Wendy Parkulo / News Team
On Tuesday the Vatican released an updated statement of guidelines regarding the practice of cremation upon one’s death for Catholics. The new rules state that Catholics may be cremated but that their ashes must not be scattered, kept by family members as mementos, or kept in private residences. Instead cremated remains are to only be kept in a church-approved sacred space for veneration by the community. Originally church doctrine only allowed burial as the proper treatment for bodies after death, however in 1963 the Vatican began to allow cremation as it does not directly go against any Christian beliefs. The reason for the shift now is due mostly to the rise of “new age” ideas regarding death. The Vatican believes that beliefs in naturalism, pantheism, and nihilism are strengthened by the practice of cremation. All of these beliefs contradict the Christian importance placed on the body as a gift from God and the belief in the Resurrection where at the end of time the soul will be reunited with the body by God’s almighty power.
Now if a Catholic intends on scattering their ashes or committing any other violation of these new guidelines they will be denied Christian burial rights. Cremation has become a popular ritual in American culture, according to the Cremation Association of North America the United States obtained a 49% cremation rate last year that is expected to keep climbing. These new limitations will likely affect many Catholics, but Cardinal Gerhard Mueller stood by the new restrictions stating that, “The dead body isn’t the private property of relatives, but rather a son of God who is part of the people of God.” This development showcases the Catholic Church’s ongoing difficult task of attempting to evolve and change with the contemporary, secular society while still trying to hold true to its doctrines and traditions.