The rate of cremation in the U.S. is on the rise. In fact, the National Funeral Directors Association’s (NFDA) 2017 Cremation and Burial Report found that more than half of all Americans opted for cremation in 2016.
What’s more, the NFDA projects that nearly 80% of people will choose cremation as a final disposition by 2035.
While cremation grows in popularity nationwide, certain religious groups, for a wide variety of reasons, have not always been in acceptance or supportive of this practice.
Below we discuss the question, “Can Catholics be cremated?” and explain the growing acceptance of this practice in the Catholic community.
The Church’s Original Stance on Cremation
According to the Catholic Education Resource Center, the longstanding understanding of the early Catholic Church was to uphold the dignity of the human body and reject cremation. In 1886, the Catholic Church rejected and officially condemned the common practice of cremation.
As understandings have developed, the church began to permit cremation in cases of necessity, like times of war or plague. However, at this time, few Catholics chose cremation due to longstanding teachings against the practice. In their eyes, “they did not consider cremation to be compatible with the doctrine of the bodily resurrection,” according to U.S. Catholic.
In 1983, the Catholic Church more clearly expressed its understanding of cremation in the New Code of Canon Law. This new Code specifies:
“The Church earnestly recommends the pious customer of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” (No. 1176.3).
Therefore, a person may choose cremation today, as long as is it’s done in accordance with Church teaching.
Cremation and Catholics Today
In 2016, the Vatican issued guidelines, approved by Pope Francis, upholding the dignity of the human person, forbidding the scattering of cremated remains “in the air, on land or in some other way.” This respects the sacredness of the human body and also expresses pastoral care of the family and friends of the deceased.
While the guidelines accentuate the church’s preference for burial, it acknowledges the continuous rise in cremation and offers standards to follow. For instance, out of respect for the faithfully departed, the church recommends that cremated remains be buried in cemeteries or other places of sentiment value. The church, however, forbids the preservation of cremated remains in jewelry, mementos and keepsakes.
Cremation remains a meaningful option to consider. It can be done presently with the great of respect for the deceased and with care and compassion for their family.
Busch’s 10-Step Cremation Process
No matter your religious affiliations, when choosing cremation, one of the most important considerations is the quality of care and service the provider offers. At Busch, we offer a 10-step cremation process backed by our exclusive Cremation with Confidence Guarantee. You can rest assured, knowing all your services are handled and managed by our staff and your loved one never leaves our care.
To learn why many families are opting for cremation, download our free resource, Cremation Costs Explained: How to Get the Best Value Without Sacrificing Service. This guide will help you understand your options in cremation, and assist you as you choose a plan that fits your wishes and budget.
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Editor's Note: This post was approved by Father Bob Stec of Saint Ambrose Catholic Parish for accuracy.