Saint's relics in alters Immoral?

So, I’ve had a question rolling around in my head, and I thought I’d ask on here.

It is my understanding (and please, correct me if I’m wrong) that in order for an alter to be considered valid, it must contain a relic from a saint. Often times, this relic was a piece of bone or other body part.

It is also my understanding that as Catholics, we are obligated to be buried as a whole and not scattered as ash or anything like that.

So, this raises the question, since we are obligated to be buried as a whole, or, as whole as is possible, but we require relics from saints in order to form our altars, doesn’t that mean that we are preventing the saints from being buried intact, and therefor committing a sin?

Sorry if this is completely unfounded, I’m not entirely sure where I heard this about the relics. If I’m wrong, please let me know; but if I’m right, can someone please explain this?

Thanks you and God bless!

Relics are encouraged, but not required, in the altar stone.

Relics may also be kept in reliquaries.


Remains are to be interred, yes, as are ashes. You are conflating scattering of ashes and remains. The tradition of distributing relics is not the same thing as “scattering” the remains.

This is where you are mistaken.

So, think about what you have just proposed-- the Church encouraging a sin. No, that is not possible.

Here is an article on relics:

That’s why I was confused. My mind was telling me it was a sin, but logically that didn’t make sense because the church wouldn’t encourage a sin. Hence, I felt the need to ask ^^

Thank you very much for clearing that up!

We believe as Catholics that scattering ashes is disrespectful to the body. Using a part of the body for something so wonderful as a relic is encouraged. There is not a requirement or rule that states that the body must be buried whole. Also take note that Catholics are allowed to be an organ donor. In that case a person also would not be buried whole.

Blessed Pope John Paul II encouraged ethical organ donation:

The Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope (Evangelium Vitae, no. 86).

Quote from “Relics”
(IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827 permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004)

Keep in mind what the Church says about relics. It doesn’t say there is some magical power in them. There is nothing in the relic itself, whether a bone of the apostle Peter or water from Lourdes, that has any curative ability. The Church just says that relics may be the occasion of God’s miracles, and in this the Church follows Scripture.

The use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life: “So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:20-21). This is an unequivocal biblical example of a miracle being performed by God through contact with the relics of a saint!

Hope this helps…

This might shed some light on Catholic Relics:
Scroll down to chapter 15.

I read that several years ago and it really helped me see just how important relics really are to us.

Our church was built seven years ago before I came to the parish. I asked our priest if there were relics in our altar. He said, “We don’t do that anymore.”

I went home and searched the internet and found one church being refurbished in the mid-West that was receiving ancient relics from Rome for their altar and the beautiful bells from a church that had been closed. Another story told of a new Benedictine monastery being built in the West that would be placing relics in their altar stone, in an altar where the Mass would be celebrated Ad Orientum.

Thank you for all the help everyone, I understand where the flaw in my reasoning was. ^^

Well, that’s just erroneous. Perhaps they tried really hard and it was impossible to obtain the relic, but otherwise we still “do that”:

The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302)

The tradition in the Roman liturgy of placing relics of martyrs or other saints beneath the altar should be preserved, if possible. (Ceremonial of Bishops No. 866)

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