The Roman Catholic Church Allows Cremation
Since 1963, the Vatican has allowed Roman Catholics to choose cremation as an acceptable option. As recently as 2016, the Roman Catholic Church reaffirmed its support for cremation, specifying legitimate situations, such as sanitary, economic or social considerations.
But, cremation is not acceptable if it is an expression of denial of Roman Catholic beliefs.
All the usual rites and rituals that are afforded parishioners who are buried in a casket may be performed for parishioners who choose cremation. These include gathering in the presence of the body, vigil for the deceased, Funeral Mass, Funeral Liturgy outside of Mass and the Rite of Committal.
The Church prefers that cremation takes place after the Funeral Mass and other rites and rituals. The Rite of Committal takes place at the time of internment.
Prohibited Practices – Where Remains Are Laid to Rest Is Key
The Church prohibits some practices assuming cremation is chosen for what are legitimate reasons.
The Church prohibits the scattering of remains on the ground, in the air or on the sea. It also does not allow remains to be taken home or divided among various family members.
Instead, the Church insists that the ashes of the faithful be laid to rest in a consecrated and sacred place such as a Roman Catholic cemetery, mausoleum, or other similar place.
In 2016 the Church made its requirements for disposition of remains clear. It stated, “The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away.”
Catholic cemeteries provide for the burial of urns containing cremated remains in family plots, cremation graves or mausoleum niches.
Cremation is an allowed practice under Roman Catholic doctrine so long as it is chosen for a legitimate reason and not as a form of religious denial. Key to acceptable cremation practice is the placement of the remains in a Roman Catholic cemetery, mausoleum or other consecrated place.