Is Cremation a Sin?
Whether or not cremation is a sin has been debated in Catholicism for years. Opinions vary based on the definition of sinning, and the way we interpret Catholic scripture. In addition, by analyzing the history of the Church and the modern-day beliefs behind the process, we can begin to understand the reasoning behind choosing cremation versus burial.
Defining a Sin
According to Catholic moral theology, sin is characterized by defiance of the law of God. The bible has described sin as "Knowing to do good and not doing it" (James 4:17), or "Anything not done in faith" (Romans 14:23). Thus, whether cremation is a sin highly depends on the person interpreting the scripture. Their individual beliefs also play a massive role in how they perceive cremation. In short, cremation could be considered a sin if not done in faith, but over time, the Catholic Church has been more accepting of the concept.
The History of Cremation
In 1963, the Vatican, or the Roman Catholic Church, lifted the ban that prevented Catholics from being cremated. Historically, for as long as we know, the cremation of human remains had been labeled strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church. Not only did ground burial distinguish Catholics from Pagans, but it permitted the concept of physical resurrection. Thus, when people began to turn to cremation due to its affordability... Many were uneasy with the thought of it.
The Modern-Day Belief
As previously mentioned, despite the concession, some people believe that cremation is inherently impersonal or less respected than a burial. Is there any substance to the claim that cremation could be a sin? Nowadays, most insist that cremation is acceptable as long as the remains of the deceased are held in a holy place. The notion that cremation prevents resurrection is flawed because the human body similarly experiences underground decomposition when buried. If one was to be resurrected, there is faith in God to render it attainable. As long as this procedure is chosen based on individual need, and is done in faith, most Catholics would not consider the cremation of their loved ones, upon their request, as a sin. The most common reasons for the preference of cremation over a burial usually stem from affordability and convenience. Not only is it less costly, but you can transport the urn wherever need be, and it prevents the disease from spreading from the body of the deceased. In fact, there is evidence of an increase in cremations during the COVID-19 pandemic, because it prevents the coronavirus from infecting other people once those attained by the virus have passed.
What the Scripture Says
There is no evidence of any bible verses that communicate the prohibition of being cremated. Various excerpts of Catholic scripture could be interpreted as favoring burials, as they were common practice in the Bible. For example, the bible reports situations where faithful servants of God buried their dead. However, the word cremation does not ever technically appear in the bible. Catholic scripture does mention burning the wicked with fire after stoning them with stones, yet many would argue that this is entirely unrelated to blessed cremation.
Whether or not cremation is a sin could be interpreted differently depending on the person. However, the Catholic Church does not prohibit cremation - since the late 1900s. The stigma surrounding the concept is declining as history progresses; as long as cremation is effectuated faithfully under God, many Catholics agree that cremation is generally accepted today - and it is not technically a sin.