Catholic Church issues new guidelines for cremation. Here’s what you need to know

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued new guidelines for cremation for Catholics. Cremation has been permitted in the Catholic Church since 1963, but many Catholics don’t know there are also many rules surrounding the choice. 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 it is less expensive and more manageable than a full burial. 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. These practices promote heretical ideas and can be dangerous from a faith perspective. This is why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued updated guidelines. According to the new guidelines, 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 an exception to this storage requirement in extraordinary circumstances. The problem, the Congregation says, are new age ideas which have taken hold in modern times. 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 flirt with new age religion and are not Catholic. Ashes cannot be scattered because it gives the appearance of “pantheism, naturalism, or nihilism.” Finally, the document stresses that Catholics who choose cremation for reasons contrary to the faith, (e.g., to have their ashes scattered)  must be denied a Christian funeral.
By Marshall Connolly


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  1. My daughter who no longer practices Catholicism, would like her ashes spread if she dies before me. Am I wrong to respect her request?

    • Yes. The reasons for these rules are not because they are “Catholic”, but because they are correct.
      The truth is the truth, no matter what.

    • Yes, it would be wrong on your part, as stated in the guidelines. We are bound to honor God, not people. Since she is still alive, it would be respectful to let her know this and show her the Catholic Church’s guidelines because they are quite beautiful as they show the amount of respect we have for the human body.

  2. Too bad the Church doesn’t follow its own “rules” and keep the Saints bodies intact! Instead they have cut them up and spread then around to churches as relics. Its also interesting they want the cremated remains interned at a Carholic cemetery. Hmmmm – which of course you have to pay for and guess who gets the money? I think I see Jesus coming to overturned the money changers tables.

    • Very good point…. of course the reality of whether all of those relics are even human is often in question, much less who they are supposed to be.

    • I’d never thought about relics. Thank you for bringing that up. To be fair, we’d have to point out that though the remains are separated, they are then cared for and venerated by the faithful who believe the Holy Spirit dwelled inside that body and acted through that person in life and will continue to act through that person’s prayers from Heaven. That’s not quite what happens when ashes are scattered to the wind, buried under a tree or kept in the living room.

  3. Too bad the Church doesn’t follow its own “rules” and keep the Saints bodies intact. Instead they cut them up and spread them around to churches as relics. Its also interesting they want the cremated remains interned at a Carholic cemetery. Hmmmm – which of course you have to pay for and guess who gets the money? I think I see Jesus coming to overturn the money changers tables.

  4. I am a career sailor, and I would like my ashes to be sunk in the ocean, like many before me, both in wartime and in peacetime. JFK’s son was so interred, and he was a practising Catholic, and came from a prominent Catholic family. How did they get permission? Will my soul go to hell if i do this?

  5. This is absolute nonsense. I am a practicing Catholic and for the life of me I can’t see anything wrong with scattering ashes where ever a person wishes. Keeping them in the house or dividing them up among relatives seems a bit weird to me but I see nothing wrong with scattering them in a favourite place. After all the entire world is God’s creation, is it not?

  6. I do not think Peter is Catholic, the God I know does not care how much money you have or that you have a famous last name

  7. My wife passed on two months ago 29/6/2017. She was cremated and I have decided to keep it until her birthday in November,then I will bury it in the garden of remembrance. Is it wrong or a sin to keep it so long?

  8. My mother passed and was cremated. Her wish was to be buried on their land. We talked to a priest and he came out and blessed the place where we buried her and will be burying my dad there to when he passes. So was the priest wrong for doing this? Also a question I’ve always wondered. If you say it is wrong what about things like 9/11?? Or house fires? I just can’t believe God cares if you spread ashes. I can see not handing them out but God is God and I’m sure he can gather them all back together when he joins us with our bodies.

  9. As always, there are mitigating circumstances that might be given exemption, the general rule is in adherance to belief and understanding of the faith, upon which the church magisterium is the sole interpreter. (Can you imagine if no authority has the task to give norms and rules to follow? Everyone will be doing his own thing. We will no longer be one! Each has his own denomination.)😩

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