No more spreading of ashes for Catholics

It might be a bit more difficult to be a good Catholic if you’ve dreamed of having your cremated remains scattered to the wind in some idyllic location.

The Vatican today released new rules on cremation. No scattering remains. No keeping ashes in private homes.

Here’s the full English translation of the new instruction:

Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation

1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”. Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.

2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5).

Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).

It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”. By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.

3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.
In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.

The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.

By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity. She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.
Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.

Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead, and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.
Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.

4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.

The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.

In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.

From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.

The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

7. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.

8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gerhard Card. Müller, Prefect
Luis F. Ladaria, S.I., Titular Archbishop of Thibica, Secretary

The Vatican didn’t allow cremation until 1963, when it said it was permissible as long as it didn’t suggest a denial of faith about resurrection.

“The dead body isn’t the private property of relatives, but rather a son of God who is part of the people of God,” Gerhard Mueller said. “We have to get over this individualistic thinking.”

  • Anna

    Just when we Catholics thought the church was becoming more enlightened they come out with this twaddle. One more “mortal” sin to add to the list.

    There are probably hundreds of thousands of Catholics around the world who have their loved ones ashes scattered in their back yards or at a place of remembrance that was special or have their urns sitting on the mantle piece.

    I guess I’ll just be a “bad” Catholic and face the music on judgment day.

    Mausoleums around the country are going to have a field day with this one!

  • MrE85

    Yeah, yeah, whatever. Next he’ll say eating Hebrew National hot dogs is a sin.

    • Zachary

      well, it’s a sin to eat them without relish, onions, mustard, tomato, a pickle and a pepper on top. You know – Chicago Style.

      • MrE85

        Don’t forget the poppy seed bun!

        • Alex

          Or the celery salt. And if that relish isn’t an unnatural shade of green, then try again.

      • Rob

        Chicago style 2.0 adds a little wasabi.

        • Alex

          As a native son of Chicago, I must ask: WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?

          Seriously, though, who’s putting wasabi on it and daring to suggest it’s Chicago style?

      • Jack Ungerleider

        What you describe is a sin against a Hebrew National (or Nathan’s Famous) hot dog. Mustard, a bun without seeds, and if you care for it sauerkraut and maybe some grilled onions. The way they do it in the “old country”! (The old country being the Bronx, NY 8^)

    • Rob

      Yes, but not because of the Hebrew aspect, rather because the Pope and his homies have declared Frank’s Ballpark Dogs as the Vatican-approved brand. It’s all spelled out in the Hotdogus Preferentia encyclical.

      • Alex

        Vienna Beef was always a bit more Lutheran anyway.

  • Mike

    In a way, we should all be grateful for the Catholic church. It’s like a living fossil, a perfectly preserved relic of medieval superstition and pre-scientific thinking that reminds us where we all came from. That’s true of all religion at some level, but Rome so flamboyantly and pompously displays its irrationality that it’s hard not to admire.

  • JonasGrumby

    The Vatican must own stock in cemeteries. Oh yeah, “Catholic Cemeteries”.

  • Jack

    Am I the only one reading this and thinking that the church isn’t making enough money on the cemetery end of the business? Or am I just a skeptical Protestant?

    Cremate me and my nonChristian spouse and scatter our ashes. That way no one can argue that coming to the gravesite is on par to worshipping idols.

    • Veronica

      Actually, yes. I had that exact same thought. If the Church could make up that whole “no meat on Fridays” thing to help fishermen and fish mongers, then yes, I wouldn’t doubt it was a move to get people back to buying cemetery plots.

      Faith: raised by devout Catholics, married at a full Mass, kids baptized Catholic, renewed our vows with the same priest that had married us. I struggle because there are so many tenants of Catholicism that I do draw into my life, especially the writings of early Christian women, but I can’t stand the Church, both for how they perpetuate the patriarchy and for the ongoing child rape and abuse.

      • Alex

        I heard from Martin Luther that if you split from the church, you get a sect named after you (but that was 500 years ago, so things may have changed). 😛

        Jokes aside, and I’m not trying to start something here, but why do you stay with the Catholic church rather than move to a different sect? Also, if you don’t mind indulging my curiosity, do you have any writings to recommend?

        • Veronica

          I’m a huge fan of the apocryphal gospel writings by women. Also St Hildegard of Bingen and St Thérèse of Lisieux.

          I reject any Christian Faith with “faith, not works” as a main tenant. I also came thisclose to being able to triple major in English, Philosophy, and Religion at my very Catholic college. I find value in all religions. Beyond that? No clue.

      • Jack

        Actually many of the dietary restrictions in religions came about in order to keep their followers healthy. Look at kosher and halal – those are very similar. How do I know that as a Methodist? Easy – I married a Muslim and have Jewish friends. I had to find a easy way to find appropriate food products and at the time it was far easier to just find Kosher.

        Cremation came up after a medical emergency and I was glad when he mentioned it. My mom doesn’t agree with my decision (she will have traditional burial – Methodist) but she accepts what this daughter wishes.

    • Suzanne

      I thought the same thing – that people aren’t buying plots in Catholic cemeteries at the rate they used to. (Raised Catholic – got out as soon as I could.)

  • jwest8

    This is absurd on so many levels. It even cites merely following “tradition” rather than any basis in doctrine. I submit that if I “quietly” request spreading of my ashes rather than “notoriously request” as banned in this screed that I will be sort of home free?

  • Zachary

    Isn’t scattering of ashes already against most civil heath codes? I seem to recall that in most jurisdictions it’s frowned upon, if not illegal.

  • Lobd

    What a lot of anti-Catholicism, folks. Do you care how other religions tend to their dead? Do you criticize them? Shame on you.

    • wjc

      Can you explain what the value of this policy is? I’d like to know. People here are commenting on the apparent absurdity. If there is something there that we are not seeing, please enlighten us.

      • Lobd

        No need to defend religious beliefs here. I am pointing out the anti-Catholic tone. Can you call this anything other than that? Why call out an “absurdity”? Would you ridicule burial mounds? Hindu pyres? White shrouds? Why ridicule a call to keep the body in a sacred place?

        • Might suggest people commenting indicate religious affiliation… if any.

          • Lobd

            Raised Catholic and raising my kids Episcopalian, which is the closest form to my Salesian beliefs that I can find. I am very respectful of other faiths and highly tired of anti-faith rhetoric of any kind.

          • crystals

            Do you think this conversation has been anti-faith? I see it more as anti-church policy, as opposed to criticizing anything having to do with the belief in faith itself.

          • wjc

            Grew up Catholic. My wife grew up Lutheran, but chose the Episcopal Church as an adult. I am lacking a belief in organized religion, but consider myself thoughtful on spiritual issues.

            My thought that this kind of policy is absurd is the consideration that if God is all powerful, and part of the after-life includes the resurrection of the body, and some people’s bodies are destroyed beyond all ability for them to be buried in a sacred place, surely God could still accomplish the resurrection of that person’s body. The fact that a person’s ashes are scattered would not be an issue for an all-powerful God.

          • Alex

            (Reposting from my other post, with additions) I’d best describe myself as post-theist/deist-agnostic. That is to say I firmly believe that we live in an age where the idea of an ever-present God or Gods is becoming outmoded (more or less what Neitszche meant by declaring “God is dead and we have killed him”), but I’ll leave open the possibility that there was a greater being that could have caused initial creation, but hasn’t been involved in things since that initial push.

            I haven’t got a problem with faith, per se, but what I have a problem with is when faith gets in the way of practical and demonstrable reality. You could make the argument that I’m religious in the most liberal/progressive sense. I see the benefit of a congregation as a place for sharing ideas as a community (and have even started recently popping in for Sunday services at a local liberal church) and as a support mechanism for members of the community. Though, as I said above, I’m hardly one for concepts of God, spiritualism, or other such abstractions. I guess I’m kinda like Han Solo just waiting for someone to actually use the force in front of me to convince me otherwise.

          • Cultural Catholic (Catholic school, altar boy, visited the Vatican), but practical atheist. I’m appalled at the efforts of the Church to micromanage the details of our sex lives and our deaths while ignoring the mammoth problems caused by overpopulation, under-regulated capitalism, and climate change. The behavior of the Church during the abuse scandals opened my eyes to the crass nature of its out of touch bureaucracy.

    • Alex

      Yes, I do. Thanks for asking.

      Cemetery burial isn’t a Catholic problem, but here it’s presented in the context of Catholicism, so you can certainly bet that the discussion here is going to be about Catholicism.

      Either way, cemetery burial (which, for purposes of this discussion, I’m also using this term to include permanent places for cremation remains) isn’t a tenable solution in the long term. Cemeteries take space, and if they are to exist in perpetuity, then we will eventually run out of room for new cemeteries, or have to start replacing the remains in the cemeteries we have.

      The argument they make is “In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.” That’s all well and good until you realize how few people the Church considers to have successfully done that.

      It is rather irresponsible of the Catholic Church to wholesale prohibit, without possibility for appeal, scattering of ashes “in order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided.” Other clauses in here allow the faithful to ask for an exception so long as it isn’t indicative of a lack of faith, but this particular one doesn’t. Either setting up shop in the world’s smallest country still hasn’t convinced the Catholic Church that space on earth is limited, or they have figured it out and have decided that the living have less need for usable space than the dead.

      This all, of course, is ignoring the Church’s stance on the return of Christ, that he will resurrect the bodies of the dead and give them back their bodies in the form that they had in life, and he will even further glorify the bodies of the righteous. Given that a body, left to the elements through burial not in a coffin, is generally fully decomposed within a year, I have to wonder what the difference is between a decomposed body, the molecules of which have been spread by the various living things and chemical processes that cause the decomposition, and a cremated body that has been mechanically dispersed.

      So, yes, I am going to look down upon any religion that requires burial because it’s a short-sighted approach. In Catholicism’s case in particular, the spiritual justification seems to not just ignore the physical similarity between the end results of cremation and burial, but flies in the face of the most basic physics of “things take space and space on this planet is limited.”

      EDIT: Since Bob has indicated an interest in posters stating religious identity, I’d best describe myself as post-theist/deist-agnostic. That is to say I firmly believe that we live in an age where the idea of an ever-present God or Gods is becoming outmoded (more or less what Neitszche meant by declaring “God is dead and we have killed him”), but I’ll leave open the possibility that there was a greater being that could have caused initial creation, but hasn’t been involved in things since that initial push.

      • Lobd

        Why bother looking down on anyone? Does that make you feel better? How about dropping the condescending attitude and assume others may be your intellectual equal? Have your opinion about cemeteries and remove the religious finger-pointing.

        • Alex

          You continued attempts in these comments to use an ad hominem approach to argue rhetoric rather than substance aside, I look down on those people you suggest may be an “intellectual equal” so long as they fail to provide reasonable evidence. I have evidence: I can walk you over to a mausoleum and show you that it takes space, and we can easily extrapolate that continuing to build mausoleums with a prohibition on replacing them or their contents will eventually (though it will take quite some time) take up all extant space.

          When the argument against the demonstrable and replicable evidence is a book, the divine origins of which are often argued through tautological means, claiming the eventual occurrence of an event which has not been interpreted to have come to pass even once in the 2000 years since its supposed provenance, then yes, it does make me feel considerably more confident in my position.

          I also refuse to remove religious finger-pointing so long as religion continues to be a known motivator for short-sighted thinking that puts the future of the human race in jeopardy as well as hate, violence, and oppression. If you think that Columbus Day should be Indigenous Peoples’ day because Columbus brought nothing but death and disease to the population already here, but think that the Crusades were justified, then I do have a problem with you.

          • Lobd

            You don’t know me. I will not engage further. If you think people of faith are fair game automatically, then I cannot change your prejudice, because that is what it is. Well-reasoned and quote tossing bullies are still bullies, and I think they are the meanest kind. Best of luck.

          • Alex

            I hardly think they’re automatically fair game, but when they introduce a policy with long-term negative consequences with no real basis in the physical world with no demonstrable good for society at large, I do. I have no problem with you practicing your faith so long as your faith doesn’t create consequences for me or others.

            “Well-reasoned and quote tossing bullies are still bullies.” I will not argue with that, but I will add that ad hominem attacks (in the absence of supported argument) that portend to moral superiority are still ad hominem attacks. If you would like to continue to think I am a bully, I take no issue, but I will wish that you could’ve at least argued the subject rather than the rhetoric so that maybe you could’ve shared your perspective with me and I might learn something from it.

          • Thank you for this articulate response.

      • Noelle

        I agree with you on this point. I also wonder, what do we do about cemeteries so old that there are no longer any living relatives for those buried there?

        • Alex

          We have a legal nightmare! In most places, the rights to the burial plot exist in perpetuity, so how municipalities and courts navigate the process can be strange. In some cases, you wind up with things like occurred in suburban Houston where a new housing development went up over an unnoticed cemetery and the new homeowners were finding bodies when they went to dig gardens.

          This is actually a major crisis in London, where planners estimate that even with gravesite reuse for plots last used at least 75 years ago, it will only take 20-30 years to totally fill all of the city’s gravesites.

          Even cremation urns can be an issue, even if they take up less space. This is why we really need to look at volume-minimal methods for what we do with our bodies after death. If I couldn’t be sure that I could be spread after cremation, then I’d rather my executor(s) find something like a natural burial (where bodies are placed in caskets that decompose very easily) or, and I hope it becomes legal in more states, resomation.

          Resomation is all about breaking down the body through a chemical process that results in solids which take less volume than crematory remains and liquids which can be safely disposed of through the sewer system. It takes about 15% of the energy needed for cremation, and results in far fewer pollutant by-products. It’s not only legal in Minnesota, but I understand Mayo Clinic to dispose of research cadavers for about 10 years.

        • Rob

          A luxury condo development, coming soon to an old cemetery near you…

    • Anna

      My mother donated her body for scientific study. She was obese for the great majority of her adult life and finally succumbed to vascular dementia or at least that’s what they think it was. Either way the ending was the same. She died in August of 2004.

      A year after her death, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the rest is history. My twin sister tried for more than a year to determine what had happened to her remains. The LSU Medical School in New Orleans was flooded as was Charity Hospital. She finally gave up.

      Usually (notice I said usually) the family is contacted when the cadaver is no longer needed and they decide how they want the remains handled, either retrieved for burial or cremated. In my mother’s case, we never got that choice.

      After the debacle regarding my mother’s remains, my father rescinded his consent for donation and decided he wanted a standard funeral with burial.

      He decided he wanted to be buried at the veterans cemetery but our family wanted my mother’s name to be included on his headstone. The Veteran’s Administration would only allow her name and not her dates of birth and death because she wasn’t physically buried with my father.

      Once we explained the unusual circumstances of her disappearance, They agreed to put her name and dates on the back of my father’s headstone even though she wasn’t physically there.

      The manager of the cemetery tried to find out again what happened to my mother and about a month after my father had died and was buried, suddenly the LSU Medical School “found her cremated remains” after they had been missing and in limbo for 11 years.

      Our suspicion is the medical school did not want the adverse publicity and a lawsuit.

      We aren’t sure if the cremated remains are Mom’s but we aren’t going to argue. At least we got something back.

      I did not know about the church’s “new” doctrine and my mother’s urn containing her ashes was buried with my father about six months after my father was interred.

      Now it all makes sense.

      My mother and my father were devout Catholics. I guess the Catholic Church would consider my mother a “bad” Catholic because she donated her body to help her fellow human beings. Frankly, I don’t think God would have a problem with that.

      I’m sure there will be a doctrine about donation for scientific study coming out very soon if there isn’t one already.

  • Rob

    Here we see what happens when bishops and attorneys get together. They arrive at a whack conclusion, and it takes them 30 paragraphs to say what could readily be said in just a couple of sentences. And as a lapsed Catholic, my motto is: “Burn (me), baby burn!”

  • crystals

    Great. One more thing to add to the list of how the Catholic Church lost me from its flock.

    Side note for fellow Catholics (past and present) or those interested in this topic: Catholics in Crisis is a tremendous book written in 1996 about the struggle of American Catholics to stay faithful in light of broader changes in the world and church. I read it in college and it was both relevant and profound to me then and the themes are the same today (if not more so), 20 years later.

  • Not a Catholic — or really anything else at the moment — but what is the church’s position on body part donation? I’ve pretty much figured all my usable parts can be harvested and whatever’s left can be a textbook for med students.

    • Alex

      http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2296.htm

      From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2296:
      “Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.”

    • wjc

      From “God Shuffled His Feet” bt The Crash Test Dummies:

      “And if your eye got poked out in this life
      Would it be waiting up in heaven with your wife?”

      Just askin’

      • Alex

        http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1017.htm

        A few sites I’ve found point towards this (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1017) as indicating that yes, your body in heaven will be as on earth, but if you were faithful and righteous, it would be further glorified.

        Support is often also brought from 1Cor. 15:35-38 (“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”) and 1 Cor. 15:42-44 (“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”).

        • wjc

          So what age would your heavenly body be? Would you choose or would you transcend age somehow?

          • Rob

            Wasn’t there a Bellamy Brothers song called “If I Said You Had a Heavenly Body, Would You Hold it Against Me?”

        • rallysocks

          dang…I am so screwed.

    • X.A. Smith

      I have the same question about embalming. Doesn’t embalming destroy the theoretical “usefulness” of the body as much as cremation, or, for that matter, decomposition? Does “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” mean anything anymore?

  • Michelle

    We just buried my life long Catholic Mother this weekend. She requested cremation mainly to save the $4k extra for embalming, casket etc. She had already bought a plot with my Dad, so burial was done. However in the course of arrangements, the funeral director informed us the cemetery is running short on funds for long term maintenance so that fee has gone up. In addition, we could not do the Eulogy as part of the mass–had do be done before. Then at communion–Non Catholic guests or Catholics who were not in “good standing” were “Invited NOT to come up to communion” –direct quote. Even my Catholic friends were appalled. No wonder why my whole family has abandoned the church. My departed uncle, a priest, is rolling over in his grave!

    • Kassie

      Really? At my grandmother’s Catholic funeral the priest had communion and asked non-Catholics to come up for a blessing if they wished. There was some way to indicate you wanted a blessing instead of communion. It was really nice.

      • DJ Wambeke

        This is true. People not receiving communion are always welcome to come up for a blessing, even if the priest doesn’t explicitly mention it. The usual sign for this is to cross one’s arms over one’s chest when approaching the altar. Not sure how the message was bungled in Michelle’s particular case, but wow.

        I’m always amazed (and saddened) when people feel hurt and excluded by Catholic communion. On the one hand, I can totally understand it; on the other, the point of the ritual is actually to reaffirm one’s assent to Catholic doctrine and lifestyle, so it doesn’t really make sense to partake unless one is actually Catholic. It has nothing to do with looking down on outsiders.

        • Kassie

          I can see what you are saying, but the church I attended for a long time celebrated communion as a sharing of the lord’s feast and was open to everyone. I think most mainstream Protestant churches act that way, though the language they use changes. So when they go to a Catholic church and are told that they aren’t welcome, then they are hurt because you would be welcome at their church.

          • Veronica

            It’s due to the fact that Catholics believe in transubstantiation, while Protestants do not. Which is to say, the Catholic faith holds that during communion, the host becomes the body of Christ, and the wine becomes the blood of Christ, rather than symbols of his body and blood. So while they both have Eucharist as part of their worship, the Catholic Sacrament is very different in theology from the Protestant Sacrament of Eucharist.

            Part of what started Luther, Calvin, etc.’s break from the Church was rejecting transubstantiation.

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines this doctrine in section 1376:

            “The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: ‘Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.’

            Holy crap, I had no idea this info was still living in my brain. Ha!

          • As Tom Lehrer said in Vatican Rag, “Two, four, six, eight – time to transubstantiate”.

  • DJ Wambeke

    Catholic here.

    Genuinely surprised at what all the “fuss” is over this piece of non-news. Nothing was changed by this document; the scattering of ashes has never been allowed by the Catholic Church (the “no more” in the title of this piece is completely inaccurate, unless you count the rule-breaking that had already been happening). All the document did was clarify the reasons why (in legalistic language).

    Agree with it or disagree, it’s based on two things:
    1) Belief in the goodness of the material world. Body and soul are two necessary aspects of a human being, and both are good. This is in contrast, for example, to dualist-flavored views which see the spirit as good and the body somehow bad or needing to be escaped from.
    2) Actions have symbolic meaning. The whole reason cremation wasn’t allowed at all prior to 1963 is because it was often being done explicitly to deny the resurrection of the body. The church’s point not being that God couldn’t “piece it back together” – he is God, after all – but that the sentiment behind the act was contrary to the expressed viewpoint held by Catholics.

  • Joe Gallagher

    Ex-Catholic by choice here. I, along with many others, am donating my remains to a medical college for research and education. I am at a complete loss to understand “The Church” regulation here. (Obviously not the first time.) Why, and on what basis, would they assume authority over such a private family matter totally unrelated to their religious beliefs?
    MMM.. wait a minute! If everyone is going to be raised from the dead at the Second Coming, as I was taught in grade school, It’s going to be a piece of work to find and gather all those ashes spread over the countryside. Yep, just good common sense.

  • Gerry Long

    Oh dear it looks as if the faithful departed who were scattered before
    this gem of wisdom was released could be “excluded from the prayers and
    remembrance of their family or the Christian community.” (it seems there is a limit on where prayers can travel!!!). How unfortunate that this advice has come so late! Someone in authority in the RC Church needs to be sacked and scattered randomly!