.

Sure there is! Prayer Intentions

St. Raphael the archangel, messenger of God’s healing, guide Ski’s doctors and his heart to always follow after the Lord God of Hosts and carry healing to him until the Lord calls him home.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Never let him be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend [size=3]him
In the hour of his death call [/size][size=3]him
And bid [/size][size=3]him come to Thee
That he may praise Thee with all Thy saints [/size]and angels
Forever and ever
Amen

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