Catholic Cremation – A Sometimes Controversial and Misunderstood Subject

Catholic Cremation Urn

Catholic Cremation has long been a subject that is debatable. Many Catholic churches frown upon this practice, but it is allowed by some – with stipulations. The Bible has a scripture that states “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” which to many people means that humans came from ashes, and that is where they will return. The soul goes to Heaven, so the body really is just a vehicle for the soul, per se’.

According to Catholic belief, the soul leaves the body after death to be reunited at the end of time. The body is buried, which means it disintegrates over time. Cremation involves burning of the body in a furnace. The Catholics see the body as a holy temple, and therefore believe the burning of the body is a desecration of God’s work. They also believed at one time that burning the remains stood for a denial in the belief of resurrection.

As the Catholic Church has evolved, cremation is now permitted. This religion continues to stress traditional burials and entombment, but is not as strict as it once was. For many people, it is an affordable option when no burial insurance is taken out and finances are short. It is a meaningful way to say goodbye to a loved one, and urns that are available are beautiful and made in so many ways that memorialize a loved one that is uniquely special to that person.

In earlier times, Catholic cremation was finally accepted, but only if the body were present at the Mass before being cremated. In present times, the Church allows cremation before the last Mass. The urn can be present, but must be approved by a bishop. The Church does have a few stipulations – the ashes must either be buried or put in an urn. Look at our burial urns. This religion does not look favorably upon scattering the ashes or keeping an urn in your home.

Catholic cremation is becoming more and more accepted, and people realize that traditional burials can be (and usually are) very expensive. There are several ways that cremation allows the family to save money. There is no casket required, and the use of a funeral home is often not necessary because there is no wake prior to burial. However, the Catholic religion frowns upon immediate cremation as it does not give friends and family a chance to engage in the grieving process to their way of thinking.

Decades ago, the Vatican banned cremation, but in 1963 the ban was lifted, but the cremains could not be present at a funeral mass. This option could only be chosen if the deceased denied the teachings on the resurrection of the body. However, in 1997 the Vatican decided that the cremains can be present at mass and are to be treated with the same respect and reverence as in a casket burial. To this day, the scattering of ashes is still unacceptable.

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Wikipedia – Cremation in the Christian World

28 responses

  1. Wrong. Completely false and wrong. Don’t be tricked by the false new order modernists. Cremation is limited to very exceptional circumstances. Nothing has changed except the lack of obedience by the American “catholic” bishops and the failure of modern parish priests to properly instruct their congregations.

  2. If “Father Anszer” would be a canonical lawyer, it would be time to disbar him: Cremation is now permissible in the Catholic Church if it is not used to deny the resurrection of the body and the ashes are buried. Both the burial of the dead body and the cremation and burial of the ashes results in the complete disintegration of the human body – we believe, however, that God will give us a new body at our resurrection, like the new body of Christ on Easter and that wasn’t recognized, at first, by his disciples.

  3. Cremation is the wrong way to go. We know as Catholics in our creed that we believe in the resurrection of the body, not the resurrection of the ashes. The logic that we will eventually turn to ashes once were buried so it is ok to cremate is like saying ” oh its ok to have an abortion because the baby will get old and die anyways. Our Lord was not cremated and no matter who says what he is our example. None of the Saints have been cremated. Who has been cremated? The answer to this question is the Atheist and the Pagans… Who do u want to be like Jesus Christ or the world?

  4. Burning is rapid oxidation. Burial allows for
    slow oxidation.

    Those slow to acknowledge what cremation is are hung up on letters-of the-”law”.

    Come back to a grave after decades or centuries and
    ask about….the resurection of:

    1. What is there now?
    2. What was there?

    “Denials of Faith” are a separate matter and exist
    I’m sure for some in the most handsome caskets.

    I for one do not want to be an advocating subsidizing the Funeral Industry, which has become “pagan” in some instances.

    With their good intentions, the Catholic Church
    advocates this this subsidizing, when not
    being careful with traditional burial advocacy,
    in some instances!

  5. Pingback: Explaining Cremation to a Child « Cremation Urns, Cremation Jewelry & Memorial Discussions

  6. “oh its ok to have an abortion because the baby will get old and die anyways.”

    you are ALREADY DEAD when you are cremated, so this is completely insane. expediting decay should be the decision of that person. The body is torn as under by time, nature, etc so it really never matters.

    • Old World / New World. How can we consider old, outdated, misunderstood catholic practices as we advance in knowledge. You know in the 1853 Yellow fever Plague in New Orleans, the Catholic church bundled thousands of bodies, dug a ditch and buried them only to have them rot, denigrate and wash away in the water table. I guess when they resurrect their heads, arms and legs will be all mixed up! Early catholic practice believed in castration to make little boys sing better too, Do ya think we should have kept that tradition?

  7. In the end it is all about conforming to the will of God not the will of man. You cannot go wrong if you always try to imitate Christ. Ask yourself what would He want me to do? What would His mother want me to do? Most of us already know what Their answer would be. I would much rather face my particular judgment with the confidence that I did or tried to do what He wanted not what I wanted.

  8. I have been against cremation for most of my life,but have changed my opinion in recent years. This change of heart was only magnified this summer, when my Daddy died. He was resting in the undertakers chapel for a month as my sister was working in Mexico and we couldn’t possibly have his Bash, (I can’t say the “F” word) without her. This time gave me, my Mother, my Sons and other family members time to grieve, to visit him and speak to him in the Chapel. His cousin conducted his (F), and it was personal, religious and lovely, pleasing older and younger members of the family alike. We have his ashes, and they sat in the middle of the table at his recent posthumous birthday lunch. I know his soul is in heaven, but right now, while grief is still raw, his urn of ashes still with us, still part of our lives is a necessary part of family lie. In time, we, the grieving family will return his remains to the earth as God commanded, but until such time, his physical remains, still here to help us through his birthday, Christmas, Fathers day, Wedding anniversary, and difficult times when we can go to the back bedroom and pick him up and talk to him. Would God really deny is this comfort? I think not.

    • Dear Daddy’s daughter,

      I am a daughter who just lost her dad a few days ago. We are catholic and I was wondering about daddy’s wish to be cremated and the memorial mass. I’m with you…I doubt Jesus would want to deny us the comfort of our daddy’s ashes. I know his soul is in heaven, but I just need a little of him here with me for comfort…just for awhile. I miss him so much. My prayers are with you.

      • thank you both so much your comments helped, i just lost my mother a few days ago it was very unexpected we were only told in April that she had cancer and were trying to find all medical treatments when the disease won the battle faster then even doctors expected I believe god needed her for something. She did not make any formal plans we all thought there was more time, finances were not planned at all and its my deepest regret. She did say she wanted to be cremated.Although she was raised catholic and raised me the same i have been looked down on by our local parish (that she was part of for the last 50 yrs) for cremating her, not having the finances to purchase a plot right away so she will be at home with us until i can. I just don’t understand why it is all so wrong if cremation is a denial of the resurrection what about the ultimate gift of donation I thought we were suppose to be willing as Christians to take of our body and help others? I do not like this feeling my Parish is giving me that i have somehow offended my mothers memory and god by not being rich!

  9. Yikes, this is why people think us Catholics are nuts. We will quibble over the most inane rituals. How we are buried/cremated is a ritual and has nothing to do with our relationship with God.

  10. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this 2011 – approximately 11 years into the twenty-first century. Self-determination, personal decision making and making up one’s own mind have existed since human beings were invented. None of these ideas are new to people. All of them are acceptable. People make up their own minds. About everything. What side of the bed to get out of. What colour top to wear today. Whether to wear long pants or shorts. Long sleeves or short sleeves. What side of my head do I part me hair. I make all these decisions myself. Do you honestly, do any of you believe that I am going to do what someone else tells me when my baby has died – how the baby will be buried. How the baby’s body will be treated before internment. If you believe that then you need to learn about individual differences. You need to find out what goes on in people’s minds. You need to discover that people will always make their own decisions with you, or anyone else, telling you how to bury your baby.

  11. Wow…..I’m trying not to get angry reading all of these comments,so here it goes “Creamation is not going to keep you from Heaven”.When a human dies their soul leaves the body and goes Heaven.The only thing left is bones…God will never come down resurrect your body and everything is peachy now.Come on…The Earth is not our home, when you die you go HOME…HEAVEN YOU KNOW!!! So what happens to a person when they are burned to death in a horrible accident are they not going to heaven I think not.I personally will be creamated I think theirs enough land fill as there is.Think about it if everyone were to be buried in a casket the earth we would cover the world.Oh and by the way does anyone remember a story about a cemetary getting flooded and the caskets coming to the surface that’s pleasant.

  12. A couple of points for you anti-cremation folks to consider:

    1) This is a branch of a web site that sells cremation urns. If you’re so against cremation, what are you doing here to begin with? Oh,and by the way, the way you twist Church doctrine isn’t appreciated.

    2) On a long enough time line, EVERY cemetery will fall into disrepair and will ultimately be abandoned. One of the worlds largest funeral service corporations budgets cemetery longevity at 50 years. 50 years! Then what happens? Your brief time here is a speck on the Earth’s timeline. Where are all of the billions who’ve come before us buried? Where are all of the Apostles interred?

    3)There is a difference between the Catholic church and the Catholic BUSINESS. The Catholic business is nice and cozy with the funeral industry. Also, in many area of the country, a grave opening at a Catholic cemetery can exceed $1,500.00. A vault will probably also be required (another $1,500.00 expense.) Do you see the dollars flying around here? There’s MONEY in your superstitions and fears my friends.

    4) Lastly, speaking of the Resurrection, let me get this straight. God will have to part the earth above the graves of the faithful. Then He’ll have to open 1-ton burial vaults and open locked metal caskets. Then He’ll have to breathe life into rotting, embalmed corpses. That’s a lot of work. He gets off easy with me: He just has to pop the lid off my urn and I’m ready to rumba.

    If I’m deserving, my soul will rise in perfect light. Not my broken body. And I’m sure God has better things on His mind that whether the dead are buried, cremated, or tossed into the sea.

  13. What about all the saints that were burned at the stake, are they not in heaven? God could turn rocks into bodies if he wanted to. Don’t limit God by saying what he can and cannot do. It’s an individuals and families decision what happens to their loved ones after death. It’s no one else’s business.

  14. All things are impermanent, they rise and they pass away, the knowledge of this great wisdom will bring great happiness.
    Buddhist, yes but the understanding of the impermanence of physical things brings great happiness to the soul which is impermanent. And yes I am a catholic.

  15. Have any of the pope’s, saints or apostles been cremated? It sounds like one of several disrespects that are influenced by the secular world. Lord, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

    • Hello John Paul

      To answer your question, “Have any of the pope’s, saints or apostles been cremated?” Not to our knowledge, but in 2011 we had a Bishop Michael Evans that chose “Cremation vs Burial” A good link to that would be found at Bishop Michael Evans’ funeral arrangements.

      We know that many Catholics are choosing cremation these days, but the numbers are not the majority. The “Preference” of the Church, as of this writing, is for the body to have a burial or be entombed in preferable a Catholic Cemetery. One reason for the preference (prior to the late 20th century) is that cremation represents and declaring non-resurrection of the body.

      With all due respect Mr. Mayer, I would think now in all the modern papacies benevolence, and the two millennium since it’s inception, that famous ritual statement “dust to dust, ashes to ashes” would be understood as not too far off from cremation, just a little faster.

  16. I just lost my husband this summer. He had no religious belief. He did mention that if he were to go before me, he’d like to be cremated. He was diabetic with heart disease and unfortunately is gone. I hold his ashes in a temporary box wrapped in a velvet pouch. Those remains of his are in our bedroom near a picture of him. I’ve been told that it is bad luck to keep his ashes at home but not told why. It may sound crazy but I do feel comfort in keeping it with me. I put some of his ashes in silver tree of life items that my sons can keep in their pockets, dresser or where ever they wish. This way they have dad with them always.
    I was raised catholic but haven’t been to church in a while. I would just like to know why I can’t keep his ashes with us. What is wrong with that? Does his being cremated mean we will never reunite in the after life. I would like to believe that I have enough fate in us both to some day reunite. I have been thinking of telling my boys that when my time comes, I’d like to be cremated as well. I’m confused and would like any input on this subject from anyone.

    • Hi Gloria

      So sorry for your loss, as we do talk with people everyday about their own individual circumstances and experiences of loss, we can only be reminded the deep connections we have with our own human relationships that will, to us all, change. We too suffered great loss in 1995 and today the pain is as great now as it was then, but it is different. I would call it Remembrance and without fail, we will carry that strength to our own passing.

      I was not raised Catholic, but in our youth my husband and I had been a student of Christianity and now we research and seek to understand many religions and cultures around the world. My first reaction when reading your post was that Catholic Clergy are fearful that if common people do anything that might be considered “unholy” in their eyes, like keeping the ashes of a loved one at home, they will lose their authority over the masses. The churches requirement of all ashes to be interred on holy ground is a clear message of that authority.

      I did confide in a writer that we work with that deals in facts, and she like you, was raised Catholic, her comments:

      “Officially, the Catholic Church states that cremation remains be treated with the same respect as would a human body after death. As such, they ‘require’ that cremains be buried or placed in a mausoleum or columbarium on sanctified ground”.

      A Quote from Catholic Attitudes about Cremation says: The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body” (no. 2301).

      She went on to say “Thus, cremation does not affect the resurrection of the body, from a Catholic perspective.

      Respect and reverence for the deceased and the remains of the deceased is of utmost importance in all forms of burial and cremation practices. My sense from her post is that she treats her husband’s ashes in this high regard. Her choice to keep his remains close while she explores her faith and how it differs or coincides with her upbringing will serve her well as she explores her own choice for herself regarding cremation.”

      She gets to the point, but I can add that we sell many cremation urns and keepsakes to customers that sometimes identify themselves as a practicing Catholics, including as our rosaries that hold cremains in the cross. This mean that some cremains remains with and are being worn by Catholics everyday.

      Gloria, have look at current times, with Pope Francis in flux with the restraints of the cloth … things are changing so fast. Rest easy, you are not alone in keeping your husband at home.

  17. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

    • Hello Irvin – Thanks for stopping by, it may have a different look and feel because we have had a theme change about a year ago.

      Susan

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