I have a disease that needs more research. Can we donate our body to science? Do we request the remains to be cremated after they’re done and returned to the family? Can you have a funeral Mass without remains and have the Rite of Burial once they are returned?
Yes, a Catholic may donate his/her body to science. While the Church always prefers to have the funeral with the body, if that is not possible a funeral can still take place in the absence of the body with committal of the remains at a later date.
The Diocese of Davenport presents guidelines for such a situation:
IN THE ABSENCE OF THE BODY…
The funeral rites in the OCF presume the presence of the body (or cremated remains). In the absence of the body/remains, the Funeral Liturgy is celebrated as prescribed, with the following modifications:[LIST]
*]The reception of the body is not celebrated.
]The Rite of Final Commendation is not celebrated.
]Prayers that make reference to honoring or burying the body of the deceased are not used.[/list]
Donation of the Body to Science
In Iowa, it is possible to request to celebrate funeral rites prior to the body being donated. In such cases, the Vigil and Funeral Liturgy (without Commendation) is celebrated and then the body released. When the body is returned, then the Rite of Committal with Final Commendation is celebrated. However, if the body is not available, the funeral rites may be celebrated in the absence of the body as above. Provisions
should be made to ensure that the remains are returned to the family after the scientific study is concluded so that they may be properly buried. The Rite of Committal (with Final Commendation, if not celebrated earlier) is celebrated at that time.