Skip to comments.Radio Replies First Volume - Cremation
Posted on 11/05/2009 9:08:09 PM PST by GonzoII
1134. Why does the Catholic Church forbid cremation?
It was a pagan practice which Christians avoided from the very beginning. In the third century we find Christian writers, such as Minucius Felix, warning Christians against imitating the practice, and bidding them retain the custom of earth burial. In comparatively recent times Atheists and irreligious materialists have reintroduced it in order to destroy Christian belief and to impress in an imaginative way the doctrine that all is over at death. This, in itself, would be enough to justify the Church in her refusal to accept a practice credited with such closely associated ideas opposed to the doctrine of immortality. But there are many other reasons. It is opposed to human instinct and the better sentiments of the human heart. Filial piety protests against such treatment of, say, a deceased mother. Christian reverence for the dead also protests. The body that has been anointed in baptism and that has been the temple of the Holy Spirit during life, should not be treated as so much offal or refuse, but should be allowed to disintegrate according to the ordinary laws of nature in God's earth. Again, the whole liturgy of the Catholic Church for Christian burial, from time immemorial, is adapted to earth-burial, and she cannot be expected to change her sacred liturgy with fads of the times. If a Catholic is cremated, he forfeits the privileges of such Catholic burial, a liturgy of great benefit to the soul which inhabited that body. The man who does not bother about such things, and holds that once one is dead that is the end of it, and that nothing else matters, is saying just what the advocates of Cremation hoped that he would say. It is good to be buried in the Catholic way, in consecrated ground. That is the proper place for a Christian. We can add to these reasons the medico-legal aspect of the case. Cremation destroys all signs of violence or of poison, and thus prevents exhumation and medical examination for the detection of crime. Many murders have been discovered by such examination after burial, and if Cremation became a general practice, it would be an easy way out for the poisoner and murderer.
1135. Is it a sin against the law of God to support Cremation?
The natural law of morality does not forbid it, nor has God directly given a positive law in the matter. It is a disciplinary law of the Catholic Church, and a very grave one. The Church could suspend the law, and permit Cremation in certain circumstances, as in the case of an epidemic or in war time. But normally she insists upon retaining the law, and all Catholics are obliged to observe it. The Church speaks with the authority of God, and it is God who forbids Cremation through His Church. Any Catholic who would violate the will of the Church in this matter would, by the very fact, be violating the will of God.
1136. Does not the Church oppose Cremation because she knows that it renders any idea of a resurrection impossible?
No. Cremation does not affect the question of the resurrection. Cremation means but a more rapid separation of the elements of the body, and even if the ashes be scattered to the winds, God can quite easily reassemble those elements. What is impossible to us is not impossible to God. Remember that there is no such thing as the absolute destruction of matter. There can be merely a transformation of matter. However many changes matter may go through, it is always there, still in existence. And the God, who created matter, can easily transform it back again into the bodies which it formed previously. No matter how men treat human bodies, or where they put them, some day they will all rise again.
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My understanding is that this discipline has changed in the Church.
If one recalls the time frame from which Radio Replies emerged, it can explain some of the frankness and lack of tact in the nature of the responses provided.
It was during this timeframe that a considerable amount of anti-Catholic rhetoric came to the forefront, particularly in this country. Much of this developed during the Presidential campaign of Al Smith in 1928, but had its roots in the publication of Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons, originally published in book form in 1919 and also published in pamphlet form in 1853.
While in Britain (and consequently Australia), the other fellow would surely have experienced the effects of the Popery Act, the Act of Settlement, the Disenfranchising Act, the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, and many others since the reformation (that basically boiled down to saying, "We won't kill you if you just be good, quiet little Catholics"). Even the so-called Catholic Relief Acts (1778, 1791, 1829, 1851, 1871) still had huge barriers placed in the way.
And of course, they'd both remember the American Protective Association, "Guy Fawkes Days" (which included burning the Pontiff in effigy), the positions of the Whigs and Ultra-Torries, and so on.
A strong degree of "in your face" from people in the position of authoritativeness was required back in the 1930s, as there was a large contingent of the populations of both the US and the British Empire who were not at all shy about being "in your face" toward Catholics in the first place (in other words, a particularly contentious day on Free Republic would be considered a mild day in some circles back then). Sure, in polite, educated circles, contention was avoided (thus the little ditty about it not being polite to discuss religion in public, along with sex and politics), but it would be naive to assume that we all got along, or anything resembling that, back in the day.
Having said all of the above, reading the articles from the modern mindset and without the historical context that I tried to briefly summarize above, they make challenging reading, due to their bluntness.
The reader should also keep in mind that the official teaching of the Church takes a completely different tone, best summed up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
817 In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame."269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 - do not occur without human sin:Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271
818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers .... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."274 Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."276
838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."322 Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."324
269 UR 3 § 1.
270 Cf. CIC, can. 751.
271 Origen, Hom. in Ezech. 9,1:PG 13,732.
272 UR 3 § 1.
273 LG 8 § 2.
274 UR 3 § 2; cf. LG 15.
275 Cf. UR 3.
276 Cf. LG 8.
322 LG 15.
323 UR 3.
324 Paul VI, Discourse, December 14, 1975; cf. UR 13-18.
Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble, M.S.C.
"I was brought up as a Protestant, probably with more inherited prejudices than most non-Catholics of these days. My parents were Anglican and taught me the Angelican faith. My 'broad-minded' protestant teachers taught me to dislike the Catholic Church intensely. I later tried Protestantism in various other forms, and it is some thirty years since, in God's providence, I became a Catholic. As for the 'open, free, sincere worship' of a Protestant Church, I tasted it, but for me it proved in the end to be not only open, but empty; it was altogether too free from God's prescriptions."
Eventually, Leslie became a priest of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
In 1928, Fr. Rumble began a one-hour 'Question Box' program on 2SM Sydney, N.S.W. radio on Sunday evenings that was heard all over Australia and New Zealand. For five years he answered questions on every subject imaginable that had been written to him from all over that part of the globe. His first show began with a classic introduction:
"Good evening, listeners all. For some time I have been promising to give a session dealing with questions of religion and morality, in which the listeners themselves should decide what is of interest to them. Such a session will commence next Sunday evening, and I invite you to send in any questions you wish on these subjects . . . So now I invite you, non-Catholics above all, to send in any questions you wish on religion, or morality, or the Catholic Church, and I shall explain exactly the Catholic position, and give the reasons for it. In fact I almost demand those questions. Many hard things have been said, and are still being said, about the Catholic Church, though no criminal, has been so abused, that she has a right to be heard. I do not ask that you give your name and address. A nom de plume will do. Call yourself Voltaire, Confucius, X.Y.Z., what you like, so long as you give indication enough to recognize your answer."
"By the summer of 1937, the first edition of Radio Replies was already in print in Australia, financed by Rt. Rev. Monsignor James Meany, P.P. - the director of Station 2SM of whom I am greatly indebted."
"I have often been mistaken, as most men at times. And it is precisely to make sure that I will not be mistaken in the supremely important matter of religion that I cling to a Church which cannot be mistaken, but must be right where I might be wrong. God knew that so many sincere men would make mistakes that He deliberately established an infallible Church to preserve them from error where it was most important that they should not go wrong."
Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty
I broadcast my radio program, the Catholic Radio Hour, from St. Paul, Minnesota.
I was also carrying on as a Catholic Campaigner for Christ, the Apostolate to the man in the street through the medium of my trailer and loud-speaking system. In the distribution of pamphlets and books on the Catholic Faith, Radio Replies proved the most talked of book carried in my trailer display of Catholic literature. As many of us street preachers have learned, it is not so much what you say over the microphone in answer to questions from open air listeners, but what you get into their hands to read. The questions Fr. Rumble had to answer on the other side of the planet are same the questions I had to answer before friendly and hostile audiences throughout my summer campaign."
I realized that this priest in Australia was doing exactly the same work I was doing here in St. Paul. Because of the success of his book, plus the delay in getting copies from Sydney and the prohibitive cost of the book on this side of the universe, I got in contact with him to publish a cheap American edition.
It doesn't take long for the imagination to start thinking about how much we could actually do. We began the Radio Replies Press Society Publishing Company, finished the American edition of what was to be the first volume of Radio Replies, recieved the necessary imprimatur, and Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen agreed to write a preface. About a year after the publication of the first edition in Australia, we had the American edition out and in people's hands.
The book turned into a phenomena. Letters began pouring into my office from every corner of the United States; Protestant Publishing Houses are requesting copies for distribution to Protestant Seminaries; a few Catholic Seminaries have adopted it as an official textbook - and I had still never met Dr. Rumble in person.
To keep a long story short, we finally got a chance to meet, published volumes two and three of Radio Replies, printed a set of ten booklets on subjects people most often asked about, and a few other pamphlets on subjects of interest to us.
Fr. Carty died on May 22, 1964 in Connecticut.
"Firstly, since God is the Author of all truth, nothing that is definitely true can every really contradict anything else that is definitely true. Secondly, the Catholic Church is definitely true. It therefore follows that no objection or difficulty, whether drawn from history, Scripture, science, or philosophy, can provide a valid argument against the truth of the Catholic religion."
Biographies compiled from the introductions to Radio Replies, volumes 1, 2 and 3.
Radio Replies Volume One: Natural Religion & Revealed Religion
Radio Replies Volume One: Mysteries of Religion
Radio Replies Volume One: Miracles
Radio Replies Volume One: Value of the Gospels
Radio Replies Volume One: Inspiration of the Gospels
Radio Replies Volume One: Old Testament Difficulties [Part 1]
Radio Replies Volume One: Old Testament Difficulties [Part 2]
Radio Replies Volume One: Old Testament Difficulties [Part 3]
Radio Replies Volume One: New Testament Difficulties
Radio Replies Volume One: Conflicting Churches
Radio Replies Volume One: Are All One Church?
Radio Replies Volume One: Is One Religion As Good As Another?
Radio Replies Volume One: The Fallacy of Indifference
Radio Replies Volume One: Protestantism Erroneous
Radio Replies Volume One: Luther
Radio Replies Volume One: Anglicanism
Radio Replies Volume One: Greek Orthodox Church
Radio Replies Volume One: Wesley
Radio Replies Volume One: Baptists
Radio Replies Volume One: Adventists
Radio Replies Volume One: Salvation Army
Radio Replies Volume One: Witnesses of Jehovah
Radio Replies Volume One: Christian Science
Radio Replies Volume One: Nature of the Church
Radio Replies Volume One: The true Church
Radio Replies Volume One: Hierarchy of the Church
Radio Replies Volume One: The Pope
Radio Replies Volume One: Temporal Power
Radio Replies Volume One: Not opposed to the Bible
Radio Replies Volume One: The reading of the Bible
Radio Replies Volume One: Protestants and the Bible
Radio Replies Volume One: "Bible Only" a false principle
Radio Replies Volume One: The necessity of Tradition
Radio Replies Volume One: The authority of the Catholic Church
Radio Replies Volume One: Dogmatic Truth
Radio Replies Volume One: Development of Dogma
Radio Replies Volume One: Dogma and Reason
Radio Replies Volume One: Rationalism
Radio Replies Volume One: The Holy Trinity
Radio Replies Volume One: Confirmation
Radio Replies Volume One: Confession
Radio Replies Volume One: Holy Eucharist
Radio Replies Volume One: The Sacrifice of the Mass
Radio Replies Volume One: Holy Communion
Radio Replies Volume One: Veracity/Mental Restriction
Radio Replies Volume One: Charity
Radio Replies Volume One: Ecclesiastical Censures/Liberty
Radio Replies Volume One: Index of Prohibited Books
Radio Replies Volume One: Persecution
Radio Replies Volume One: The Inquisition
Radio Replies Volume One: Jesuits/Catholic Intolerance
Radio Replies Volume One: Protestant services
Radio Replies Volume One: Freemasonry
Radio Replies Volume One: Cremation
>>My understanding is that this discipline has changed in the Church.<<
I am pretty sure you are correct.
Cremation is allowed in the Catholic Church.
I worked on a columbariam project within a Catholic cathedral.
The Catholic Church does forbid cremation today but does teach against the scattering of ashes. I believe that the Eastern Orthodox churches still strongly discourage cremation.
“”The Judaic roots of Christian tradition carried a long-standing prohibition of cremation as a reaction to equally long-standing attempts to annihilate Jewish existence and memory. Although cremation was a common practice among Greeks and Romans, at least for the very poor, Christians moved away from the practice out of:
1. faith in the Resurrection of the body
2. reverence for the body as a member of the Body of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit
3. a strong reaction to persecutors’ use of burning bodies as a taunt against belief in the Resurrection
The practice of the early Church was crystallized in the 1917 Code of Canon Law which strictly forbade cremation except when grave public necessity required rapid disposition of bodies, as in times of plague or natural disaster. The Church went so far as to deny Christian burial rites to anyone choosing cremation.
The reforms of the Second Vatican Council touched all areas in the life of the Church, including funeral and burial rites. The first document to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI, after the Council began, stated: “The rite for the burial of the dead should evidence more clearly the paschal character of Christian death; and should correspond more closely to the circumstances and traditions found in various regions.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #81, December 1963) An instruction of the Holy Office related specifically to cremation modified the Church’s position to allow cremation to be requested for any sound reason (Piam et Constantem, May 1963). Only if the request were motivated by denial of Christian dogma, hatred of the Catholic Church or a sectarian spirit, would there be any problem with the Church.
This position has now been codified in the Revised Code of Canon Law: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” (The Code of Canon Law, 1985, #1176.3)””
How long after a body is buried is it returned to “dust”? “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return” seems to be what God says about the shell of our soul and spirit. The resurrection body will be completely new, corruption will put on incorruption.
Also, where does that leave people who are blown to smithereens in bombs or burned to ashes in fires? I have no problem with cremation and when it is done it will not be done as a pagan rite.
Urn Burial, by Sir Thomas Browne.
And besides, one of the greatest prose stylists ever to write in the English tongue.
The Orthodox Church still forbids cremation on the same grounds mentioned in the article.
Not sure about the Greeks, but cremation was almost universal among the Romans. A few patrician families practiced inhumation, but they were considered odd for doing so.
Can. 1176 §1. Deceased members of the Christian faithful must be given ecclesiastical funerals according to the norm of law.
§2. Ecclesiastical funerals, by which the Church seeks spiritual support for the deceased, honors their bodies, and at the same time brings the solace of hope to the living, must be celebrated according to the norm of the liturgical laws.
§3. The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.
Thanks for that input.
>>This position has now been codified in the Revised Code of Canon Law: The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.<<
Back when he was both alive and still funny, George Catlin summarized it best: You gotta WANNA!
For most Lutherans, cremation is not allowed for the reasons given in the article. It is done in some instances (like a person dying to far away from the burial site).