In reading the following three sections, you get a different idea from a comfortable, “Oh, the Church thinks cremation is fine these days!” On the other hand, my sense is that the main reason more Catholics opt for cremation is financial. That the Church permits cremation makes that choice easier. In OCF 415, the Church speaks of “feasibility.” I don’t think the feasible is the primary factor.
Let’s read a few sections.
413. Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites.
414. The Church’s teaching in regard to the human body as well as the Church’s preference for burial of the body should be regular part of catechesis on all levels and pastors should make particular efforts to preserve this important teaching.
415. Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the body to be present for the Funeral Mass. When extraordinary circumstances make the cremation of a body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised by priests, deacons, and others who minister to the family of the deceased.
I find that the focus of the funeral rites these days is on the mourners, on Christ’s resurrection, and on the qualities of hope and gratitude. The physical body does not figure highly in the preaching I’ve heard, either as a good or as a focus for Catholic values.
I read OCF 415 and get the sense a much narrower window exists. It is usually true that the family has already made arrangements for embalming or incineration before the arrival of the Church’s minister. The rite is correct to suggest that catechesis for the value of the body should be wide and relatively frequent.
If the burden of this catechesis is placed on pastors, how many can articulate with persuasion the Church’s preference against cremation? And if they cannot, who will?
I was speaking to a nun the other day who brought up the fact that when a sister dies out-of-state they “must” be cremated because of the cost of transporting the body.
Surely, a benefactor could be found to donate some money that these nuns bodies could be transported…. right?
Uh, very likely not. Religious orders of woman have traditionally gotten much less in the way of donations than diocesan priests and religious orders of men.
Even so, it would be up to the orders to discern the importance of asking for donations to contribute to the care of elderly but living nuns vs transporting the remains of the dead. They are more likely to get $$$ for the former than the latter, and I couldn’t say it was an immoral discernment.
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