Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ask the Undertaker: Catholics and Cremation

Catholic Cremation
St. Joseph of Arithmea, Patron Saint of Undertakers

Dear Pat,

My wife and I are planning on being cremated when we die. We are Catholic, but haven’t really been to church for years. My brother was cremated and buried in a Catholic Cemetery, so it must be OK with the church to be cremated. What are our options?

Harvey Creaster

Davenport, Iowa

catholic cremation ritual

Dear Harvey,

The Catholic Church has some rules and guidelines that they encourage funeral directors to share with their Catholic families. I have been mistaken for a priest on a few occasions since I’m Irish and wear a lot of black, but I have not been called or ordained, so I would suggest that you have a discussion with your local parish priest for a fuller understanding of the reasons behind these rules.

Yes, cremation is allowed now for Catholics, as long as the cremation is not done in defiance or contradiction of the beliefs and tenets of the faith. The church would prefer, if cremation is chosen, that it take place after the mass, and that the body of the deceased be present at the service. They will allow the cremated remains at the mass, as long as they are treated with the same ritual and respect as the body would normally be given.

The church would prefer that cremated remains are buried or interred within a Catholic cemetery. Failing that, they prefer that interment take place within a Catholic section of a public cemetery. The Church will accept burial in a non denominational section of a cemetery but the preference is that a person is buried within a ‘community of the faithful’ to await resurrection together. The Church does not allow cremated remains to be kept at home indefinitely. They must be interred.

catholic cremation memorial

The church does not allow portioning or scattering. They do allow donation of the body for a legitimate scientific purpose, but funeral rites must precede the donation and burial of the remains must follow it.

I encourage you to explore your options, discuss your choices with family and clergy and plan out your services. In addition, I hope that it is a long, long time before those wishes need to be carried out.

Best Regards,
Pat McNally

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