Thursday, September 06, 2007

Christian burial

Dovetailing yesterday’s post on the resurrection of the body, here’s a question from “Pat”: “When are Catholics not buried in consecrated soil?” I understand from the Church that cemeteries are the ordinary places of consecrated soil for burials. So, I will assume that you are asking, ‘when are Catholics not buried in cemeteries?’ Canon Law deprives the following of ecclesiastical (Church) funerals, “unless they gave some signs of repentance before death:

1) notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2)those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith; 3)other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful” (Canon 1184).

Because the committal (burial) is part of the funeral rite, I would assume that those listed above would be deprived of a burial in a Catholic cemetery.

If you are referring to some situations involving cremation here are some of the main points from the Church. First, the general statement of Canon Law: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine” (Canon 1176).

Secondly, here are some general points of Catholic theology involving respect for the deceased body as well as specific situations where cremated remains are not buried in consecrated soil:

“The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church’s reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person. The body of the deceased brings forcefully to mind the Church’s conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead. This conviction in faith finds it expression in a sustained and insistent prayer that commends the deceased person to God’s merciful care so that his or her place in the communion of the just may be assured. A further expression is the care traditionally taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for a burial that befits their dignity, in expectation of their final resurrection in the Lord…

For Catholic Christians, cemeteries, especially Catholic cemeteries, call to mind the resurrection of the dead. In addition, they are the focus for the Church’s remembering of the dead and offering of prayer for them.

The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be placed in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Whenever possible, appropriate means for recording with dignity the memory of the deceased should be adopted, such as a plaque or stone which records the name of the deceased” (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix, #412, 416, 417).


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