Is cremation now accepted by the Church, as it seems so many people around this part of country are doing so?
While the Church makes clear Her preference that the body be buried, She also permits Catholics to be cremated:
Canon 1176 §3 The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.
The Catechism also notes:
And the Order of Christian Funerals states:
- The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, and the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains on the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.
In centuries past cremation was not an option likely to be chosen by Christians. Our faith and hope in the resurrection of the body made cremating the body seem strange and a counter symbol to what we believe. Over history cremation was also associated with pagan rites and rituals.
In modern times with the costs of funerals and burials skyrocketing many choose cremation simply as a more cost feasible means of burying the dead. Today it is highly unlikely that someone is choosing cremation because of an attachment to ancient pagan rituals.
The Church’s preference is still for a full body at a funeral. The body was consecrated to Christ in baptism and was a temple of the Holy Spirit and treating the body with the utmost respect is a priority. However, at the same time, the Church does not wish to impose a substantial burden on the faithful who might face hardship in trying to pay for a traditional burial.