What is the Church's policy on cremation?
In 1963, the Catholic Church modified its long-standing prohibition of cremation as a burial option. The new directives allow cremation to be chosen provided the choice does not reflect a denial or doubt about the Church's teaching or traditions about life, death, and resurrection. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 1176, No. 3) states: "The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching." The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in their publication, Reflections on the Body, Cremation and Catholic Funeral Rites states, "Although cremation is now permitted, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased." In short, cremation is allowed for those who request it in good faith, but cremation clearly is not the preference of the church.
How are services conducted for those choosing cremation?
Ideally, the vigil services and funeral Mass are offered with the body present. After the funeral Mass, the Funeral Director takes the deceased to the crematory. After cremation, the cremated remains are brought to the cemetery for burial or entombment. If cremation takes place immediately after death, Diocesan Policy on cremation states that a funeral Mass may be conducted. In either case, the family may wish to have a committal service at the time the cremated remains are placed in one of our Catholic cemeteries.
What about burial after cremation?
Many of the practices popular today - such as scattering of the ashes or the keeping of them in places other than a Catholic cemetery - are NOT in keeping with the Church's long tradition of respectful care and the proper burial of the bodily remains of our deceased. Cremated remains should be buried or entombed in Catholic cemeteries according to the directives prescribed in the Christian Burial Guidelines of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Our Catholic cemeteries have garden areas for the ground burial of cremated remains, and granite niches are available in mausoleum buildings.
What is Cremation?
Cremation is the reduction of the body of a deceased person to recoverable bone fragments through a process that combines intense heat and evaporation. The fragments are then pulverized and referred to as "cremated remains" or "ashes."