Cremation, scattering, etc.

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Southern Comfort
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Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by Southern Comfort » Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:22 pm

The CDF’s ruling on cremation and the scattering of ashes http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/10/25/0761/01683.html#ENG is redolent of a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

The CDF says there is a problem with people (a) keeping the “cremains” (to use a horrible American expression) at home, or (b) keeping them in a commemorative location that has not been blessed by the Church, or (c) scattering them (anywhere). They want there to be an actual place where prayers for the dead person can be publicly said, which is fair enough. On closer inspection, however, it is clear that their main preoccupation is with scattering (a priest friend of mine insists that the correct word is "strewing"), which apparently some have been doing in a spirit of “pantheism, naturalism or nihilism” — i.e. paganism.

So just because a few people have been doing that in a pagan or anti-Christian sentiment, let’s ban everyone from scattering, etc. Sledgehammer and walnut. The same thing happened with the document De Concentibus in Ecclesiis (1987) about concerts in churches, which was produced just because there had been a small number of heavy metal concerts in San Damiano in Rome, or the instruction on celebrating Easter (Paschale Solemnitatis, 1988), provoked by a few Italian rural priests who were managing to get through the Easter Vigil in half an hour.

And paragraph 8 seems pretty draconian: if someone requests cremation and scattering for non-Christian or even anti-Christian motives, deny them a funeral. When was the last time you heard about someone requesting that? No one in their right mind would do so, but they might well request the scattering at some beauty spot that was beloved of the deceased person. Not exactly a Christian motive. But, that beauty spot then becomes itself a location for prayer by relatives and friends.

None of this chimes in very well with the year of mercy. One would have thought the CDF had better things to do.

It appears that in 2008 the Italian bishops’ conference specifically permitted the scattering of ashes, so long as there was no pagan element to it. That seems very sensible. (As a sidenote, we learn that scattering of ashes was actually illegal in Italy until 2001.) No one knows what will happen now. Presumably episcopal conferences can issue “pastoral clarifications” if they wish.

And what about all those people who have kept grandma in an urn on the mantelpiece for years and pray for the repose of her soul every day? Are they now to be told that they must give all that up? What will they do with the urn? Needless suffering of devout persons can be foreseen, along with a good dollop of guilt for having done it "wrong" all these years.

The instruction does not mention columbaria (singular = columbarium), those “cemeteries” specifically designed for the storage of ashes, sometimes in a vault, sometimes in a wall, sometimes in a flowerbed alongside the wall of the church. Perhaps the CDF has never heard of them. Presumably these are deemed to be sanctioned by the Church and thus OK.

Of course there is a positive side to all this. The Instruction gives an opportunity for fresh thought, reflection and formation about our practice with respect to cremation and scattering, and there is no doubt that if it achieves that then it will prove to be of value. Unfortunately, the outright bannings that the instruction contains will probably distract people from seeing this.

I suspect that it will be impossible to police the provisions of this instruction and that, like De Concentibus in Ecclesiis, which stipulated among other things that no concert could take place without the specific permission of the Ordinary, and that entrance fees were never to be charged for concerts in churches, it will simply be ignored.

organist
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by organist » Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:47 pm

Yes it will be ignored. And why should people be made to feel guilty?

alan29
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by alan29 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:11 am

One sentence would have done ..... "Catholics are reminded to treat the ashes of their loved ones according to the best traditions of their culture."
Honestly, some of those Vatican officials could do with spending a few years out in the church.

JW
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by JW » Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:17 pm

These instructions are yet another example of the way that Rome and many other clerics live in a world of their own, devoid of any compassion, mercy or humility. They just don't realise how irrelevant they've become as far as many Catholic lay people are concerned: there's such a lack of connection that many people now simply view priests as a human Mass and sacrament machine. Some clergy even see themselves as a holy remnant - the only people still faithful to the Church.
JW

blackthorn fairy
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by blackthorn fairy » Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:19 pm

Yes, very silly and unnecessary in my opinion. What's the difference between burying a body (returning it to the earth) and scattering the ashes in a special place (returning it/them to the earth?) Someone in my parish told me how she sacttered her husband's ashes on the rose-bed in the garden,which had been his pride and joy when alive? Of course it will be ignored.

nazard
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by nazard » Thu Nov 10, 2016 4:02 pm

This shows a singular lack of understanding of creation. If you bury a body, it will be scattered as time goes by as a consequence of completely natural processes: digestion by bacteria and larger earth dwelling creatures, absorbtion by tree roots and fungi, etc, and in our present society the eventual unnatural wading in of a JCB preparing the grave for reuse. If it manages to avoid all those, in geological time scales the body may be brought to the surface by earthquake or erosion. Surely all that is important is that the body is disposed of safely and respectfully with due prayer for the repose of the deceased's soul.

I think that the document would be better addressing attempts to preserve bodies, eg embalming, mausoleums, vaults etc, which effectively just delay the decay and scattering process for a few centuries.

As a matter of interest, why is there no Latin version of the text?

alan29
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by alan29 » Fri Nov 11, 2016 9:47 am

nazard wrote:This shows a singular lack of understanding of creation. If you bury a body, it will be scattered as time goes by as a consequence of completely natural processes: digestion by bacteria and larger earth dwelling creatures, absorbtion by tree roots and fungi, etc, and in our present society the eventual unnatural wading in of a JCB preparing the grave for reuse. If it manages to avoid all those, in geological time scales the body may be brought to the surface by earthquake or erosion. Surely all that is important is that the body is disposed of safely and respectfully with due prayer for the repose of the deceased's soul.

I think that the document would be better addressing attempts to preserve bodies, eg embalming, mausoleums, vaults etc, which effectively just delay the decay and scattering process for a few centuries.

As a matter of interest, why is there no Latin version of the text?


I wonder if USA burial practices may have been in the front of the author's mind?

blackthorn fairy
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Re: Cremation, scattering, etc.

Post by blackthorn fairy » Sat Nov 12, 2016 4:28 pm

Good point - has anyone read 'The Amercan Way of Death' by Jessica Mitford? It is on my bookshelf. I also used to have 'The Loved One' which was Evelyn Waugh's satire on the American way of death. I must have lent it to someone and it never came home.

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