Church Teaching

Some Common Questions about our 

 Church Teachings


As a Catholic, may I be cremated?

 Yes; however, given the sacred dignity of the body, the Church recommends that the custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed to await the Resurrection. Cremation is now permitted, but it does not enjoy the same value as the burial of the body of the deceased. In May, 1963, the Vatican’s Holy office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation. This permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1963 as well as into the Order of Christian Funerals. It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and then take the body to the crematorium. Most recently the bishops of the United States and the Holy See have authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremated remains when the body is cremated before the funeral.

Do I need to ask permission to be cremated?


 Can I scatter the ashes?  May I keep the ashes on my mantle?

No. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Burial at sea of cremated remains differs from scattering. An appropriate and worthy container, heavy enough to be sent to its final resting place, may be dropped into the sea.

May anything be added to cremated remains such as cremated remains of other persons, pets, and other objects?

 No. The principle of respect for the cremated remains of a deceased Christian embraces the deeper belief in the individuality of each baptized person before God. Throughout history, the mingling of remains has never been an accepted practice, except in extraordinary circumstances.

When should cremation take place?

 The Church strongly prefers that cremation take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. The presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its rites. However, in some circumstances it may not be possible to have the body present. In those situations, a full funeral liturgy may be conducted with the cremated remains present.



Is it necessary to embalm?

When cremation follows the funeral liturgy, embalming is usually necessary. When cremation is to follow soon after death, embalming is not necessary. Each state has its own regulations in this matter, but generally the rule is that deceased human body that is not buried or cremated within 24 hours is to be embalmed or refrigerated. However, simple embalming and the use of a cremation casket need not involve excessive costs.


Is it necessary to purchase a casket?

 No, it is not necessary to purchase a casket for cremation. The only thing required is a simple container in which the body can be transported and placed in the cremation chamber. If you choose to have the body present for the funeral liturgy, with cremation to follow, rental is an option. Many funeral directors offer regular caskets for rent, as well as the special cremation or shell caskets that you may purchase.

What is the proper container for cremated remains?

 Appropriate, worthy containers, such as a classic urn, are proper for the cremated remains. At the present time, the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy has determined containers that are not acceptable. Although jewelry, dishes, statuary, and space capsules are examples of designer containers now being offered, they are unacceptable in Catholic funeral practices. It is also unacceptable to have cremated remains made into jewelry, dishes, and the like.


At St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, an urn is not provided in the purchase fee for the columbarium niche. The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Memorial Garden and Columbarium and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church are not responsible for any other costs such as funeral home charges, cremation costs, etc.

Must cremated remains be buried/entombed?

 Yes. Respectful final disposition of cremated remains involves interment or entombment. Burial options include a family grave in a cemetery marked with a traditional memorial stone or an urn garden, a special section in a cemetery with small, pre-dug graves for urns. Another choice is to be interred in a columbarium.