A universal document for cremation up at the Vatican today. Interesting, but not surprisingly this comes from the CDF and not the liturgy office, CDWDS. Reason being, it contains important teaching (already mostly covered by the USCCB in their documentation) on honoring and remembering the remains of the deceased.
Section 3 lays out Church teaching on why burial of a body is preferred:
- (B)urial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.[CCC 2300]
- The Church … commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.[I Cor 15:42-44, CCC 1683]
- (T)he Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body,[St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5]
- (Burial) intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.[Gaudium et Spes 14]
- (B)urial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.[St Augustine, op. cit.]
- Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead,[Tob 2:9, 12:12]
- (T)he burial of dead (is) one of the corporal works of mercy.[CCC 2300]
- (B)urial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.
None of this seems to be particularly new for American Catholics and ministers working with the earlier indult for cremation. I did notice the same caution about the connection of cremation to non-Christian influences. Something new I don’t recall from the USCCB legislation was the practice of funeral as something for “the purely private sphere,” a danger (if you will) for an increasing number of rituals which, more and more, are seen as part of the expression of a family or group of friends, ignoring the larger impact things like marriage or baptism–or funerals–have on the community at large, and not just the community of faith. How to circumvent this thinking, I’m not sure. For Americans, I suspect that the danger of association with other religions is not quite as to-the-point as our indulgence for the individual and the private.
Many Catholic parishes and cemeteries have a columbarium for the interring of ashes. The image at the top is from St Matthew Catholic Church in Winter Haven, Florida. Others I’ve seen are smaller, some inside a building. Interesting the etymology of the word, a derivation from Latin for dove, columba. I suppose these structures can resemble dovecotes.
Unless the bishop allows it, Catholics cannot keep cremated remains in their homes. Scattering ashes is a no-no. It seems that swims against some military traditions not unknown in the West. Likewise the use of cremated remains to fashion jewelry or other similar pieces is not “permitted.” How these practices can be monitored, I’m not sure. It would seem the list of positive practices will be the “motivation.” That, and how well they are presented by the local church’s ministers.