Fall 2012

The Body and Christian Burial: The Question of Cremation

Patricia Snow

Every year a growing number of American Catholics choose cremation either for themselves after they die, or for a deceased relative. The numbers vary by diocese, but the overall trend is clear. Some of these Catholics choose cremation for financial reasons. Some cite “ecology,” persuaded that the world is better off without human remains. Many, innocent of conscious heresy but influenced by Eastern religion, insist that the body is disposable, a shell, nothing at all. My physical therapist, after burying her father, decided that after her own death she did not want her children burdened with the responsibility of tending her grave. “Why not?” I asked, thinking of the Church’s immemorial emphasis on corporal works of mercy. But whatever rebuttals one offers to whatever reasons these proponents of cremation give, they have a trump card that they play in the end: “Well, the Church approves of cremation.”

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