Can Catholics Be Cremated?
Concerning human biology, the cremation process does not discriminate; thus, anyone can be cremated. The true question – is it acceptable in Catholicism?
Here, we explore the scientific process of cremation and the symbolism of the human body in Catholicism. This article includes an overview of the legality behind the procedure, as well as the key reasons why people are turning to cremation more often, today.
The Process of Cremation
Cremation consists of rendering a human body to ashes through the application of slight pressure and high heat (750-1000°C, or 1400-1800°F). Bones and tissues are broken down, organic matter evaporates, and the remains are placed in a personalized cremation urn; one that rightfully symbolizes the deceased's life, and encompasses all the memories their loved ones hold with them.
The Symbolism of the Body
Dr. Scott Hahn, a Catholic theologist, and professor advises that "The body is the visible expression of the invisible soul" and with that thought, cremation usually generates some dissonance in those who value the human soul, as the body symbolizes something greater than what is tangible or visible to the human eye. Inevitably, when the body's integrity is compromised, it entails uncertainty alongside some degree of fear.
Prohibited or Permitted?
Until the 1960s, cremation had been prohibited. Today, although seldom, it is still frowned upon in some churches as Catholics earlier anticipated that the process of cremation would hinder physical resurrection. Another reason for the disapproval of cremation is that some simply do not agree with displaying ashes, or scattering them in memory of the deceased. Some believe that those who have passed on deserve their solitary, quiet, respectful resting place, away from the living who initiate the inhibition of their faithful afterlife. Even though the 1963 concession permits cremation, the Catholic Church still encourages and recommends a sacred burial, where the remains of the deceased can rest in holy ground.
The True Intention
Nowadays, most people opt for cremation as a result of issues with affordability and transportation. Decades ago, burials were the most feasible option, but nowadays, regardless of the demographic, they cost up to $8,000-$12,000. On the other hand, cremations are affordable at approximately one-quarter to one-third of the rate ($2,000-$5,000 average). To offer some perspective, wooden coffins range from $500-$1,500, whereas classic oak and marble urns can be acquired for less than $200. Burials are becoming less and less affordable, so people are turning to cremation. Finally, burials are immobile, whereas an urn can be moved around. Some prefer to be able to take their loved ones with them when moving, rather than leaving them to rest at a cemetery in a city where they no longer reside.
At the end of the day, those who practice Catholicism generally wish for a peaceful resting place for those who have passed – where the presence of God is dawdling. Though religion is often rooted in ancient scripture, the world is constantly evolving, and it is important to be mindful of our beliefs and the obstacles they may entail. As long as those who have passed on can have their wish fulfilled and their dignity salvaged, most Catholics are accepting of cremation. In conclusion, Catholics can be cremated, as it has not been banned since the 60s, and the stigma behind it is slowly fading away.