Even priests are planning to skip classic casket burials

More Catholics opting for cremation after Vatican relaxes burial rules

(Image from Rhode Island Catholic Cemeteries)

In 2018, choosing cremation over full-body burial is so popular even Catholic priests are planning to skip out on classic casket burials. “I haven’t signed up for it yet, but yes, that’s what I will do,” said Father Allan Deck, a priest and professor of theology at Loyola Marymount in California.

“I think it’s a bit more practical,” he continued, laughing. “It’s easier to move the cremated remains around than it is a coffin, right?”

Cremation is prevalent now more than ever, with over half of Americans opting to be cremated rather than having a standard burial. And this percentage is projected to reach 78.8 by the year 2035, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

In 2016 the Vatican released a statement outlining the church’s new, more relaxed stance on cremation and the handling of cremated remains. The new guidelines clarified that while cremation is acceptable, full-body burial is still preferred in order to (hopefully) emulate the Easter Day resurrection of Jesus Christ. “In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body,” the document stated.

“More and more of our funeral services are with cremains rather than with coffins,” Father Deck said. “It goes up every year, and the church has tried to respond to it in a constructive way, indicating certain things that should be observed if at all possible, like that cremated remains be put in one place, either in a cemetery or a mausoleum.”

The Vatican’s statement also made it clear that cremated remains, or “cremains,” should not be scattered, divided up, kept in one’s home, or preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry, or other objects. But why is it so necessary for those ashes to be buried?

“The preservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they will not be forgotten or excluded from prayers,” said Andrew P. Schafer, Executive Director of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Catholic cemeteries are beginning to feature “green burials,” or eco-friendly burial pods that recycle into the earth over time.

Other cemeteries are “doubling-up” — or placing the cremains of an individual inside an already used burial plot.

The rules for doubling, tripling, and quadrupling-up vary by region and diocese. In Nobes’ diocese, for example, up to three cremated remains are allowed to be buried inside one traditional full-body burial plot.

Full story at The Outline.


  1. Michael McDermott says:

    Catholic cemeteries are beginning to feature “green burials,” or eco-friendly burial pods that recycle into the earth over time

    Does anyone know whether the Veterans Administration allows this form of burial?
    I never saw the ‘justification’ for embalming and placement in a sealed metal coffin – it seems a waste of resources contrary to the Ashes to Ashes / Dust to Dust Liturgy

    • Anonymous says:

      I think Arlington does but you may have to be cremated and it may be an unmarked burial site which would defeat the Church’s purpose as having people remembered and prayed for..
      In order to have a body at the funeral Mass, I believe it must be embalmed which would prohibit burial in the true green cemeteries which bury bodies not just cremains.
      There are places which even let your family dig your grave. My family has passed on that option.
      Check with the Veteran’s cemetery that you will be buried in.

  2. Steve Seitz says:

    It should be noted that cremation is not eco-friendly. Cremation requires a large amount of natural gas to legally burn the body and, if you believe in global warming, has a very large carbon footprint compared to a traditional burial.

    • Anonymous says:

      So does processing and melting the metal to make a casket, then transporting it from the foundry to the funeral home, then on to the buriel. So does the machinery needed to dig the grave, cover it, then mow the lawn over it every week FOREVER, a virtually limitless release of carbon throughout eternity.

      • Anonymous,
        Mowing grass into eternity? Please spare me the bad science.

        Unlike cremation, burial involves the sequestration (i.e. removal) of carbon of the human body and wood from the atmosphere. This helps offset any carbon release resulting from fabricating parts, transportation, and the mowing of lawns.

        Cremation, on the other hand, involves releasing carbon from the human body as well as over 500 lb of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition, there’s also a carbon footprint from the manufacture and transport of ovens, urns, and other items which involves a further release of carbon.

        Cremation is not an option for people who think that a global warming catastrophe is imminent.

  3. European cemeteries, for ages, have been “re-using” the cemetery plots, with no worries about what will happen at the resurrection of the dead. With a limited amount of land, villages bury their dead with reverence, and then, years later, when everything has decomposed, they dig up the grave and put in another body. The most Catholic of countries have been doing this very thing for a long, long time, but we Americans pay a fortune for cement-lined graves, metal caskets that are “waterproof,” and all of this, rather than allowing our beloved death to return to the earth from which they came.

  4. Michael McDermott says:

    Bill – Not to be morbid but the European model also led to traditions like the ‘Wake’, to make good and sure the person was dead before interned.
    The “Great Train Robbery’ Featured “Batson’s Belfry” (for which he was Knighted, although his fears led him to die by fire) – a bell on the coffin that was linked to the bodies’ finger, so they could signal an Error.

    The Train Robbers used an elaborate scheme to put one of their own on board the car, and it is a fascinating (if somewhat morbid) insight in to Victorian England in myriad ways.

  5. Anonymous says:

    At first, I thought the headline meant that priests wouldn’t do the grave side prayers for people who were being buried. I really just means that some are going to choose cremation for themselves when they die. I guess that is newsworthy because the Church used to forbid cremation.

    • To have a better understanding, question. Why does the Church allow cremation ? Everyone I have talked with about this topic the answer is the same, the cost. I find it interesting that on Easter, all Catholics that attended mass proclaimed to reject satan, and all his works ect ect ect. Then we all say, the resurrection of the “Body” and life everlasting. We say Body and not Ashes !!!

      • Steve Seitz says:

        In regard to your comment, C.S. Lewis in his book “Miracles” answers this in the following way: In regard to the resurrection of the body at the end of time vis-a-vis matter and form, it’s the form of the body that’s important — not the matter.

  6. When my Father died, my Mother and I went to our Catholic Diocesan-Owned cemetery intending to buy a burial plot but we purchased a space in one of the mosoleums where two coffins might be placed end to end. Years later after my License in Canon Law, when my Mother died her body was cremated and her ashes placed in the space in the mosoleum. When God calls me home my ashes will be placed there also to await the resurrection.

  7. helen wheels says:

    i not be cremated;
    will burn enuff in Purgatory, thank you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I clicked the link. The website this article comes from has pro-gay articles. global warming articles, March for our Lives and gun violence articles, an article about the deranged far right, bad language and pictures of women in skimpy lingerie.
    The article is misleading and the headline is misleading. The article quotes one priest, not priests.
    Catholics are supposed to be buried, not cremated, although cremation is not forbidden unless the reasons are against Christian doctrine.

  9. Anonymous says:

    the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.[4]
    In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death,[5] burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.[6]

  10. TheVeiledThreat says:

    I was plannig to be cremated but I changed my mind after we had a great discussion in a catechism study group. I bought a plot in a rural Catholic cemetary–not a lot of landscaping involved. I’m going to go with the cheapest (cardboard?) coffin. I’m hoping not to have to be embalmed.

    • Steve Seitz says:

      Veiled Threat,
      I like the idea of the rural cemetery. Regarding the container, I prefer the basic pine box. 🙂

  11. FogBeltBoy says:

    Without “digging” into specifics, I seem to remember the Church approving of cremation in times of pestilence and war, i.e., when a hasty disposal of remains is in order. After having our poor wee wired hair fox terrier put down, my mom and I went to Molloy’s for a fond farewell. Then, we had her cremated and kept her ashes in a cedar box on the fireplace, and the family would pet it every so often.

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