IS CREMATION ALLOWED?
by Fr. Pinaud, SSPX
published in “Le Sel de la Terre.”
"On December 8, 1869, the International Congress of Freemasons imposed it as a duty on all its members to do all in their power to wipe out Catholicity from the face of the earth. Cremation was proposed as a suitable means to this end, since it was calculated to gradually undermine the faith of the people in 'the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.'"
--Fr. John Laux,
Catholic Morality (Imprimatur 1932), p. 106
The burial (inhumation) of the bodies has always been the most general and constant practice of the people.
Egyptians and Persians buried their dead. The Egyptians even embalmed the cadavers of famous persons.
Tacitus (History V, 5) says that the Greeks and the Latins buried the dead.
In the Old Testament, Tobias is praised by St. Raphael the Archangel because he buried the dead at the risk of his life: “When thou didst bury the dead by night, I offered thy prayer to the Lord” (Tob. 12, 12).
In the gospel of St. Mark, we see Joseph of Arimathea “buying fine linen”, and after that “taking down the Body of Jesus, he wrapped Him in the linen and laid Him in a sepulchre (…) and when the Sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome brought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus” (Mk 15, 46; 16,1).
At the time of the first Christians, cremation was spread among the Romans. It was a consequence of the decadence of the society for instance, at the time of Sylla and Marius the proportion between burial and cremation was one to fifty.
But the first Christians vigorously reacted against this practice. They buried their dead at the risk of their life. It was indeed very dangerous for them, because burial made them be recognized as Christians, and the persecuting Romans, when they discovered the cemeteries of the Christians, confiscated them and exhumed the bodies, as under the order of the emperors Valerian or Diocletian.
Such resistance has only one possible explanation: it came from a commandment given by the Apostles themselves.
Pope Saint Innocent I (401-417) said that the violation of this order is one of the most serious scandals, and it will never be changed. No dispensation can be given, adds the pope, except in the case of necessity (epidemic, war, etc.).
When the barbarians converted to the Catholic faith, the Church obliged them to bury their dead and to stop burning them, even under death penalty as it was at the time of Charlemagne (eight century).
As Christianity spread, proportionally the practice of burial prevailed over cremation.
2. When cremation is used against the Catholic Church.
It is the French Revolution of 1789 which talked again about cremation. And in the last quarter of the XIXth century, the Masonic societies obtained from the governments of Europe the official recognition of this practice. It was accepted in Italy in the year 1876, in France in the year 1887.
The motives given by the advocates of incineration were hygiene, lack of space in the great cities to put cemeteries, risk of burying somebody alive. These reasons are still put forward today. But are these motives really serious?
Concerning hygiene, this objection is an insult to all the civilized nations, which practiced inhumations. Monastic orders, which buried their dead in the cloisters never had, because of this, infections, epidemic or stain in the water they drew nearby!
Concerning the alleged lack of place in the great cities, everybody knows that many dead are buried one over the other, and above all, what is this “progress” of the world which would make us now incapable to give a decent burial to our dead?
Not to be troubled by the argument of the partisans of cremation, let us quote the testimony of a witness of an incineration:
“It was the most poignant impression of horror I ever had. I have shivers, and cold sweat on the forehead when I remember this body twisting, these arms thrashing the air as to ask mercy, these fingers tightening, these black leg giving great kicks, catching fire as torches”.
Which son would dare to burn like this the body of his mother, or of his father!
Bishop Freppel (bishop of Angers in France, last century) called this action savagery, and said “How can we make disappear the cadaver of our beloved parents which such violence on the day of their funeral?”
How can we pray in front of a funeral urn containing the ashes of our parents? Cemeteries, where they quietly rest, waiting for the general resurrection, are on the opposite a continual invitation to pray for the repose of their souls.
But we understand better the profound motive of this campaign for cremation when we read, in an advertising leaflet for this practice. “To choose cremation is to enter in the universal humanistic chain of union attached to the defense of human values” (Cremation Association of the Basque Coast). Here, it is no more question of hygiene, lack of space, etc. but we find the objective of Freemasonry, this occult society whose goal, under the pretext of human values, is to destroy Catholicism and all the orders put by God in the world.
3. Doctrine of the Catholic Church
When Canon Law was promulgated in 1917, it summarized the previous condemnation of cremation in the following three canons:
Canon 1203: “The bodies of the faithful must be buried, and cremation is reprobated. If anyone has in any manner ordered his body to be cremated, it shall be unlawful to execute his wish.”
Canon 1240, 5° says that “Persons who have given orders for the cremation of their bodies are deprived of ecclesiastical burial, unless they have before death given some signs of repentance.”
Canon 2339 says that “Persons who, in violation of the prohibition of Canon 1240, dare to order or force the ecclesiastical burial (of those who are to be deprived of it) incur excommunication ipso facto; and persons who of their own accord give ecclesiastical burial to the above mentioned, incur an interdict from entering a church.”
In an Instruction dated June 19th 1926, the Holy Office said that the Last Sacraments could not be given to a person who is asking for cremation for itself. It adds that, entering in a society for cremation linked with Freemasonry makes this person incur the penalties for joining Freemasons, especially excommunication. Public Masses for the repose of the soul of persons who asked for cremation, are also forbidden. It comes from Canon 1241, which forbids public Masses for persons having been deprived of ecclesiastical burial.
Obviously let us not forget that the Holy Church permits cremation in exceptional circumstances, as in times of epidemic, war, etc. (same Instruction)
WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THE CONDEMNATION OF
CREMATION BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?
1. The first reason comes from the particular circumstance which made cremation having been newly promoted by Freemasonry. Because of this fact, cremation becomes a public profession of irreligion and materialism. But it is important to understand that it is not the most important reason. The Catholic Church does not condemn cremation only because Freemasonry promotes it.
2. The Holy Catholic Church condemns cremation because it is a barbarous custom opposed to the respect and piety that one must have for our dead, even on the natural level. And in the eyes of faith, by burial, the body laid under the earth where it will wait for its resurrection. St. John Chrysostom says that the cemeteries are as dormitories where the dead are waiting for the day of resurrection. Only exceptional reasons (as in epidemic or war, etc.) can obliged for the burning of the bodies
3. Conciliar modernism and the doctrine of the Catholic Church
In the new Canon Law promulgated in 1983 (n. 1176 paragraph 3), the actual authorities of the Church do not forbid anymore cremation “unless it was chosen because of reasons opposite to the Catholic doctrine” (for example, denial of the dogma of the resurrection of the bodies).
But isn’t it in fact a great help given to all these associations for cremation founded all over the world now to spread this practice? These associations are inspired by Freemasonry which is now spreading cremation to fight the Catholic Church and its beliefs.
Even if the new Canon Law continues to deeply recommend the burial of the bodies, its new politics of no-condemnation favors once again the action of the enemies of the Church who, by their diabolical hatred of the creation of God, kill the fetus by abortion, the sick and the old people by euthanasia, and savagely destroy the bodies of the dead by cremation.
One can also add that cremation endangers the practice of the veneration of relics.
4. Practical Conclusion
In the churches and chapels of the Society of St. Pius X, as we teach the traditional doctrine of the Catholic Church, we also keep its traditional practices.
Therefore, we continue to follow the teaching of the traditional Canon Law of 1917, which expresses the constant thought of the holy Catholic Church:
S The bodies of the dead must be buried - cremation is forbidden.
S Ecclesiastical burial will be denied to those who asked for the cremation of their bodies.
Let us honor our dead by burying their bodies with respect in a cemetery, and taking care of their souls by Masses, prayers and sacrifices.
What is said about the bodies must be applied to the members of the body (if cut by surgery for example) or to the dead fetus: they must be buried and not incinerated.
- CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS -