Throwback Thursday: Cremation: Another example of the “unchanging” Roman Catholic church flip flopping

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 29th, 2016 and has been revised.


The Catholic church claims that it’s Semper edem (“Always the same”), but anyone who studies church history is aware of the fallaciousness of that claim. Let’s look at another example: cremation.

For centuries, the Catholic church did not allow cremation based on the practice’s strong association with paganism (and later, Freemasonry)  and because of Scripture verses that taught a bodily resurrection. When cremation began to be introduced as a modern funerary method in the late-nineteenth century, the church banned all Catholics from participating via two documents published in 1886 and another one in 1892. When the Code of Canon Law was revised in 1917, it strictly prohibited cremation (Canon 1203). Catholics who arranged their own cremation prior to their death committed mortal sin and were excommunicated from the church and its sacraments. Catholics who arranged the cremation of a deceased family member also committed mortal sin and were also excommunicated.

In 1963, pope Paul VI reversed the church’s absolute ban on cremation, although “recommending” physical burial as the preferred option. This change was reflected in the next revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1983 (Canon 1176). All Catholic cemeteries changed their policy and accommodated cremated remains.

So I must ask, what happened to those Catholics who chose to be cremated or had their loved ones cremated prior to 1963 and died in mortal sin? Did they receive an apology and a “Get Out of Hell Free” card from pope Paul VI?

Some people think it’s unkind, hypocritical, and judgmental to raise such questions about Catholicism. But, in regards to this issue and many others, no one can deny the blatant inconsistency of this religious institution, which has boasted over the centuries that it “never changes.” The takeaway is to put your faith in Jesus Christ, not in “unchanging” religious institutions. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Baptism doesn’t save. Sacraments don’t save. Being “good” doesn’t save because God’s Word says no one is good except for God. No one obeys the Ten Commandments. But God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into this world, lived a perfect life, and paid the penalty for your sins on the cross. He rose from the grave defeating sin and death and He desires to be your Savior. Pray to Jesus, repent of your sin and ask Him to save you today. Walk away from religious institutions that don’t teach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

My opinion regarding cremation? Scripture doesn’t address cremation one way or the other. Christians in the very early church were expecting Christ’s imminent return and understandably favored burial. But in over two millennia, the dead bodies of innumerable saints have been consumed by bacteria, micro-organisms, maggots, small animals, large animals, fish, birds, etc. Placing a dead body in a sealed casket and a sealed vault to “secure” it from the ravages of decay and scavengers strikes me as a bit of a useless and unnecessary battle. These practices seem to have more in common with ancient Egyptian funerary rites than with any Scriptural teaching. My wife and I agreed to have our bodies cremated when the Lord calls us home. The less money spent on the ritual, the better.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” – Philippians 1:21-26.

Is cremation forbidden by the Catholic Church?
(Ultra-traditionalist Catholic perspective – I relied on this article for dates and canon specifics)

What does the Bible say about cremation? Should Christians be cremated?
(Sample from evangelical perspective)

26 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Cremation: Another example of the “unchanging” Roman Catholic church flip flopping

      1. I have set money aside for a home going party where folks can laugh, gather, tell stories, both the good and bad, I have made it clear not to stifle the bad! I’m totally NOT perfect, I’ve hurt people and if they find it necessary to air that then so be it!

        Praying for you with work tomorrow!!!

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Another good post on Catholic flip-flops. I’m not sure I could burn my loved ones but we have to consider the godly brethren that were eaten by sharks, burned at the stake, and fed to lions. Jesus said, “The flesh counts for nothing”. I guess there’s no need to preserve it!
    Press on brother, have a good weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth. I understand that not all believers are comfortable with cremation.

      Speaking of cremation, my wife and I were taking a walk through a nearby cemetery several months ago and we saw that a large number of Asian mourners had gotten out of their cars and entered together into the cemetery’s crematorium building. I don’t know if they left before the actual cremation or witnessed it. Either way, it was strange to see a large crowd enter the crematorium.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, strange but I saw something stranger at an Asian cremation years ago. Outside the building they had a fire going and burning money! Piles of cash, to provide for the dead person in the ‘after life’.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Get Out of Hell Free” card. Too funny.

    You do make really good points about cremation that I’d not thought about, especially, comparing our standard burial practices to “ancient Egyptian funerary rites.”

    At one time I was interested in the Neptune Society, which offers cremation anywhere in the world and arranges ashes to be “buried” at sea. Then I started rethinking it, and still haven’t got it sorted out in my mind.

    L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. For me it was helpful understand through your post that to have one’s body enshrined is akin to Egyptian practices. My hesitancy has been that other pagan customs build a funeral fire, which is akin to cremation.

        It seems then, that when all is said and done, we, as Followers of Yeshua, are following neither pagan practice of entombment nor funeral fire. We are must be sure in our choice, in faith, and go with that.

        Thanks for your insight, Tom. I appreciate you!

        L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine and His Shalom Peace be with you and yours always in all ways. . .

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting that I should see this post on my return journey… from visiting a grave! My sister asked me would I take over “registration” of our grandparent’s grave as our other siblings not interested in it. It is in a Church of Ireland graveyard North of the border. He died in 1961 – and she in 1976. I think many favour cremation, although it wouldn’t be my preference. I agree with you… that once again the R.C. church changes their stance. I often wonder what happened all the babies who went to “limbo….” My husband is from an R.C. background and I’m not but we both favour burial. I feel maybe that a good verse of scripture on a headstone could be a witness to passersby and as you say… an actual funeral service can speak to unsaved family and friends. I believe that it was important for Abraham to have a burial place (which he purchased) and throughout the Bible cremation never happened. Of course Jesus was buried… and rose again! Praise God for those who trust in Him, they will be “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” And one day the bodies of those who have loved the Lord in this life will rise again in a glorified state… whatever has happened to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Elizabeth! I’ve gradually become more agreeable to cremation as a part of making the funeral “process” simpler. That’s right, we won’t be in a cemetery plot or an urn, we will be with the Lord.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember this pot a few years back! I think outsie the US Christians are cremated more regularly than here. Good job showing problem with RC with this and also greatful you preached the Gospel at the end

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! I’ve heard Catholic apologists sweep aside these changes in doctrine/allowable practices as “no big deal,” but they can’t satisfactorily explain how people could be sent to hell for breaking a rule that was later lifted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed; this made me think about a lecture I was listening to on literature yesterday during my long range pastoral visitation, this literature professor talked about Dante’s writings capturing all the intricate laws of Roman Catholicism. Its so legalistic that its a combination of funny, sad and frightening how it damns…rather than save

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve only read snippets of Dante’s Divine Comedy, but I understand it was a real indictment of the RCC. I don’t know how he got away with it in 1300 without a scourging or even being burned at the stake.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah I wonder too…something tells me that sometimes humor that end up having mass appeal allows people to get away with things, even like our comedians today…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Tom for sharing the changes and inconsistencies of the RC. I like the question you raised. A question that needs to be asked.
    I am not too keen on cremation, or burial. I am hoping for the rapture. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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