The practice of separating graves

I think most of us would consider this story as beautiful now:

But it seems there was a time where Catholics buried Protestants separately. I assume Protestants practiced the same thing.

Though, the Catholic Church has a hierarchy that likely had a say on this sort of practice. What is the history of Catholic opinions on separating the graves of Protestants, Jews, others?

I also saw in a movie that a Priest did not want to bury a boy somewhere because he committed suicide. I don’t know the history or truth to this story, but again; was separation of certain people in graves common practice? If so, what were the reasons and why has it changed?

Hi dronald,

I assume it is the same kind of thinking whereby Catholic Churches in the South used to have to be situated outside of the towns as they were not considered to be “Christian.”

I was absolutely floored when I first moved to Northern Mississippi and discovered this! Of course it has changed now, but years ago it was normal practice. And my information came from the religious Sister who was the Lay Pastoral Minister over the Church here. (the "Sacramental Minister, or the priest, usually had to officiate in different towns on Sundays.) Unfortunately, that hasn’t changed. :nope:


A cemetery is consecrated and holy ground and historically only those who died in visible communion with the Church could be buried there. We have a parish cemetery that our bishop blessed us to allow non-Orthodox Christians to be buried on the property with the stipulation that they be separated from the Orthodox. So there will be a hedge or fence separating the two. Most of the time even that would not be allowed.

As far as I know the practice in North America is still to have separate Catholic cemeteries, or at least a separate Catholic section in a larger public cemetery. The practice has always bothered me because it smacks of elitism.

While it is true that a Catholic cemetery is consecrated ground, individual graves may also be consecrated so there doesn’t seem to be any justification for creating totally separate cemeteries.

Intentional burial may be one of the earliest detectable forms of religious practice since, it may signify a “concern for the dead that transcends daily life.” Evidence suggests that the Neanderthals were the first human species to practice burial behavior and intentionally bury their dead, doing so in shallow graves along with stone tools and animal bones. In Tibet, Sky burials return the remains to the cycle of life and acknowledge the body as “food,” a core tenet of some Buddhist practices. Later in ancient times, many of the cultures surrounding the Hebrews did not bury the dead but left them out in the elements. The Hebrews developed burial places. Even in New Testament times, Christians continued the practice of burying their dead in consecrated places. The cultures of that time burned the bodies of their dead. The Jewish people at that time had separate cemetaries. Originally the Protestants in the time of Luther and Calvin continued to bury their dead in consecrated cemetaries. But as time went on and they began to loose the understanding of The Faith and they resented the burial rites and practices of Catholics, some even burned the bodies and scattered the ashes in a kind of defiant gesture. And so those that did bury their dead established their own cemetaries.

Do you consider the practice of close communion elitist?

You do realize up until the end of the 19th century in most places, and in some places into the 20th century, here in the USA it was illegal for Catholics to have a consecrated burial plot in a public cemetery? Elitist to have a Catholic cemetery? More like necessity.

Tell me, is the public cemetery going to allow Catholic statues in them? Doubtful.

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