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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Catholic Church bans scattering of ashes as "pantheism"

As a regular part of my discussions with individuals, couples, and families about estate planning, I have conversations with them about the disposal of their remains after death. We talk about funeral services, burial vs cremation, expense, the need for closure, and a dozen other related matters.

Fairly often, clients will discuss known restrictions or guidelines that are part of their faith. Generally they want me to be aware of restrictions so that the documents I prepare address them properly, thus ensuring that the restrictions will be followed by executors and family members who carry out their funerals later. I can't remember any client who told me about religious restrictions then told me they wanted to ignore them.

With my clients in mind, I read with interest a recent article which discusses new restrictions from the Roman Catholic Church regarding cremation. Though cremation itself is - reluctantly - approved of by the Church, the scattering of ashes or even the keeping of ashes in an urn at home is forbidden. The Church wants the ashes kept in a sacred place such as a cemetery. Click here to read an article that gives more detail about the restrictions and the reasons for them.

Cremation is by far the most popular method of disposition, judging by the instructions my clients ask me to include in their documents. Thirty years ago, I was rarely told by clients that they wanted cremation whereas now it is pretty much standard. I wonder whether the new rules from the Catholic Church will have an effect on the popularity of cremation itself, or if it will simply change the practice of scattering ashes that is currently the practice. It's not my place to give clients religious advice, so I hope this is something they learn about from their religious leaders.


  1. There is nothing in scripture that would cause them to make such restrictions so it really comes down to money. The church does things like this because in many places the church owns and operates cemeteries and they don't want to miss out a burial fee. They want people to buy a a casket...etc. Dying can be very expensive and funerals and burials can run into 5 figures easily. I still have my mom on the mantel in her urn !

    1. Does the church actually make any money from funerals? The plots and caskets that you mention are not purchased from the church. For most people who choose cremation, there is still a memorial service or funeral so the church's actual involvement in the process of death doesn't change. I believe it's the funeral homes who stand to make money on caskets, not the church.


    2. I know here some of the cemetaries are operated by the church. Most post funeral receptions I've been to are held in the church basement. Maybe my comments are a little hyperbole...but death is big business.

  2. pan·the·ism
    a doctrine that identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.
    worship that admits or tolerates all gods


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