In hard times, a surge in cremations

In hard times, a surge in cremations December 9, 2011

At the rate things are going, by the end of this decade a majority of Americans will choose cremation.


As Toni Kelly battled lymphoma, first with a bone marrow transplant and then with brutal rounds of chemotherapy, she worried obsessively that her four-year struggle would destroy her family’s finances.

Her husband, Doug, refused to consider her pleas to stop pursuing costly therapies. But she knew that after she died, which she did on Sept. 29, there was one way she could keep from adding to the $200,000 in medical debt she would leave behind. Like a growing proportion of Americans, she said she wanted her body to be cremated.

“We did everything we could to cut down other costs, and one of the things Toni said was, ‘Let’s find out how much it costs to be cremated,’ ” Mr. Kelly said. “If there was a way we could save even $500 or $1,000, it didn’t make a difference. Her major thing was not ruining the family.”

All but taboo in the United States 50 years ago, cremation is now chosen over burial in 41 percent of American deaths, up from 15 percent in 1985, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Economics is clearly one of the factors driving that change.

The percentage of bodies that are cremated has risen steadily for years, for reasons ranging from spiritual to environmental. But a recent study shows that the increase has accelerated during the downturn, and many funeral home directors say they believe the economy is leading people to look for less expensive options.

The disposition of Ms. Kelly’s remains cost about $1,600, and that total included a death notice, a death certificate and an urn bought online. It was a fraction of the $10,000 to $16,000 that is typically spent on a traditional funeral and burial.

Family and friends remembered Ms. Kelly, a 54-year-old artist, at a simple memorial service at the golf course in Virginia Beach where Mr. Kelly works as an assistant pro and where she liked to walk their dogs. It was the first cremation on her side of the family, Mr. Kelly said.

“Neither one of us felt that the body itself was really all that important,” said Mr. Kelly, who raised two sons with his wife during their 28-year marriage. “We had no interest in being put in the ground, no need for a memorial for the whole world to see. Her concern was the financial devastation she was bringing to the family.”

Many others share that concern, according to a national telephone survey of 858 adults conducted last year by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council. It found that one-third of those who chose cremation in 2010 said cost was a primary factor, up from 19 percent in 1990.

With the cremation rate rising one-third faster than at the middle of the last decade, the cremation association projects it will pass 50 percent by 2017 (still lagging behind Canada and much of Europe and Asia). Although state cremation rates vary widely, from 13 percent in Mississippi to 73 percent in Nevada, every state has experienced an increase since 2005.

Read more.

A lot of people misunderstand the Catholic teaching on cremation, which is found in the catechism:

The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.

It also requires that the ashes be buried in an appropriate place, not scattered.  You can find a good overview of the teaching at this link.

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62 responses to “In hard times, a surge in cremations”

  1. My mother-in-law had always told us to cremate her when she died. She died last year, at the age of 90, so this would not have been a practice that was common for her generation. We did as she wished, and put her ashes in the ocean, off the shore of a light house park we visited often. She loved the water. My parents, of simular age, however, didn’t want to be cremated and had purchased their plots and put the money aside for their funerals, 10 years before they died. Much lesser expensive for sure to be cremated, as my mother-in-law’s cost was the $1,600 mentioned above in the article. My parent’s funerals were 6 and 9 years ago, and were much, much more financially.

  2. My parents’ (Lutheran) church funerals cost a total of over $12,000, besides the cost of their burial plots, which my father had purchased long before, and the marble marker for their graves. They wanted traditional funerals, and my sister and I were glad to honor their wishes. But I would be appalled if that kind of money should be spent on my own funeral. No family members will grieve over my dead body, and no one in my parish even knows my name, so there is not much point in having a church funeral. I certainly want immediate cremation, and I would prefer my ashes to be scattered somewhere–I don’t care where–but it appears the Church will not allow me to decide the disposition of my own remains. I have always wondered if the need to financially maintain Catholic cemeteries plays a role in maintaining this insistence on actual burials.

  3. “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.”

    Which means–considering that no one puts in his LW&T, “Be sure to cremate my body to show that I don’t believe in the resurrection”–that the Church permits cremation.

  4. I’m sure there’s an obvious answer that I’m just missing, but why is scattering of ashes not allowed? I have known many families (Catholic too), who have done it.

  5. I wish to have a direct in-ground burial – no embalming, no casket. Just dust to dust. Trouble is I don’t know if I could have a funeral Mass without a casket.

  6. It has nothing to do with finances. Scattering is not allowed since we believe that the body has been a temple of the Holy Spirit. The body or ashes are to be treated with dignity and respect. Ashes should not be scattered nor should they be kept on the mantlepiece. They should be buried in consecrated ground just as you would with the body of the deceased.

  7. Different families have different traditions; however I think there is a lot to be said for having an actual grave with a marker, whether one’s remains are cremated or not. There ought to be something to indicate a person’s life and death for posterity. I can remember as a kid going with my family to the cemetery on Decoration Day; it was my job to sit in the back seat and keep the containers of irises and peonies from tipping over. My parents and grandmother would tell us about the family members who were buried there. We kept up the same tradition with our kids; often we are in our home town on Memorial Day weekend. Cemeteries are interesting; and they are valuable to people doing research on family history. There are dates of birth and death, and often it is noted if the person served in the military. My husband’s great-grandfather has the initials “G.A.R.” on his stone, indicating that he served in the Union Army in the Civil War. As expensive as it is to carve names and dates on a stone nowadays, not many people have epitaphs. But it is interesting to read those from the past. I hope to be buried in that cemetery of my home town.
    I think the account in the Old Testament where Abraham buries Sarah in the Cave of Macpelah is touching. It became their ancestral burying ground thereafter.

  8. I personally feel like embalming is a pagan ritual and is a total desecration to the human body. Few people know what actually takes place in the embalming room and preparation for viewing process that so many people in the West choose. The procedure is gross and a total desecration to the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Of course funeral directors say it is to make the dead body hygienic, to preserve it for visitation, and to help the survivors with the grieving process. Sorry, but the dead body cannot be made “hygienic” in spite of washing, draining all the blood out of it, the suction of all body fluids via a trocar, and the injection of some of the most caustic chemicals known to man. Death is natural. It is the end of life and the return to the earth is inevitable. Direct burial and direct cremation without embalming should be encourage. Dressing the dead body in clothing which is totally unlike “natural” sleep and phony and the application of cosmetics should be discouraged. I see no reason whatsoever theologically why scattering ashes is wrong. It has nothing whatsoever against the belief that on the last day, the body and soul will be rejoined. If it did then no one should ever be buried at sea, on the side of a mountain, or in the desert or anywhere that a person’s body could be dispersed by the forces of nature in time.

  9. I thought of the prohibition of scattering ashes while watching The Way. It seemed to me that the father’s distributing his son’s ashes along the Camino was respectful—as have been other scatterings for which I have been present—and certainly in character for a Catholic no longer involved enough in the Faith to be aware of such proscriptions. I understand and share the Church’s reluctance to have Grandma become a mantel ornament or end up in a forgotten in a bureau drawer, but I wonder if we will eventually see permission for respectful scattering in places where it is allowed. After all, we honor the bodily relics of saints, many of which are scattered to the four winds, geographically—a finger here, a heart there. And many of our beloved dead are scattered by their very manner of death—as at Ground Zero or in a plane crash or fire or by act of war. Surely they are no less honored because the ground or sea or air that received them was not formally consecrated.

  10. That’s not wrong, RC, but neither is it compelling. The Church’s law on cremation has been changing at, in Church terms, lightening speed. I doubt it is finished changing yet. There is no reason I can see why scattering should not generally be allowed, but there is law against it, and I’m a big fan of following the law while it is in force. I just wouldn’t go to the wall for any “reasons” against scattering of cremains.

  11. “I wonder if we will eventually see permission for respectful scattering in places where it is allowed.”

    I think we will see that. In time. Just my guess.

  12. Well I find that compelling. People of all cultures (Egyptians etc) have always honored their dead with proper burial. Just about every church in Rome has someone buried in it. I just think the respectful thing to do is burial. I cannot imagine Jesus and Mary taking Joseph’s body, cremating it and then scattering his ashes in the wind.
    I can’t the reason for scattering ashes at all. It makes no sense to me nor do I care to debate the issue. The Church prefers burial, it forbids scattering ashes. Case closed for me.

  13. One thing to have in mind is that the committal service is a part of the Church’s funeral liturgy, along with the vigil and the funeral Mass. It’s regrettable if people decide to dispense with it.

  14. Mark, you are 100 percent correct. I have served as organist in funeral homes and have been in embalming rooms. It is the most unnatural process in the world to make the loved one look natural. Also, in re the Church’s prohibition against scattering the ashes. I will pay no attention to it. If they can permit the bodies of Saints to be minced up and shipped all over the world in relic cases and reliquaries, then, they have no claim to tell me I can’t be scattered in the woods. I have already notified my family that I do not want a Catholic funeral. Also, I’ve had a few lively “discussions” on the subject in a confessional setting, but, I have made up my mind. I suffer from claustrophobia and have nightmares about being buried underground. So — it through the woods and over the hill for me.

  15. I’ve always thought that my body after my death was regrettably useless. I tell my husband that he should bury me in the back yard in a hefty bag if he could get away with it! I think I would like to donate my body to train medical students. Or one time I read about a place where they put bodies out in the open to decay and measure and study the process precisely, so that they will have the data to judge time of death, etc., in a murder or accident victim — or need to figure out whether someone was murdered or died of natural causes.

    But spending 5 figures on embalming, casket, burial — it just seems so wasteful that it in and of itself is disrespectful of life!

  16. There are special cemeteries where it is allowed but they are rare in my area and most don’t alllow headstones which I would like to have. I think it will become more common and hopefully I have the time to wait.

  17. Yeah, your problems with the church go much further than some scattering of ashes.

    Of course I guess your claustrophobia, while keeping you from the ground, won’t prevent you from being placed in the oven in a cardboard casket?

  18. I agree with cathyf. My end-of-life documents state my wish to donate my organs as needed, my body for anatomical studies, and then cremation when (or if) the body is of no further scientific use. I directed my children to scatter the ashes in a peaceful place of their choosing. God knows how to put it all back together at the appropriate time. Until that time I hope it will be of use to mankind.

    Besides the expense of embalming, casket, plot, etc., I find that in our mobile society many grave sites are simply not visited. Survivors move away, often quite far, due to jobs, marriage, finances, or retirement.

  19. The immemorial teaching and discipline of those churches adhering to the catholic tradition is that cremation is prohibited except in very unusual circumstances (mass catastrophe etc.). The current relaxation of this rule by the Roman Church is IMHO unjustified. In the Orthodox Church a church funeral is denied to those who are planning on cremation or burial in unconsecrated ground. (An exception is made in Japan due to cremation being compulsory by law.)

  20. I don’t know of anyone who has asked for their ashes to be scattered who did not more-or-less mean it to be symbolic of the extinction of the individual and re-absorption into the pantheistic whole. Even if it is not the meaning intended, it is surely a reasonable conclusion to which others will jump, so the sin of scandal is likely to be involved.

  21. Catholic canon law specifies that cremated remains are not to be scattered, they are to be buried, prefereably in the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery. The body is important and must be treated with reverence, we believe in a bodily resurrection on the last day. “To bury the dead” is among the corporal works of mercy. My elderly friend Margot also wanted to be cremated and was convinced nobody cared about her, I encouraged her to think more about the counsel that we should be buried intact in witness (not least to her fallen-away Catholic relatives) to our belief that we will rise again, and she agreed and has purchased a plot at the Catholic cemetery and pre-paid for funeral services.

    To bury the dead is the consistent Catholic practice from earliest times, how horrible to accuse that it is some kind of racket. We believe in the resurrection, the meaning is actually Christian hope. Someone who just wants to be cremated and scattered probably does not understand the teaching of the Church on the nature of the human person as a unity of body and soul, and the resurrection of the dead. All those saved by Jesus will have their own body, but glorified. The problem is the lack of understanding and witness of the Faith.

  22. One problem with this is that often there is no way to be assured that the place where the remains are scattered will remain undisturbed. Someone told me he was going to scatter the cremated remains of his friend in a small urban park in my city, about a year later the park was completely dug up and re-done with a new performance stage, new landscaping etc. There was no intent to treat the remains irreverently but neither was that a permanent rest for the remains, and for all anyone knows some may even have been dug up and sent to a landfill in the course of re-contouring the park site. Burying remains makes sense. I don’t see why burying cremated remains would have to be expensive.

  23. If I had been a Heathen,
    I’d have piled my pyre on high,
    And in a great red whirlwind
    Gone roaring to the sky;
    But Higgins is a Heathen,
    And a richer man than I:
    And they put him in an oven,
    Just as if he were a pie.

  24. Many cultures cremated their dead—warriors were sent on their way to the after life in flaming boats etc. No dishonor or disrespect in cremation or in the scattering of the ashes. The body was only the house the person lived in. The person and his/her energy left for other places (whatever one believes) at the moment of death.

  25. Actually, the point of it is that the heathens of 1000 years ago and more were much more interesting than those of today.

    Now who that runs can read it,
    The riddle that I write,
    Of why this poor old sinner,
    Should sin without delight-
    But I, I cannot read it
    (Although I run and run),
    Of them that do not have the faith,
    And will not have the fun.
    (G. K. Chesterton – 1913)

  26. That is precisely why cremation is problematic for Christians. Christians do not believe that the body is “only the house the person lived in,” but rather that a human is incomplete without a body.

  27. The problem lies in having to decide what is respectful and what is not. At the time of the death of a loved one, I doubt that any Deacon, Priest, Bishop, Bereavement Minister, etc wants to have to discuss and argue with the family about whether their desire to scatter the ashes in “x” way is respectful of the body or not. Having had this discussing with many people whenthey were not in the midst of grieving the death of a loved one, I would not want to have to deal with it when they were upset in the days immeadiatly following the death or their loved one. So the Church has stated that the cremains be treated with the same dignity as a non-cremated body. AS a long time Cubs fan their is a certain appeal to having my ashes scattered in the ivy in right field below where my grandfather took me to my first game at age 4 just before he died, however I also see that this is frivolous and not tremendously dignified for the remains of my body. There is a huge difference between a body being destroyed in a manner that was unexpected that would scatter elements of the remains over an area, also places like gorund zero in NYC, The USS Arizona, the USS Utah etc have become consecrated grounds and are therefore suitable for interring the remains of the deceased.

  28. “there is no way to be assured that the place where the remains are scattered will remain undisturbed.”
    Neither is there any way to guarantee that a cemetery or mausoleum won’t be disturbed, fall into neglect or disrepair, be desecrated or vandalized, or suffer a natural disaster (coffins can be unearthed by flash floods, storm surges or landslides).
    My husband once volunteered to help clean up an historic private cemetery that had been severely neglected by its previous owner. The conditions he saw there convinced him that being cremated and having his ashes scattered over a body of water (he is a Navy veteran) would be MORE “respectful” to him than being buried in a cemetery where the gravesite would always be at risk of damage or vandalism. I know the Church does not allow scattering of ashes, but I do not know how to respond to his argument.
    If the Church is going to insist that burial is preferable, then perhaps more needs to be done to 1) assist people to reduce or pay the costs of such burial and 2) separate the purely cultural trappings like embalming, open casket wakes, etc. from what the Church really requires or expects.
    Respect for the body does NOT, as far as I can tell, demand that it be publicly displayed, or preserved indefinitely via embalming or internment in a coffin or concrete vault. Also, embalming is not necessary for health or sanitary reasons and is not mandated by law in any state. If people were more aware of these facts they might not regard Christian burial as a financial burden or as a waste of time or resources.

  29. On a related topic, I assume I’m not the only one who finds it very disturbing when the Mythbusters use real human bones (often the skull) in some of their tests. Their show really doesn’t treat anything with respect, and I seriously doubt that anyone donating his body to science had Mythbusters in mind.

  30. One other point: I once raised the issue of cost with a priest who strongly advocated burial. He said he knows of Catholic funeral directors in the area who have quietly donated or reduced the cost of their services to needy families. While I can see several reasons why funeral directors would not want such actions to become common knowledge (they don’t want to boast about their charitable acts, or they don’t want un-needy people taking advantage of their generosity to the point that it creates financial problems for them), if people don’t KNOW that help is available if they ask and just assume that a “proper” Catholic funeral will be outrageously expensive, they are going to go ahead and make no-frills cremation plans in advance when they may not have to.

  31. The things you mention in your final paragraph are not required by the Church, AFAIK.

    But when possible, the respectful burial of remains (or placing in a columbarium, etc.) is the norm since, as Howard has alluded to, we believe that the body is as integral a part of the human person as the soul. We are dealing with a relic — not the relic of a canonized saint, but the relic of a baptized child of God. This is why the committal service includes a blessing of the place of burial or columbarium if it has not already been blessed (like a Catholic cemetery).

  32. Well, my body is hardly intact. I’ve had to had diseased organs removed, as well as a fistula to make a port for dialysis. Thank God it has not had to be used.

    However, our bodies, and their remains, are not ours. They belong to God.

    Should I be cremated, I doubt not that God will be able to call it back into being from the elements at the Resurrection.

  33. If you’ve paid for a Catholic funeral and burial lately, you will know, without a doubt that there is certainly an aspect of “racket” to the process.
    The Catholic Cemeteries in my state (and believe me, I checked them all) demand payment of 100% up front before the hole is dug (and regardless of the status of any probate), offer no financing of the cemetery costs, charge an addition $500 for any graveside burial service, demand a multi-thousand dollar concrete lining in each grave, send a cleanup bill for too many flowers, and overall do everything they possibly can to yes, give the impression that the mortal remains of one’s beloved dead are far far less important than how much money they may have left behind.
    For my part, I think I will be buried in the ‘holy ground’ of either the Muslim or Jewish cemeteries here, as they average 70% less in costs and their attitude overall is infinitely more comforting and kind.
    I wish I had been able to convince my three recently deceased relatives that these were a better option.

  34. For someone who doesn’t want a Catholic funeral why are you discussing it confession? I thought the confessionsal was to confess sins. Since you pay “no attebtion” to what the Church says, why even bother commenting about it?

  35. Once again an absolute statement: “No dishonor or disrespect in cremation or in the scattering of the ashes.” Is that your humble opinion or are we now required to affirm that because you said it? We are talking about what the Catholic Church permits and does not permit.

  36. I also found the human skeletons and skulls that we used in anatomy and physiology class in college disturbing. Not because they were human; after all people do will their bodies to science, and students have to learn somehow. The reason I found them disturbing was because I learned that many times human bones are sold to schools by scientific supply companies; they obtain them from 3rd world countries. They are unclaimed bodies, sometimes disposed of in mass burial pits. I’m assuming the bones were sterilized to avoid spread of disease. These people had no idea their bones would be used by students; they were just too poor to afford any kind of burial or cremation. I guess it’s not so terrible, but I was still creeped out. I always said a prayer for the person’s soul when I was doing a lab session.

  37. RC, You said above that you did want to debate this matter, so I let our exchange drop, but now, well, are you debating or not? Our exchange might be instructive for others.

  38. And thanks again for this comment, sir.
    Your “lightning speed” phrase takes
    me back.. before my 30 year long
    “lapse” I was a faithful young Catholic
    who was disturbed by my Mother’s
    intention to be cremated. When I
    consulted a priest in the ’70s and
    was informed it was licit given the “denial
    of faith” caveat, I was somewhat
    amazed.. probably as amazed as my
    father was about the Vatican II reforms.

  39. Ed, no I am not debating it. I am simply responding to a non-Catholic who made an absolute statement stating that there is no dishonor in cremation or scattering ashes. That may well be her opinion but since I thought this was a Catholic blog I thought I would restate that it is not what Catholics are supposed to hold. Cremation is allowed but is certainly not the preferred option. Scattering is not permitted and is a rather silly thing to do anyway.

  40. I think that goes back to the Enlightenment, where certain free thinkers were determined to express disbelief in the afterlife and prescribed elaborate rituals of cremation and scattering to demonstrate that.

  41. I don’t know why it is, but I just got a quote yesterday for opening up a grave and reuniting the half of the cremains of a relative with the half that was kept above ground and the estimate is about $3500.

  42. Ok RC. I never get why pagansister posts here either, since her comments don’t really advance Catholics’ understanding of Catholic topics (there are plenty of other blogs designed to meet pagasister’s interests), but hey, it’s not my blog, so, like whatever.

    For Catholics, I’d just caution any of them against using as arguments for cremation what were arguments for burial, when, pretty obliviously, those arguments did not carry the day.

  43. Ed Peters:
    Sorry to interfere with your two way discussion with RomCath but I want to respond to your comment;
    “I never get why pagansister posts here either, since her comments don’t really advance Catholics’ understanding of Catholic topics (there are plenty of other blogs designed to meet pagansister’s interests)… .”
    I welcome pagansister’s comments. They often help me to clarify my positions and frequently affirm my thoughts on various subjects with which I agree.
    But, more than that, she is never as snarky as a few Catholic commenters are.

  44. On Octoberf 28th this year I made arrangements at a Catholic cemetery. They were very courteous and were offering, on a sign at the entrance, a payment plan over the course of four years without interest. As there was little space, they had dug out a couple of road, and they said that in another year, that once again there would be no burial room within the city. I spent $11,869 dollars which included over a thousand dollars tax, about 900 for the potential burial of another member of my family, as well as the agreement that two other persons cremated remains could be buried on the plot. A tour of the cemetery informed me that ‘niches’ were available at about $300-500.00 above ground for cremated remains, which included a marker and space for names, etc.
    As far as the funeral home, I shall follow my mother’s example and insist that my body is not filled up with chemicals, etc. etc. If, on the possibility that my body is not immediately discovered, as I live alone, I will place instructions that the casket is merely closed. I think the chemicals, as well as cremation are not friendly to the environment, thus although I am poor, for these reasons I have taken on this expense, which is far beyond my means. I have never been able to afford a car, for instance, so I shall at least give my body a proper burial, even if no one comes to the funeral. There will I am assured be the formality of a mass said, with as I appreciate no personal eulogy, but rather a homily, which at first I thought was very impersonal, but have since been given the understanding that death is the enclosure of the person within a borader context, whether you understand this to be divine or secular. I am working now on saving for the funeral parlour. I hope to have all of this completed before I die. I shall leave little in my will, indeed, I have not had much of a will in life, and my body has not been always treated with the highest respect. It gives me courage to know therefore that my body will be intact at my burial, and that it will lie in a place called Mount Hope. Thank you.

  45. “I welcome pagansister’s comments. They often help me to clarify my positions and frequently affirm my thoughts on various subjects with which I agree.”

    Well I welcome her comments too as long as they are respectful of my Catholic faith. I find all too often those comments and some of others are in absolute contradiction to what the Church teaches. Some like to throw bombs and then sit back and wait for a reaction. While you may have found some comments clarify your positions I have yet to find one that does for me. But that’s just old Catholic me.
    People love to criticize the Pope when he pontificates but seem to have no problem with some on here who do the same. Unfortunately they don’t have the same charism as the Pope.

  46. “I welcome pagansister’s comments. They often help me to clarify my positions and frequently affirm my thoughts on various subjects with which I agree.”
    Me, too.

  47. I must begin by expressing my delight in seeing part of G.K. Chesterton’s witty poem in which he expresses his disdain for “Higgins” who was a heathen who did not have the Faith but would not have the fun! Higgins was one who lent the “funny cash” to the poor that made them poorer still….but I digress!
    I am an Acolyte and I was once asked to conduct a Service at a graveside in which a lady wished her mother’s remains to be buried with those of her father in that particular Cemetery. Her mother had been cremated and she brought those remains to be buried in the grave of her father. I don’t know what cost was involved but the Cemetery Board simply dug a small hole at the head of the grave and I composed a suitable Service for the occasion. There were only the lady, her husband, the cremated remains and myself, present on that occasion. I charged her nothing and I think that she had to pay less than $50 for the small hole to be opened up. It was all very dignified and she was very happy.

  48. My goodness RomCath, do you want only comments that mirror your own? You seem to find issue with many participants — non-Catholics, inactive Catholics, former Catholics, curious participants, and even practicing Catholics. If everyone parroted your take on the topics there would be seem to be no need for this site to exist. I take it you want only Catholics to post on this site. It seems that the very fact non-Catholics do participate indicates there is a curiosity about Catholicism. Perhaps they should be welcomed.

    I find the disparate takes on the topics interesting and educational. The participants should be thanked for contributing. The posts are for the great part respectfully written, for which I do thank the participants. It seems to me that any topic not defined by an infallible ruling (which is almost all of them near as I can tell) is open for discussion by everybody including practicing Catholics.

  49. When I formally changed my canonical status to an Eastern Catholic Church sui iuris I had to consider this change in how my body will be handled after my repose. Everyone in my family for three generations has been cremated and that was my expectation. The one change I found difficult in making my change in Church to an ECC was this change from cremation to burial of my body in tact.

    The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) Canon 876 §3 says “Those who choose cremation for their bodies, unless such a choice was made for reasons contrary to the conduct of Christian life, are to be granted an ecclesiastical funeral, provided that it does not obscure the preference of the Church for the burial of bodies and that scandal is avoided.”

    My Church does not have its own Code of Canon Laws beyond those of the CCEO. But since we choose to remain as close as possible to our Orthodox counterpart, which does not permit cremation, to me it would create “scandal” to follow a process that would totally contradict that of the Orthodox.

    If there is cremation the Oriental Congregation, Instruction on Cremation, states “it is preferable to celebrate the funeral rites in the presence of the body of the deceased prior to cremation.” The expense of preserving the body and respectfully having it present for the funeral rite remains, even if the body is then later cremated and placed in a less expensive resting place. Even in the Latin Church some reasonable financial hardship is not an appropriate reason to choose cremation.

  50. RomCath,
    How is scattering ashes disrespectful? Catholics believe ( I think) that God created the earth—so scattering the ashes is returning them to consecrated ground—God created that ground, right? (and the water, thus the ocean/rivers are also sacred).

  51. That would be my opinion and my belief, of course, RomCath. Sorry, forgot to preface it with “IMO”. For me it is an absolute statement. No requirement for anyone else to believe it. :0)

  52. Thank you HMS and Melody, for the kind words—I spent 10 years teaching in a Catholic elementary school—little ones—K. If I didn’t have respect for the Church, I wouldn’t have stayed. I enjoy the interaction on this site.

  53. I work at a Catholic Cemetery and the charges you refer to are outlandish. We are not consumed by the financial end of Catholic burial, but that Family is kept together. We would never require 100% payment before preparing the Interment or Entombment and all the charges you listed are appalling. We will make whatever payment arrangements that the family would be comfortable with. We are not here to be a hardship on Families but a comfort. It is no wonder that people have a “sour feeling” towards the Catholic Cemetery when you have some Cemeterires forgetting the importance, dignity and respect of the deceased and their family and just look at the $.

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