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“Cremation is condemned by the Church as being an abominable abuse” June 24, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, episcopate, error, family, foolishness, Four Last Things, General Catholic, paganism, pr stunts, Society, Tradition, Virtue.

If it was belief fit to be included in an 1899 Catechism, how can the opposite be true today?  Or is cremation simply yet another one of those many areas where a doctrine remains “on the books,” but few bishops or priests know it or enforce it?  And, hey, columbaria are a good source of income for relatively little investment, so, what’s not to like?

From The Catechism Explained: An Exhaustive Exposition of the Catholic Religion by Fr. Francis Spirago and published in 1899 by Benzinger Brothers, NY, from an Italian original:

Cremation is condemned by the Church as being an abominable abuse.

Originally the custom of interring the dead in the ground was common to all nations, for the most ancient human remains that have been discovered bear no signs of having been subjected to fire.  Vaults containing skeletons have also been met with, closed by a slab of stone.  We know that the Jews buried their dead; Holy Scripture constantly speaks of the burial of kinds and prophets.  That his corpse should be left unburied was a chastisement threatened to the transgressor (Dt XXVIII:26).  Only during a time of pestilence were the Jews allowed to burn individual corpses (Am VI:10).

The Romans in earlier times buried their dead. Cicero tells us that their graves were considered as sacred, and the profanation of a tomb was severely punished, even by the loss of a hand……..

…...In later times, when manners became corrupt, cremation was practiced among them……It is a noteworthy fact that all barbarous nations, who in an uncivilized state burned their dead, substituted the grave for the funeral pyre as soon as civilization shed its light in their land.  Christianity, did, in fact, abolish cremation.  But in these days, when Christian Faith is on the decrease, cremation is once more becoming a fashion.  St. Augustine denounces the practice as horrible and barbarous.  It offends our Christian instincts. For we are taught to regard death as a sleep; the dead sleep in Christ (I Cor XV:18), for they will rise again; they are laid to rest in peace, and the idea of the repose they enjoy is connected with the churchyard, not with the crematorium.  When we commit our dead to the kindly earth, we tacitly express our belief that our body is like a seed, which is cast into the ground, to germinate and spring up: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption” (I Cor XV:42).  [Two additional points: Christian people used to strive to emulate Christ and the Saints in all ways possible. Our Lord was buried in the ground for 3 days, and there has never been a record of a Saint not being laid to rest in the ground.  By partaking of cremation, those who call themselves Christian are deliberately choosing to end their lives in a way different from Our Blessed Lord and His Saints.]

As Christians we have a higher esteem for the soul, which partakes of the divine nature, and consequently for the body, which is the servant and tool of the soul.  No true Christian can fail to shrink from the horrors of cremation; only those who are lost to all sense of the dignity of human nature, to all belief in the truths of religion, can desire it for themselves.  [I will admit I am somewhat taken aback by this really forceful language, because all opposition I have read to cremation previously has been much softer than this.  That only shows how much standards have slipped in the last 116 years?]   Let us remember that Christ, our great Exemplar, was laid in the tomb and rose again. [The key…….] For pagans such considerations naturally have no weight; they disliked the sight of the sepulchral monument, the mount raised over the dead, because it reminded them of death, which would put an end to their earthly enjoyments.  For the same reason unbelievers in our own day advocate cremation.  Burial suggests to them too strongly the immortality of the soul, whereas cremation appears to promise the annihilation that they desire as their portion after death.  Yet let no one imagine that the Christian dreads the destruction of the body by fire as an impediment to its future resurrection, for God can effect the reintegration of the body after it has been dissolved into gaseous elements. 

———-End Quote———

That concluding argument is very interesting, because in previous objections I’ve read on cremation, the idea that cremation implied a denial of bodily resurrection was a primary reason to oppose cremation’s use.   The above seems to say that Christians never feared that God could not resurrect cremated remains, and so it was strictly the act of defiance that was problematic.

I think the excerpt above hits on the key point: the reason for cremation’s sudden spike in popularity over the past few decades has to do with the general paganization of the culture and the desire by people to never have to face reminders of death, but more importantly, the afterlife. More and more people conduct their lives as if there will be no judgment; they certainly hope so, anyway.  Seeing a cemetary is to them a grim reminder of death, whereas columbaria are generally so well hidden one would never know what they were looking at.  Furthermore, most people don’t even bother to have their ashes reposed in some sacred or sentimental place, they simply have them scattered to the four winds.  All of this speaks, at least subliminally, of a great fear of death and judgment.

When some folks say: “Well, I know this good Catholic or that good Baptist, and they’re planning on being cremated,” I’d answer with: a) how do you know they are so good?, moral standards have slipped so much across the boards mere visible membership in a Church is hardly a guide to sanctity (as if it has ever been, there were plenty of depraved souls who attended church every Sunday when such was more or less a cultural requirement), and b) it really doesn’t matter what others do, what matters is what you do and how that correlates to emulating our Blessed Lord in every possible respect.  The latter alone is all the argument I need to dissuade me from being cremated.  I’ve never had an interest in doing so, anyways, I want my bones in the cool, green earth, not burned to ash in a hellish fire.

Then there are other factors not mentioned above: if a loved one were buried somewhere near me, I would visit that cemetery every chance I got to pray for them.  I cannot say the same for a columbarium.  Secondly, very ancient cemeteries are occasionally forgotten, but for the most part, cemeteries are treated as hallowed ground and not often subject to simply being paved over.  At the very least, the remains are relocated, and quite often, whatever development needs to occur happens around the existing cemetery.  We had a case of the latter near our former home.  Can the same be said for a wall filled with urns?  We’d like to think so, but what if the church associated with that wall no longer exists?  What happens when the wall starts to decay and fall down?  You can lift a head stone pretty easily, but walls have to be rebuilt, most often from scratch.  I think there’s going to be a bit of a problem and/or scandal in a few decades when developers come across these strange walls nobody knows or cares much about, whatever legal “guarantees” may have been made aside.

One last point…….the symbolism of cremation is to me inescapable.  Do you really want your last earthly act to be being cast into a fire?  I’d rather be buried at sea……..



1. Matt - June 24, 2015

Another example someone perverting Catholic doctrine so that they can comfort themselves that only the rich who can purchase burial plots can go to heaven. Paupers and the homeless, who are cremated never had a chance (no matter how well they lived).

Even better, we never liked poor folks in our neighborhoods on Earth. Now we can exclude them in heaven!!!

So, since when did heaven have an entry fee paid in actual dollars on earth?

huxleyorwell - June 27, 2015

Spot-on, Matt! This thread on the alleged evils of cremation is just fundamentalist legalism, and is not the best thread that veneeremurrernni/tantumblogo had ever posted. (Sorry for posting you so late, though.)

Personally, and based on the teachings in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as long as cremation NOT be used to either (A) deny the Resurrection, or (B) hide a crime (such as murder or torture or mutilation or malpractice)– as long as cremation is NOT used for either (A) or (B) then it is permissible.

2. Janet Kilb - June 24, 2015

I heard it was now allowed cause Catholic cemeteries were running out of plots! That is the case in my church cemetery.

Tantumblogo - June 24, 2015

Maybe where you live, not down here. There’s another way around that, too.

skeinster - June 24, 2015

Well, do tell.
We’re not going to make skull-lined caves, like under the old monasteries, are we? : )

Tantumblogo - June 24, 2015

Buying more land was what I had in mind. If anyone is desperate, there’s plenty of room in the Catholic cemetery in Harper, TX. And you don’t have to worry much about your corpse rotting in water or even worms crawling through, it’s solid limestone down hundreds of feet or more.

As for the catacombs, maybe I’m getting excitable, but I wouldn’t rule that out completely at this point.

H-town - June 25, 2015

catacombs hey? Cool… I’ll take any burial option over the incinerator.

huxleyorwell - June 27, 2015

Well said. Certainly mountains of skulls are creepy.

3. skeinster - June 24, 2015

Good points.
But, otoh, blessed objects are often disposed of by burning, so there’s that.

The Church will also bend a point when necessary. Cremation was allowed sometimes during emergencies- plagues and natural disasters.

Tantumblogo - June 24, 2015

Oh sure, do know, this has a family angle. This has suddenly come up out of nowhere. I know it’s really strong, almost too much for me in parts, it’s way stronger than anything I’ve read on the subject before, which is why I thought to post it. As with all I post, it’s worth what it cost you.

4. H-town - June 25, 2015

“We burn trash, but treasure we bury”.

The problem here is that the Church has gotten out of the business of helping to bury the dead, and now we are at the mercy of funeral homes and private cemeteries, which charge outrageous prices when a family is at their mercy. As T-blogo stated, there’s a way around this, such as buying an inexpensive casket from the Trappist monks. But it’s going to be up to us to take action, the Counciliar Church doesn’t care anymore. They’re too busy saving the planet from air conditioners.

skeinster - June 25, 2015

Not disputing the post- already have my put it together yourself casket picked out- and burial plot bought.

Just thought it was interesting that we dispose of blessed objects with fire. Although it occurs to me that they are sometimes buried as well.

As in the story about the priest who celebrated Mass for a Catholic Worker house using a plain china cup and saucer for a chalice and paten. Dorothy Day retrieved them afterwards and buried them in the backyard, so that they wouldn’t be used again.

TG - June 25, 2015

That’s true about the cost for a burial plot. The Catholic cemetery plots in Granger cost us $40 in 1980 when my mother passed. Now it’s like $500 or so. I’m going to have to check into it soon because that’s where I want to be buried. Some cities don’t even have Catholic cemeteries.

5. Gary - June 25, 2015

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. God has it all under control😀🙏

kimzef2015 - June 26, 2015

I wonder if we’re allowed to donate our bodies to science. I always wanted to end up as a skeleton hanging in an anatomy classroom.

6. Margaret Costello - June 28, 2015

I read/heard somewhere that cremation was a pagan rebellion against the teaching of the resurrection of the body. I like the idea of mirroring Our Lord in all things:+) My body doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to Our Lord. Why would I burn it? My burial plot was super cheap. Four plots for a few hundred bucks. If the uber poor can’t afford them, then have specific charity cemeteries. Cremation is EXPENSIVE compared to buying a plot. God bless~

huxleyorwell - June 28, 2015

I don’t see cremation as a denial against the Resurrection in and of itself. The main concern is that nobody was it as a way to sin willfully, such as using it to destroy evidence of abuse of the deceased.

In first century Israel, or so Iheard, if somebody died a bloody death, they buried that person’s body with the blood intact as a testament of how their life had been ended. In other words, they did not conceal evidences of possible physical abuse or wrongful death. We can learn from them.

Also cremation has another feature in it that I also dislike: the erasure of physical evidence of somebody who had once lived, erasure of physical evidence of an individual personality. Some memories of a personality ought to be preserved– not as evidence of a person’s greatness but simply of their existence.

Also, burial can actually cost less than cremation? If that be so, then I will support it (although I could very easily loathe the rotting, the decomposition the worms and germs).

Of course, Jesus didn’t rot while in his tomb, did he? Never became food for worms. (“Thou wouldst not leave his soul in hell, nor suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.”–Scripture quoted in Handel’s “The Messiah”) If we need to be buried exactIy like Jesus, then we had better not not or be eaten by worms!

Matt - June 28, 2015

The burial plot is the smallest part of the cost. Your family will have to pay $1200 to dig the hole, $2000 for the cement liner (required by law); $2500-6500 for the casket ( required); $500+ to rent the hearse to transport your remains to the gravesite; and $500+ for the grave marker (also required).

As I said, only the rich go to heaven.

huxleyorwell - June 28, 2015

Ugly prices! How ugly…

I think the poor should get a free pass on their burials; NOBODY should be damned to hell on amounts of an unfortunate burial.

A righteous God would never be a legalistic Pharisee.

Matt - June 28, 2015

I agree. This is why cremation is a perfectly faithful choice. Nothin that happens to your body after you die casts and judgment on the worthiness of your life.

Just ask Joan of Arc.

huxleyorwell - June 28, 2015

Also-sorry for my typos. (Don’t know which one is worse — Stylus Beta on Android phone, or Android keyboard on an Android phone!)

kimzef2015 - June 28, 2015

Is burial at sea allowed in the older catechisms? If so, is that a cheaper option?

huxleyorwell - June 28, 2015

Not sure. Also, I think you need to ask tantumblogo.

Matt - June 28, 2015

Tantumblogo is a pharisee and an idiot who amateur who does not speak for the Church.

Want a ruling? Ask your Pastor!

Think he’s a heretic when you don’t receive your preconceived answer? Go find another faith. You’ve already left the Church anyway!

huxleyorwell - June 28, 2015

kimzef2015–when I said “go ask tantumblogo”, I said that because you seem to have accidentally posted me when you obviously meant to post tantumbhgo about his opinion. I do confess that burial at sea could be in some ways attractive, but I don’t believe the Catholic Church had anything to say about it, as long as there be no denial of the Resurrection, and as long as therebe no desire to destroy evidences of any “crimen” such as murder or mayhem, etc.

Also, it would be a good thing to never put disease-bearing pathogens in the oceans, seas, or other bodies of water. To poison bodies of water is apocalyptic, an evil event mentioned in the book of Revelation.

And don’t worry, kimzef2015, I happen to know that you are not matt, rude fellow that he is. Am NOT accusing you of being Matt, but am posting you a second time to let everybody know what I had really meant by saying “go ask tantumbhgo”.

7. guiseppi - June 29, 2015

I have already had this conversation with my children: “DO NOT CREMATE ME….I am already trying to avoid the fires of hell, and do not prefer anything similar.” This is where we will purchase my nice, simple, pine, Monk-crafted casket (starting at $1000): http://www.trappistcaskets.com/; and I intend to have a tombstone upon which will be engraved the request to pray for my soul.

8. Gary - June 29, 2015

Ages to ashes and dust to dust, one way or another……… An urn fits well into a moseleum also.

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