Parents' desire to have their ashes scattered

I am aware of the Church’s teachings on the proper interment of cremains. My parents have decided to have their ashes scattered, which is clearly against our beliefs (they are both Catholic as well). Before my father passed away, I tried to explain kindly to my mom that she should look into other options. I think I basically told her at the time that the church didn’t want us to bury the dead in that manner, but I’m not sure whether I mentioned that carrrying it out would actually be against the teachings of the Church. I didn’t want to try to guilt trip her about not doing the right thing, as she was already going through a lot, but I’m wondering whether I did enough to prevent this sin. For the record, I will NOT be assisting his “burial” or whatever it is to be called…

After losing my dad today, I can’t stand the thought of having my dad’s ashes thrown off a mountain. (This is supposed to be a “respectful” way to say goodbye???) I don’t know if my guilt is warranted or if I’m just being too scrupulous about the whole thing - I mean, who else in my family is going to tell they’re committing a grave sin? Probably no one but me…

I know this won’t go over well on this forum, but the Church prefers burial of the remains, but does not require it. Check this article concerning the Bishops in Italy :

It may not be what you prefer, and may not even be what the Church prefers, but your father used the free will given to him by God to make his decision. I personally don’t believe you should try to subvert that decision now.

The Church objection to scattering of ashes has to do with more with motive than method. Scattering was once used as a protest or defiance of the Church. While I have seen several quotes from Church teaching saying there is a preference for burial, I’ve yet to see it “required”.

But to me, the bottom line is simple. God gave your father a Free Will. Your father made a choice. The forth commandment says the rest…

God bless and my condolences for your lose.

That may be the position of some bishops but it is NOT the position of the Church.
It is forbidden for Catholics to have their ashes scattered.

You misunderstand the “recommendation for burial”. That means it is recommended the body be buried without being cremated but that the Church does allow cremation if the motive is not a rejection of the belief in the resurrection of the body. However, if cremation is chosen then the ashes are not to be scattered and not to be kept in urns at home. The ashes are to be placed in a suitable container and interred in appropriate places in the ground or at cemeteries for those cremated.

While I don’t agree with scattering ashes, and I really don’t like the whole cremation thing anyway, you have to respect the wishes of the deceased. My parents both wanted to be cremated and while they were alive, I would ask them occassionally why? They didn’t really have an answer, but as death loomed, I asked them if they were sure about the cremation thing and they said yes. The are interred in a beautiful marble mauseleum called Graceland about a half hour away. You really should respect their wishes even if you disagree with them. Honor thy Mother and Father.

Yes, this is entirely correct. There is a document on Christian Burial, but I don’t have a link available this morning. A very good read on the subject; it may be available on the CAF or the Vatican website.

It is abhorrent to think you would try to subvert your father’s wishes.

The scattering of ashes may be against RCC teachings, but so is the disrespect of your parents.

Respect his wishes.

I’m sorry you are facing this dilemma. I faced this with my in-laws, who aren’t Catholic and wished to have their ashes scattered, which they were. In the years since, we’ve come to grieve over the fact that there is no grave or niche where we can go and pay respects to them and “visit” them in the sense of being with their remains.

I don’t understand how I managed to disrespect my parents (???) I simply explained to my mother what the Church teaches about the subject and that I would not be able to scatter the ashes with my family. Would it not have been a sin for me to withhold that information from them as they most likely did not know that it is a sin? I spoke kindly and tacitly with her and did not show any disrespect. Not to be rude, but unless you were standing right next to me when I spoke to her, you cannot judge that I disrespected them. We began our conversation about his final wishes, and at the end she asked me how I felt about the whole thing. As much as it was difficult to share, I felt as though my conscience would continue eating away at me unless I spoke to her. I did what I THOUGHT was best, if I messed up, that’s between me and God anyway, but please I don’t need any guilt above what I have already. I have enough sadness as it is!

What is abhorrent is urging someone to violate Church teaching and Law in the name of “honoring” parents. The parent can be honored, their wishes that violate Church teaching cannot.

If a father’s wish (while alive) was to skip Mass and play golf-- that must be “subverted” (in that it cannot be condoned, supported, or participated in) because it violates Church teaching and is gravely wrong.

The son in question cannot violate Church teaching and his own conscience in order to “honor” these types of wishes.

Since the son has indicated he will not have authority over the ashes, all he can do is lovingly inform his mother of Church teaching, and lovingly encourage her to do what is right. He cannot force her to do so.

If the day comes that he is in authority over someone’s remains, he cannot “honor” such a request nor participate in it.

I hope you are joking because urging someone to ignore a Church teaching is in itself a sin.

They made the decision. They’ll answer to God for it.

Don’t worry about it. Pray for them.

Using this logic, if a parent told his son to have sex with his daughter, the daughter and son should respect his wishes? We have to be careful of the implictions of our logic.

That comparison doesn’t work, because cremation and scattering are not illegal.

You cannot make religious choices for someone else. God will know what was in his heart. That you subvert his wishes does no good. You can prevent them from breaking the law and harming others.

His ashes are his possession. This is his final wish. To do otherwise than to follow his wishes is tantamount to stealing. And it certainly opens you up for a civil lawsuit if anyone decides to pursue it. The courts are not going to look kindly on disposing of someone’s remains in a way that goes against their wishes.

In order to prevent what you consider to be his sin, you will commit sin.

A Catholic can not scatter the human remains of someone else. We are to treat human remains with same deep reverence the Church has for the body as a place where the soul has resided. A Catholic is not permitted to disrespect the human remains or Church teaching. It is ridiculous that you would accuse this person of committing sin by not doing something sinful just because someone else wanted it done.

Please look into the laws in one’s particular state before deciding how the courts will view this. I thought I was told laws about this sort of thing vary by state. But that was a number of years ago, at least more than 10.

So civil illegality is the yardstick by which we should measure the morality of following or not a parent’s wishes?

OK, let’s choose something legal. A parent tells his adult son to cut off all communications with his adult sister because of (make up some weird reason here).

So by your logic, the son should follow the parent’s wishes or else it’s sinful?

The courts are not also going to look kindly on someone illegally scattering human remains; such scattering of ashes is not uniformly legal throughout the US. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that wherever dad wanted his ashes scattered, it is legal to do so.

OP, how soon is this “scattering” to take place? Is there any way you can delay it from happening for the time being, maybe give the family some time to grieve and give you the opportunity to talk to your mom again about this situation and what the Church teaches?

My take on this is the same as when Miss Bonnie and I were discussing my own arrangements (which are not for any time in the near future). I said words to the effect that 1) my survivors are going to do what they want to (fortunately, none of my survivors are the type to chop my remains up and feed them to the alligators), and 2) I am going to be beyond caring one way or the other (meaning that I am going to beyond any earthly cares). If my survivors choose to violate either my wishes or Church teachings, that’s on them, not me. If my wishes were to be against Church teachings, and my survivors chose to ignore my wishes in favor of the Churches teachings, good on them.

With regard to the poster who vehemently advised following the deceased’s wishes in contravention of Church teachings… :nope: Given the choice to obey man (even parents) over obeying God, it is always better to obey God, even if that means disobeying parents.


If you are a Catholic, you must follow the teachings of the Church in this matter. It is out of a false sense of respect or honor that someone would do what his parents wish in opposition to the Church.

I know you have good motives, and you want to do what is right, but if it is possible, you should do what is right, not what is requested.

I wish you the best, I’m sure your situation is difficult, and I hope you come to the right decision.

It is not disrespectful to do what is right, even in the face of your parents orders. Obedience to God, His Church, and the truth comes before anything else.

This is the same dilemma faced by soldiers who are ordered to do something evil. The consequences of disobeying that order can be severe, but at least that soldier’s soul would be free from that sin.

Would someone in this thread that is stating that scattering ashes is a violation of Church law please provide a link to the portion of the Catechism where it is stated this is forbidden? I have yet to see that link.

Thank you and God Bless

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