Saturday January 16th 2021

Can Catholics Be Cremated?

For much of history, the Catholic Church banned cremation as a choice for dead Catholics, but in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban. Cremation is now an acceptable practice for Catholics, but only if done for the right reasons.  The usual accepted reason is financial hardship there may be other reasons but this was the main reason the Church did allow for cremation.

To fully understand if cremation is a viable option for your family, you should first understand why cremation was once banned.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church the short paragraph on cremation falls under respect for the dead which is part of the larger topic of respect for the human body.

Scripture teaches we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and from that teaching Catholics believe there is a great deal of respect to given to the human body in life and in death.  Originally, the practice was banned to counter ancient Roman pagan beliefs. The Romans cremated their dead because they did not believe in an afterlife, which is contradictory to Christian belief.

Furthermore Jesus was buried and we should always follow his example in life and in death.  If you think about it, it does seem strange to burn your body and if  you consider the incarnation of the Word, the sanctity of life and the body, it would make sense to have a regular burial.

However, in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban on cremation, but the cremated remains or “cremains” could not be present at the funeral mass. Cremation could only be chosen if not for the reason that a person denies the teaching on the resurrection of the body. Burial was (and still is) the preferred method.

In 1997, the Vatican approved new liturgical norms allowing for the cremated remains to be present at a funeral mass and the remains are to be treated with the same reverence as a whole body in a casket. This means that spreading the cremated ashes is still forbidden.

Cremated remains must be buried, just like a body, in a cemetery, crypt, or other appropriate burial place not put on display.

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