From the Desk of Fr. Marty Lukas - The Question of Creamation : Blog: Gesu Roman Catholic Parish + Toledo, Ohio
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From the Desk of Fr. Marty Lukas - The Question of Creamation

by Gesu Parish Toledo on 07/25/17

I was recently asked about the practice of cremation of a body at death.  "Is it allowed?" "It certainly wasn't when I was young."  "What does the church say about it?" I thought a few remarks would be in order.

The "Order of Christian Funerals" states, "Since in baptism the body was marked with the seal of the Trinity and became a temple of the Holy Spirit, Christians respect and honor the bodies of the dead and the places where they rest." "Dignity and respect and never despair" should always surround the funeral rites.  And, "for the final disposition of the body, it is the ancient Christian custom to bury or entomb the bodies of the dead; cremation is permitted, unless it is evident that cremation was chosen for anti-Christian motives". OCF

So, some commentary... Since 1963, Catholics have been allowed to choose cremation over burial as a means of laying a loved one to rest.  Cremation is a popular choice since recently.

However, some Catholics have not been dealing properly with their loved ones remains.  Common practices include scattering ashes, parting ashes out to friends and relatives, and keeping the ashes in a common area, such as a living room.

Therefore some new guidelines were issued by the Church.  Burial is still preferred, but cremation is an option.  When a loved one has been cremated, their ashes must be kept intact, the same as one would treat a body.  The ashes may not be separated or scattered.  Instead, they should remain in a proper vessel that is interred in a proper place, such as a cemetery or church.  Only the bishop can authorize and exception to this storage requirement in extraordinary circumstances.

The problem is that people have come to see scattering of their ashes as allowing a "fusion" of them with nature, or that death is a form of liberation from the body.  These ideas are not Catholic.  Ashes cannot be scattered because it gives the appearance of "pantheism, naturalism, or nihilism."

Finally, the guidelines stress that Catholics who choose cremations for reasons contrary to the faith, (e.g., to have their ashes scattered) must be denied a Catholic funeral.

There you have it.  Too much for a summer weekend?  Hope not...

Fr. Marty

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