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Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

My friend's husband passed away recently and she had him cremated. This happened here in Illinois. When I asked her where the remains were going to be buried she said they were not.
She said she was going to scatter them in Colorado. Her deacon there told her that as long as it was on blessed ground, the remains could be scattered.

  • Is this correct?
  • Are there different rules for different dioceses?

I was always under the impression, from my priest, that if a person is cremated, the ashes must be interred, as soon as possible.

Please let me know who is correct.

Thank you,

Anonymous

  { What is permitted when dealing with the remains of a cremated Catholic and do the rules vary? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Anonymous,

Cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the remains of a human body, and should be buried or entombed. The scattering of cremated remains:

  • on the sea
  • on the ground or
  • keeping them in the home

is not a reverent final disposition that the Church directs. That is the principle.

This is not officially easy to find although most people cite “Appendix 2” of the Order of Christian Funerals.

Fr. Jonathan

Mike replied:

Dear Anonymous,

I wasn't able to find a reliable copy of the Order of Christian Funerals on-line but you can probably find one or buy it on Amazon:

I believe Father will probably agree with me policies probably vary a bit from diocese to diocese with the local bishop having the final say, so double check with your local diocese.

One example I found from the [PDF] diocese of Richmond, Virginia said:

The Celebration Of The Funeral Liturgy - In The Presence Of The Cremated Remains

Effective June 7, 2007

  1. It is the policy of the Diocese of Richmond to permit the funeral liturgy to be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains as permitted by the indult received by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from the Congregation for Divine Worship (Prot.1589/96/L) dated July 30, 1997. Pastors and pastoral ministers are guided in the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy by Appendix 2 for The Order of Christian Funerals as approved for use in the United States.

  2. The faithful have the right to the implementation of this indult. Pastors and all pastoral ministers are to respect all requests by the faithful to celebrate the Funeral Liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains.

Merry Christmas!

Hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

Dear Anonymous —

The ashes must be respectfully interred.

Eric

Richard replied:

Dear AAC Team,

When arranging my mother's funeral in New Hampshire, I was told by her pastor that cremated remains may be buried, even buried at sea, but may not be scattered. They should be buried as a whole.

In some times and places, the Church has allowed some exceptions to the usual practice. There are some cases in which a person's body is buried in one place, but some part — perhaps the heart — is buried somewhere else. Famously, the composer Chopin was buried in France, but his heart is entombed in a church in Warsaw. In Montreal, St. Andre Bessette's heart and his body are entombed separately within the same basilica.

As Christians, we believe in the resurrection of the body. This is part of the "last things", which include the last judgment and the end of the world. When a person dies, the soul continues to exist apart from the body, and at the end of the world, God will raise us up again, restoring our souls to our glorified bodies. The world will be transfigured with us into a "new creation".

The Church has been cautious for a long time about accepting cremation and scattering of ashes. Both of these are funeral practices that can appear to diminish the identity of the body. There's a reason for this caution. Unbelievers have at times used cremation as a way of expressing their disbelief in the resurrection of the body.

Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the point that cremation is acceptable as long as it does not represent a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.

Here are the paragraphs of the Catechism about the disposition of the body:

2300 The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.

2301 Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious.

The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.

So cremation has become permitted but I expect that there are probably not many dioceses where scattering of ashes is allowed.

The funeral service for the deceased is not complete until the burial of the remains, so whether the burial is in Illinois or in Colorado, your friend should contact the local pastor to find out whether she has an obligation to fulfill.

If she needs to arrange for a burial, she can make arrangements at a suitable time for her and her family, and the pastor can check with the diocese to clear up any uncertainty about what is permitted in that place.

I hope this helps.

— Richard

Anonymous replied:

Mike,

I'd like to thank Fr. Jonathan and all who helped answer my questions.

Thank you so much for the answer. I do appreciate your help.

Anonymous

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