Last rites but no Catholic funeral

If a family member received last rites shortly before death but did not have a Catholic funeral because he requested scattering of ashes, does this condemn him to burn forever in Purgatory?

No one burns forever in Purgatory. Purgatory is a temporary place. The holy souls in purgatory have already been adjudged to go to heaven and are there to be purified for a set period of time. At the end of time, Purgatory will be emptied and whoever is left in there will go to heaven.

It is not the equivalent of Hell, which is eternal.

However, this person went directly AGAINST the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church by having their ashes scattered. This is specifically prohibited to Catholics, as is keeping a small portion of the ashes separately for sentimental reasons, etc. The ashes are to be kept intact, and placed in an appropriate place (not on a mountain, or scattered at sea, etc.).

There are NO exceptions allowed for personal preference.

I hope we can assume that the priest who offered the final sacraments didn’t know this person planned to have his ashes scattered. Hopefully the man that died did not really understand Catholic teaching on the disposition of the ashes and assumed that since cremation is allowed that it didn’t matter. Further, that this person’s family who carried out his wishes also didn’t understand, and didn’t inform the priest who could have explained it to them. Whew!

If the man and his family truly didn’t know, then no one has commited a mortal sin and we can pray that the man will eventually make it to heaven. HIs family, who now know better, should go to confession for their part in these actions and rewrite their own funeral plans so that no one else’s ashes are scattered.

I agree Mrs Sally, everythig you said is right.

A very interesting and convoluted question.

Why were the ashes scattered? If the explicit reason was denial of the eventual resurrection of the body, both the deceased and the person who scatters the ashes may have sinned, depending of course on circumstances which we may be unaware (knowledge, wilful commission of the act. etc.)

On the other hand, if the ashes are to be scattered at sea because the person had a love of the sea, or over land which his family values, and there IS NO DENIAL of resurrection, then this may be considered to be ill-advised (refer to USCCB site), but not necessarily a sin.

But this will make for some interesting discussion, I’m sure.

The ashes are not to be scattered at sea – they are to be placed in a sealed container. No matter if the cremated remains are buried underground, in the sea, or in a mausoleum, they are to first be placed in a sealed vessel, no matter whether the belief in Resurrection is accepted or rejected.

I’ve been wondering about a related issue. Does the Church require a funeral?

I seem to notice that scattering of ashes is huge these days. If you hit, you will see that a significant number of Hollywood types are having ashes scattered at sea or at places they loved. It is now the in thing.

Cremation seems to be the coming trend across the board. Economics and environmental concerns are going hand in hand. Celebration of life services seem to be a popular mode of final farewell and they are a fraction of the cost of a funeral at a typical funeral home.

That gets back to my question. What are the Church’s requirements beyond proper disposition of cremains?

That is a matter of direction in the OCF: Order of Christian Funerals. There is no sin or blame that can be attributed to one who varies from these directions, as long as the resurrection of the body is NOT denied by the intent of the action. Refer to Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2301, which is the ONLY reference in the Catechism to “cremation”.

I think the main issue about cremation and the disposition of ashes is noted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: that there be no denial of the resurrection of the body. Beyond that, it may be trendy, but it is NOT the preferred method shown in the Order of Christian Funerals rite book: burial of the body is still the “preferred” Church method.

The use of cremation, in my case, will be financial: my family cannot afford the $3,000 and up for a casket and burial in ever limited and expensive grave-sites. On the other hand, a niche in a monument costs $250, and the cremation can be done for under $1000 in my area. This is not to be seen as the “best” method by the Church, but is acceptable.

Also, a funeral must be described in order to answer your question. A funeral Mass is advised, mostly to provide prayers for the deceased and family, and closure for the family, along with the celebration of Holy Communion. Why would one not wish a funeral Mass? Perhaps here, as well, financial situations might be considered. An option is the Rite of Committal at the grave-site or resting place for the cremains. An individual lay Catholic, as well as a priest or deacon, can perform this rite.

There are three parts to the possible “complete” funeral rite: Vigil, Mass or funeral without Mass, Committal. None are REQUIRED by the Church; all three are “preferred”.

I certainly want the prayers when I leave this world, but I would like to make my departure as light a burden as I can for my family. Whatever happens, I insist that it conform to Church law.

That said, if a simple service at the niche would conform to canon law, that is what I would want. The money that goes into funerals is staggering. If I can save some of that for my survivors, that is to the better. If I can save them a long farewell, that is good too.

I’d make sure your family members know you want them to actually pray for the repose of your soul at your funeral, rather than the growing trend of instant canonization at the funeral. It would appear why we have funerals has completely been lost.

That said, money should not prevent you from having a proper Catholic funeral with a vigil, Mass, and Rite of Committal. If money is an issue, churches aren’t supposed to deny you their services. Burrying the dead is one of the corporal acts of mercy. To refuse their services because you don’t have money would be a very grave sin (no pun intended.)

It isn’t the money; I simply want to give my family the lightest burden possible that falls within canon law. Once I know exactly how much I can make that easier while remaining within the requirements of the Church, I will put my request into writing.

All of my blood relatives other than my children are Protestant, so all of my family’s funerals have been in that tradition. (Yes, I am a Tiber-crosser.) It is not unusual in their practice to have the entire service at the grave. That always struck me as easier for the grieving family. If I can do anything to make that time better on my survivors, that will be a final gift.

You could pre-plan everything, make up a living will and just have your family members know who to give it to a the church. Those in charge of funerals will know what to do with it. That’s actually the lightest burden to give anyone.

=prm;7843254]If a family member received last rites shortly before death but did not have a Catholic funeral because he requested scattering of ashes, does this condemn him to burn forever in Purgatory?


This is a matter of church practice [and a very good one]; but I don’t think it has doctrinal or dogmatic foundation watch someone prove me wrong:). I’ve read CCL and most of the Councils BUT the Ol Memory ain’t what it used to be.

Either way because Mortal sin has to involve GRAVE MATTER; KNOWN IN ADVANCE;
I don’t think unless it was done despite actual knowledge that it could change the out-come of the Last Rites correctly given and received which has the same effects as BAPTISM and FULL remission of ALL sins and even the latien; payback- effects of sin inposed by God’s Devine Justice.

And If a person is not in HELL; “only” purgatory; such ALWAYS and every time will eventually attain heaven.:thumbsup:

God Bless,

no he is not responsible for actions taken after his death, although the Catholic family member who allowed this to happen have something to answer for. You do not know if his choice was made as a direct refusal to accept Catholic teaching on resurrection of the body so no one can say what the state of his soul was at the moment of death.

Dear friend,
Grief is not a bad thing; it is a natural human emotion. The Church gives funerals in part because they are therapeutic for the grieving family. God has given us sacraments that use common, earthy elements to give us metaphors to understand Him by, and He has given us funeral rites to guide us through this time.

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