Another rule for Catholics to ignore

The Catholic church seems intent ion creating rules based on convoluted doctrinal reasoning that its followers are likely to ignore. The latest involves cremation, a practice allowed by the church in 1963 and that is increasingly favored by people over burial. The issue is what to do with the ashes. Up to now, people have had the freedom to choose, according to the wishes of the deceased or of the relatives of the deceased. This has led to some unusual methods of disposal.

In the United States, cremations have taken on a highly personalized and commercial aspect. Companies offer to load cremains into shotgun shells so that family members can take them on turkey hunts. Nature lovers ask that their ashes be scattered under a favorite tree or inserted into coral reefs. Cremains can be shot into space, or refashioned as diamonds.

But the church has decided that such methods, or even keeping them in an urn at home or scattering at sea, are sacrilegious and has specified the only appropriate ways.

According to new guidelines from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, cremated remains should be kept in a “sacred place” such as a church cemetery. Ashes should not be divided up between family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

Why? The Catholic News Service explains the reasoning. It involves preserving the idea that the body will one day be resurrected, while dispersal of the ashes suggests “attitudes and rites that see in death the definitive obliteration of the person”.

However, the Catholic Church wholeheartedly recommends continuing the “pious practice of burying the dead,” Cardinal Muller said. It is considered one of the corporal works of mercy and, mirroring the burial of Christ, it more clearly expresses hope in the resurrection when the person’s body and soul will be reunited.

In addition, he said, when a person is buried in the ground — and, at least to some extent — when the urn of the person’s ashes is placed in a columbarium or tomb, the final resting place is marked with the person’s name, the same name with which the person was baptized and by which the person is called by God.

Keeping ashes at home on the mantel, he said, is a sign not only of love and grief, but also of not understanding how the loved one belonged to the entire community of faith and not just to his or her closest relatives.

“Only in grave and exceptional cases,” the instruction says, local bishops may give permission for ashes to be kept in a private home. Cardinal Muller said it was not up to him, but to local and national bishops’ conferences to determine what those “grave and exceptional” circumstances might be.

Placing the ashes in a sacred place also “prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten or their remains from being shown a lack of respect,” which is more likely to happen as time goes on and the people closest to the deceased also pass way, the instruction said.

This idea that commemorating the location of the ashes will preserve the memory of the dead person is absurd. All of us will be forgotten after a few generations. Having our name etched on a stone in some graveyard or mausoleum will not prevent that.

This new rule will be seen by many Catholics as yet another attempt by the church to butt into the private lives of people, and will likely be ignored the same way they ignore the rules forbidding the use of contraception.


  1. says

    Psst. Nobody tell the Catholic Church just how much of each of us is scattered into the air as combustion gases (approx. 97%) during cremation.

    And I do wonder how much of their concern is that God won’t be able to figure out which atom goes with which person. (And what does He do with atoms that have been through multiple people?)

  2. Jean says

    It’s just to make sure that people pay some more money to the church even after they’re dead. I’m sure that the burial business is an important part of their revenues. The explanation is simply a way to hide to the plebe that this is purely a business decision.

  3. Johnny Vector says

    As Mercutio once very nearly said: Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave and exceptional man.

  4. tbrandt says

    Ashes should not be divided up between family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

    I believe the word he is looking for is “reliquary.”

  5. says

    tbrandt @#5: Great point! Is the Catholic Church now going to demand that all of the relics of the saints be brought back to their original graves?

    And they’ll need a whole cemetery to hold all of Jesus’ foreskins. 😉

  6. Mano Singham says


    Not only is there the problem of the same atoms being used by multiple people, there is also the problem that each of our organs undergo changes and replacements as we age, so that by the time a person dies of old age, they may have had the equivalent of multiple hearts, lungs, kidneys, etc.

  7. EigenSprocketUK says

    When I’m dead, I’m fine with my atoms being dispersed. After all, that’s how I got most of mine in the first place.

    But a special gift to Cardinal Muller: he can definitely have the steam off my piss.

  8. raven says

    while dispersal of the ashes suggests “attitudes and rites that see in death the definitive obliteration of the person”

    1. Why can’t god put a dispersed dead body back together. It’s just a jig saw puzzle after all. A lot of pieces to be sure but god is all powerful.
    If god can’t do a human sized atomic level jig saw puzzle, then why call it god?
    2. I used to be a Brontosaurus. And a Coelocanth. And lots of other organisms. As already noted, our atoms have been recycled for 3.8 billion years.
    3. As already noted, this is more a business decision for the RCC. They’ve been losing members and money by the millions lately.
    And yes, it is another pointless rule for Catholics to ignore.

  9. R. C. Olwen says

    2 is correct.
    what does the most cheap burial cost in the US?
    In Germany, where a Nazitime law still exists about burials it costs about 30,oooEuros MINIMAL.
    And most people do not know that church- (or cityowned) cemeteries CASH IN after 25 or 40 years again, otherwise the place is being reused for somebody else!!!

  10. Mano Singham says


    The church says that god can put a dispersed body back together. That is not the problem here. They say that dispersal lends support to the idea that death is final and that is what they are trying to combat. Or so they say.

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