The following reminder has been issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the proper treatment of the bodies of deceased persons:
In accord with civil laws, new techniques for treating the bodies of the deceased, alternative practices to cremation presented as preferable because they are more ecological, are spreading more often in Western countries.
These techniques aim to dispose of the bodies of the deceased in a way that is presumed to be rapid and hygienically safe, as well as respectful of the environment since the residuals of these treatments would be released into nature, with the intent of fertilizing the soil. However, this practice implies an approach that, in fact, tends to eliminate any trace of a sense of the sacred and of active piety for the mortal remains of the deceased.
It should be noted:
- The Church insistently recommends the burial of the bodies of the deceased, as noted in n.3 of the Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo, published on October 25, 2016.
- Cremation, when chosen for reasons not contrary to Christian doctrine, is not prohibited, but the ashes of the deceased must “be laid to rest in a sacred place” for reasons referred to in the aforementioned instruction.
- “In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism, or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way.” (n. 7)
- In cases of new techniques for treating corpses, the same criteria recalled above are to be applied: that which remains after the treatment of corpses must “be laid to rest in a shared place” of interment and not simply in a place blessed by the clergy.
- Furthermore, if, in the implementation of a new technique for treating corpses, there was nothing left [of the body], such a practice would not be acceptable from the point of view of Catholic doctrine.