Catholic Cremation

At A.J. Desmond & Sons, we serve people of all faiths, taking care to honor the beliefs and customs of the diverse religions of the families in our community. Funeral, burial and cremation traditions have changed throughout our over 105-year history. Throughout that time, some Catholic funeral traditions have changed greatly with the guidance of the Vatican, particularly regarding the cremation of Catholics.

Can Catholics be Cremated?

This question remains a great concern to many Catholics. The Bible has many instances of burial and no mention of cremation. This fact, coupled with the Catholic belief that all followers of Christ will be resurrected upon His return, led to a long-held belief that burial was the only appropriate form of final disposition for Catholic followers. However, the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled otherwise in 1963.

The 1963 instruction permitted Catholic cremations, provided that the cremation was not decided upon in such a way that denied Christ and the belief in the resurrection of the dead. This guidance was later sanctified in the Code of Canon Law in 1983 and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990. 

The dicastery would later clarify further in a 2016 addendum why cremation is allowed in the Catholic faith. It was long believed that the body must be whole to be resurrected, hence why burial was preferred. However, the dicastery clarified that resurrection is not simply a revivification of a body, allowing for resurrection even in the case of cremation. 

Locally, Archbishop Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit released the pastoral letter In Union with Christ's Dying and Rising Pastoral Letter, where he highlights the importance and benefits of funeral rites. Pertaining to cremation, he states that while the Church permits cremation when circumstances justify it, the choice of cremation must never express a denial of Church teaching. He explains that if a cremation is to take place, the preference is that the body of the deceased be present at funeral rites. He also emphasizes that cremated remains must be treated with the same respect the Church accords to the bodies of the deceased, including a reverent disposition in a sacred space. [13]

Requirements for a Catholic Cremation

Cremation also does not negate the necessity of the Funeral Mass, a vital funeral rite of the Catholic faith. With the body or cremated remains of the loved one present, the Funeral Mass commits their spirit to God, praying for their journey from this world to be united with God. 

The Church’s funeral rites fulfill multiple roles. Not only are these rites crucial in sending a Catholic follower on their journey, but they also benefit those mourning, offering a reminder of hope. These rites aid the living in their relationship with God and allow them to come together in the Catholic hope of resurrection, strengthening their bonds with Christ. 

Both the Archbishop’s Pastoral letter and the 2016 addendum state that cremated remains must be kept in a “sacred place, such as a cemetery, or in an area dedicated to this purpose, provided it has been so designated by the ecclesiastical authority.” Essentially, a loved one who is cremated must be held in a permanent, respected place and labeled so their name may never be forgotten. For this reason, the Church forbade scattering of ashes, though the dicastery would later add that a small part of a loved one’s ashes may be kept in a sacred place of significance for them.

Our Commitment to Catholic Cremation

Our 10-Step Peace-of-Mind Cremation Process allows families to spend more time in prayer and serenity and less time worrying about their loved one’s care, as our team ensures that they are always receiving the utmost professional support. After we bring the decedent into our care, we will assist you in making plans with a licensed funeral director, following all the desires of the decedent's family and the guidelines of the decedent’s faith.

We will handle all necessary paperwork as you prepare to send your loved one off to God. Family may also pay witness to the cremation if they so choose. Following cremation, your loved one can then be returned to your care, but our team can also assist you in ensuring that they remain in a final resting place that adheres to the guidelines of the Catholic Church.

Questions about cremation for a Catholic? Our experienced team is available to help you navigate the Church’s guidelines in the care of your loved one.

We have a sacred responsibility to do all we can to help others to know the faith and hope that are our great consolation in the face of death—faith and hope in the power of Christ’s resurrection—and to see that the graces they experience during a funeral are meant to help them embrace the fullness of life in Jesus Christ and his Church. - The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron in the “In Union with Christ's Dying and Rising Pastoral Letter”

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