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)