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Is cremation an option for Catholics? January 30, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Domestic Church, error, Four Last Things, General Catholic, paganism, secularism, Society, Tradition.

Lately this subject has come up around our house, due to some unfortunate comments heard at our homeschool high school co-op (yes, reliable catechesis is a problem, if a relatively slight one, even there).  I have long felt that cremation is not something I’m at all interested in for myself or any member of my family.  But as to the broader question, whether Catholics can or should be cremated, I think the video below raises a number of good points.  Ultimately, the practice of cremation is pagan in origin and denies the great work of mercy found in burying the dead, which our Lord extols several times in Sacred Scripture.

I found this video quite by accident.  I had been dimly aware that Fr. Gruner and The Fatima Center produced these videos, but hadn’t watched one until last night, when it came up in the suggestions Youtube always puts in the sidebar while I was watching something else.  It’s a pretty good and brief synopsis of the subject.  Just take it for what it is, and keep any side-issues to a minimum:

To me, the arguments against cremation weigh strongly against any perceived benefits. Having heard some arguments in favor of cremation, I tend to reject them.  Some people believe cremation to be cheaper than burial, but much of the difference is mitigated in the need to have the remains placed in a columbarium, which ain’t terribly cheap.  You’re really not supposed to put the remains of your dear Uncle Fred on the mantle (and if I recall correctly, doing so is an abuse if not sinful?).  As to whether cremation is more sanitary, I think in the modern parlance the difference is slight.  Certainly, cremation would contribute vast amounts of greenhouse gasses, and we can’t have that!  I think the main argument against is in the history of the practice, it’s origin in pagan cults and its association with the rejection of bodily resurrection.  Even if no longer forbidden, per se‘ (and this would be yet another in a very long line of recently introduced novelties that run counter to prior practice), I tend to think it is a practice that should be avoided without a very good reason.  I’m not sure the cost difference rises to that level or not, and all the other reasons in favor of cremation I’ve seen seem to be about preference and, perhaps, what is a growing revulsion to the idea of allowing one’s body to slowly decay.  This may reflect on the cult of youth and beauty in our society, with people preferring near-obliteration to slow and natural decay.  But we should be striving to be so holy we can hope for remaining incorrupt, right?!?

As to Fr. Gruner’s rather incidental comments that Pope Paul VI may have taken some of the actions he did due to be being extorted over his personal peccadilloes, I really have no comment.  Whatever the reason, the actions were taken, and can’t be dismissed based on innuendo.


1. skeinster - January 30, 2015

Trying to stave off the inevitable is the motivator behind fancy caskets, burial liners, vaults, etc.

Like many things, cost is very variable. A Google search will turn up may less costly, green alternatives to the heavy casket. There is even an order in the mid-West that makes lovely custom wooden coffins. They’re pricey, though.

Just one point- the Church prefers burial, but recognizes the necessity of cremation sometimes. Plagues, natural disasters, etc.

Belatedly, thanks for the reminder to get our funeral instructions in order. As the only Catholic in my family, I’ve decided to enlist a funeral liason, to help them navigate any arrangements with the parish that might come up.

2. TG - January 30, 2015

Doesn’t the church say if you are cremated, the remains have to be buried? My cousin was cremated and had a Catholic funeral. His remains were buried. This is the first Catholic funeral I had ever went to with a cremated body. I’m glad you pointed out that cremation is pagan in origen. I think the Vikings burned their dead. At least I saw that in a movie. Can you tell me where in Scripture, it can be found that God doesn’t want us to get cremated? I would to use it to educate my family.

3. Louis C. Gasper - January 31, 2015

Cremation is forbidden if it is done to deny Catholic truth. Ashes may not be scattered. Aside from those rules, cremation is acceptable. My wife and I have decided on cremation because there is a columbarium in our church and we will be permanently resting near the Eucharist.

4. David - February 2, 2015

I do know cremation is less costly. My parents have done their funeral arrangements and will be buried in the family plot that my grandfather purchased. My mother tells me that up to four cremation Urns can be placed in the space occupied by one casket.

Go to the CCC that was published circa 1992. There are details concerning cremation. Ashes must be inside a sealed container and not mixed with others, and Ashes cannot be scattered. The container must be placed in a sacred space such as a cemetery, although I have heard that sea burials are acceptable as long as the urn is sealed and the remains intact.

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