Can Catholics Be Cremated?

For much of history the Catholic Church banned cremation as a choice for dead Catholics, but in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban. Cremation is now an acceptable practice for Catholics, but only if done for the right reasons.

A full burial can cost a lot of money and for those who cannot afford it (or for whatever other reason) cremation may be the best option.

Why was cremation not allowed?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church the short paragraph on cremation falls under respect for the dead which is part of the larger topic of respect for the human body.

Scripture teaches we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and from that teaching Catholics believe there is a great deal of respect to given to the human body in life and in death.

Originally, the practice was banned to counter ancient Roman pagan beliefs. The Romans cremated their dead because they did not believe in an afterlife, which is contradictory to Christian belief.

A Change in Policy

However, in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban on cremation, but the cremated remains or “cremains” could not be present at the funeral mass. Cremation could only be chosen if not for the reason that a person denies the teaching on the resurrection of the body. Burial was (and still is) the preferred method.

In 1997, the Vatican approved new liturgical norms allowing for the cremated remains to be present at a funeral mass and the remains are to be treated with the same reverence as a whole body in a casket. This means that spreading the cremated ashes is still forbidden.

Cremated remains must be buried, just like a body, in a cemetery, crypt, or other appropriate burial place not put on display.

Comments

  1. Kathleen boyle says

    I had not realised the problems with a catholic cremation until looking it up on google. I would like to have a catholic funeral but then be cremated but I would like my ashes taken to Ireland and scattered or buried in some lovely spot near our ancestral home in county Kerry. I got a bit confused reading about this so would this be allowed or would my ashes have to stay in some crematorium where I don’t want to be. I would not be able to afford a funeral where my body was taken to Ireland first.

    • Gwynne says

      I recently lost my disabled daughter at 24 years old, she was my everything and she was baptized catholic but I am
      Pagan. My ex husband her father and I had her cremated and divided between us. I keep her with me at my house and he does the same I plan on having our ashes together when I die and spread in a beautiful spot that we have. This is not a decision for the church . You should do what you want and not feel bad about this. On another note my Druid priest was not allowed on catholic ground during the church service and he was there to give me the mother comfort and support. I was very upset over this and I don’t think it was right. We all have different religion but that is man made, I think that having faith in something is what is important and mine should have been recognized not shunned!

  2. Andrea says

    You cannot spread the ashes of a deceased person because Catholics believe the body (ashes) will rise to a new glorified body and it cannot be scattered due to this reason. The ashes should be kept in a holy place intact. You cannot take parts of a religion you like and keep them and throw away the ones you don’t like. If that is the case, you should be Protestant (my way religion). Have some respect for the Catholic church, for it is the True church of Jesus Christ. God has Mercy, Compassion, and Forgiveness, so if remains have to be kept at home temporarily for monetary reasons, it is acceptable. But please, respect the Catholic religion. Most people don’t like it because they don’t understand it or want to do what they want. It is a truly beautiful church. I encourage you to enlighten yourself and go to bible studies or watch EWTN where you can learn through the program, The Journey Home, why some people convert to the Catholic religion. You might learn the religion is very logical and encompasses the fullness of the faith!

    • Teresa Miller says

      So very helpful. We are burying my youngest sister tomorrow which got me thinking about my burial wishes. I always felt I would want to be cremated and thought it was allowed by the Catholic Church but now see it differently as it is not a necessity for me. I will check out the resources you mentioned and also research further to see how this might apply to organ donation or other things I may have been considering. Thank you!

  3. Andrea says

    Please stop saying rude remarks about the Catholic Church. It is the one true church of Jesus Christ. All the Protestant religions are King Henry VIII’s religion because he wanted a divorce from his wife. The Catholic church (Christ) does not recognize divorce, therefore, King Henry created ‘my way’ religion where he wanted his own rules. God does not recognize divorce, therefore, if you are married in a Catholic church, you should not get remarried unless you are granted an annulment. The Catholic church does not make up these rules. If you knew your bible (where the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit), you would know God’s word. Become enlightened. Read the Bible.

  4. pete says

    my aunt died and was cremated and her ashes where scattered
    within a week, does this normally happen in the catholic church

  5. Samantha Harris says

    I am a Catholic but when I pass, I want to be cremated because I hate burials; I don’t like the idea of going 6ft under and the earth covering me and all the creepy crawlies that are about; it also feels “too final” and I don’t want my name etched upon a stone for I know I have lived .. So I prefer to be cremated and my ashes scattered in my garden where I love to be and why not. I don’t need a headstone to know that I took my place in this world, I have lived and I have loved and I have lost but right now, I still live, Thank God and I love my garden and I give thanks to God for the beauty of nature; the beautiful colours of the flowers and fragrant roses, yes I want to be among all I have cared for and be near those who loved me dearly.

  6. Alexandria Romonov says

    There’s not a single thing wrong with being cremated, it’s just another point where the catholic “church” holds their finger over the people just like the threat of denying communion (which can be taken without the blessing of the corrupt “church” because it’s between man and GOD, not man and priest!) and the threat of excommunication (which is total BS because no power on this earth can bar you from heaven). Oh, and as for “consecrated” ground and burial, ALL OF THE EARTH IS CONSECRATED because it was formed by Gods own hand, sprinkling “holy water” on it and saying a few Latin words doesn’t make it any more special than the local water treatment plant.

  7. Chris says

    *also a person’s cremains or body may remain eternally in this area designated for Catholics without means to interr or bury their loved ones.

  8. Chris says

    Your Catholic Cemetary will have an area designated for Catholics who do
    Not have the funds for a plot/burial or niche. It can be temporary, until you have the means to purchase a plot/niche. Also they can remain there until a family member is buried and they can be placed with them. This saves money as the opening of a plot to bury a person is an additional cost. The area in our Catholic crmetery for those without funds is beautiful. A person would never know what this area is. It is beautiful. A friend is buried there so this is how I am aware that these areas exist.

  9. Dave says

    I am initially replying to Karen (2013) but after reading all your replies, I am devastated as to the depth of the problem regarding “cremation for catholics”. My wife died in 1998. I EVENTUALLY buried HER ASHES in my parents’ grave (my parents were buried with my grandmother). I myself intend to be cremated. I got married with beautiful children and grandchildren after leaving the priesthood.

  10. JT says

    Hi Karen,

    I am in the same mix up. I just found out that Catholics should not be cremated. If Christ was buried in a tomb. Does that mean, it is the proper way. I just find it hard to believe that people bury their loved ones one way or the other. It is the soul that is still alive and not the body. There is no more soul in the dead body. If you feel that you think that your loved one is still with you even in cremation, I don’t find any disrespect. My close relative that might not make it as well doesn’t believe in cremation, however, I want to keep the ashes. I feel like I can make it and it will be alright because in my mind I know my loved one is still close to me.

  11. Jo Ann says

    My brother wanted to be cremated because of funds not available. So I’m paying for it, our family has been raised catholic. I don’t have a place to buried the ashes. I’m looking for catholic priest in his area of Ala to say a few words.

  12. Bianca says

    Excuse my ignorance but are catholics the same as christians? What would spain be classified as – Catholic or Christian territory? Thank you for your answers.

    • Hector says

      Christian Evangelical do not recognize Catholics as Christians, but that is their mistake since we follow Christ, I have a lot of argument for that daily.

      Spain is a traditional Catholic country because, the evangelical and protestant, come from England possible now in this days there is some one in Spain, in reality all are Christian because we believe in Christ

      • Peggy Sue says

        It’s silly that anyone would not recognize Catholics as christians… any “religion” that is depending upon the finished work of Jesus at the cross.. who confesses with their mouth, what they believe in their heart that Jesus is the God, died for our sins and rose again is a CHRISTIAN. Lets quit quibbling about all the little details. Jesus is Lord, he WAS the sacrifice for you and for me, he rose again and he IS returning. Hopefully your “lamps” will have oil and you will not be shut out when the groom returns for his bride. Peace to all.

  13. Gerry Blackburn says

    I am considering returning to the Roman Catholic Church but my wish is (and it is in my will) to be cremated. Obviously my coffin with me inside will be at the funeral service, then my ashes will be scattered on the River Thames. Doubt the Church will allow this.

    • Carmelite says

      Bro. Gerry,

      St. Francis embarrassed the clergy of his day, Bro. Lawrence of the Resurrection hasn’t even been sainted yet as he should be, same with Thomas A’Kempis, and St. Therese of Lisieux hated saying the rosary. Obey God rather than men and do what you can in the honor of our Lord Jesus. So you fail against a teaching of the Magistrates on occasion. So what? We are talking about a body of clergy who still will not allow priests the option of being married as was the first Bishop of the Way, St. Peter himself.

  14. LISA says

    I WANT TO BE BURIED ON A PLOT OF LAND MY FAMILY OWNS WHERE I ALWAYS WANTED A LOG CABIN WITH DEER AND BUNNIES WHICH I ASKED GOD FOR TO HAVE IN HEAVEN IF I DON;T EVER GET IT HERE—CAN U ASK A RC PRIEST IF THIS IS OK 2 B BURIED HERE—-DON’T WANT TO B CREMATED BUT THIS MAY B ONLY WAY TO B ABLE TO BE BURIED HERE—-WANT LAND BLESSED BY PRIEST TOO AS THIS LAND IS NOT A CONSECRATED CATHOLIC CEMETARY –PLS GET ANSWER ASAP-PLS N TYVMUCH N GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. says

    I’m sorry for you loss. I personally don’t think you will be punished for keeping them with you, but I also feel if you and your Family are still in Church actively, you should find a place to bury her for your closure and for most importantly your Grandson’s closure. Letting go is hard, but trying to keep her as a part of everyday life may in my opinion be a dishonor . Being that God said her time was over. Let her spirit live in your Hearts and God will take care of the rest. God Bless you and your Grandson Always.

  16. Karen says

    After reading the above article I feel torn about the decision I made. My daughter died of brain cancer this Jan, 2013 at the age of 33, I had her cremated because of the expense of a regular burial, but I purchased a ceramic jar so I could keep her with me in my home, I was not aware of ” display” being wrong, I just felt that I wasn’t ready to give her up yet and leave her at the cemetery because it reminds me of how I had to leave her during the day at the hospital and nursing home while I worked and then leave her again at night because her son, my grandson needed rest to go to school, we spent almost every minute with her when we weren’t working or in school except for a few days so he would have some normalcy, doing some things he liked to relax, so would it be a sin for me to keep her at home, maybe at least awhile, I would have to save up money to purchase a plot or a spot in the mausoleum …what should I do?

    • Lauren says

      There is nothing wrong with keeping the ashes in your possession of it gives you comfort. My dad was cremated. My mom was handicap and would have had great difficulty visiting my father at a grave site. He was kept beside her bed and it was a great comfort to her. It is also no sin to spread the ashes either. People die all the time where the is no body…explosions, lost at sea, lost in the wilderness, etc. Are they sinning because they are not found? No. So, please, don’t stress. These issues with cremation are man made…not dictated by God.

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