Caring for the bodies of the deceased

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Certainly, as Saint Augustine tells us in his De cura pro mortuis gerenda, of which we can read an extract in Matins of the Day of the Dead, these supplications for souls are the essential part of our concern for the dead: if they were not present, said the holy doctor, it would be useless to honor the bodies of the deceased and their burial; and if sometimes these pious practices are impossible due to extreme circumstances, prayers and suffrages should never be omitted.

That said, Saint Augustine strongly recommends the care of the bodies of the deceased themselves, in the wake of divine and apostolic Tradition, which finds its most authoritative source in the words of Christ to Mary Magdalene during the anointing in Bethany. .

When Mary shocks those present by pouring the precious perfume on the feet of the Lord, He says: “Why are you bothering this woman? for she has done a good work on me… For, by pouring this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial ”(Mt. 26: 10-11).

We then know how this honorable funeral service was accomplished with regard to Our Lord. For Saint Augustine, the bodies of our dead should not be despised but cherished, as we do with the objects which belonged to them, and all the more so since the body is a constitutive part of the very nature of man.

Burial, continues Saint Augustine, if it does not serve the salvation of the dead, as some pagans thought, is nonetheless a duty of humanity, because no one has hatred for his own flesh (cf. Eph 5): once one who has taken care of his own body is gone, the duty passes to those who remain, as a greater testimony of faith from those who believe in the resurrection of bodies.

The precept of the care and burial of bodies is not a simple ecclesiastical precept of human origin: by its constancy since the origin of religion, by its universality and its exclusivity among Christians, by its foundation in Scriptures, by the rigor with which the legislation of the Church has always imposed it, it is comparable to the choice of Sunday as a holiday.

The strength of this precept therefore lies in divine and apostolic authority, and it seems truly improbable that the Church could have the power to change such a positive divine precept, just as (according to almost all theologians) the Church could not. not displace the festive precept. from Sunday to Saturday or Monday.

Although necessity may dispense with the fulfillment of such a precept in certain cases, such as Sunday Mass, it does not cease to exist.

In addition, the burial is a profession of faith in the article of the resurrection of the body. Of course, bodies will be resuscitated even if they are burned or destroyed: but by what gesture can I show externally that I believe in this truth, if not by burial?

It is like the Real Presence: of course, Christ is present in the host even if I do not render him any external honor, but how can I express my faith in this truth if I exclude all external reverence, or even worse, if do I make gestures contrary to this faith – like communion in the hand?

This is why the authorization given in 1963 by Paul VI for the ordinary recourse to cremation is unthinkable and impious for any Catholic soul. It seems incredible that this is one of the first acts of Pope Montini, responding to the old Masonic campaign for cremation.

What old canon law prohibited about cremation, based on apostolic tradition, was only an expression of divine and natural law, not an evolving disciplinary law.

For this reason, it does not seem possible, even today, to follow in the footsteps of these provisions, which we wish to briefly recall.

Cremation, in ordinary times, is totally excluded for Christians. Of course, in times of great epidemics, this can be conceivable; what could also be authorized, in another register, is the donation of one’s body to science, when it comes to legitimate research for which human tissues are necessary.

But usually, when a Catholic, in good or bad faith, asks during his lifetime not to be buried to be cremated, his heirs should not respect this wish, as being something ungodly and unjust. . And if he has never retracted, and bad faith can be demonstrated, the deceased is not entitled to a Christian burial: he must therefore be buried without rite, in unconsecrated ground.

There is no doubt that anyone responsible for a deceased person, who tolerates cremation when he can prevent it, if he is aware of the opposition this creates to the traditional laws of the Church, commits a fault which can be serious, even if the deceased himself had expressed this bad wish. Of course, if under bad laws there was no way to prevent the execution of such a will, then the person would not be guilty of anything.

As for those who have never asked to be cremated, but who will be cremated by the – ungodly – will of the parents or of the State, as happened in Italy during the first confinement, they can receive the rites of Church, but on condition that there are no bad examples, and that the priest clarifies the situation well, excluding the accompanying ceremony at the place of cremation.

Burning a body is a sign of the maximum punishment an unrepentant offender can deserve, certainly not a legitimate way of honoring the deceased, even under natural law.

The Church is also careful to stress that non-Catholics, or those who are not entitled to an ecclesiastical burial, must have a place to be buried, even outside the blessed land of the cemetery. This indicates that cremation is not possible for them either.

This is why the burial without Christian rite and in unconsecrated ground, of aborted fetuses, if they are not baptized, is commendable, as happens in certain places, to honor what are human remains.

Nothing therefore seems more appropriate than to recall how the Church recommends honoring the bodies of the deceased, at a time when the bodies of the dead are cremated, even dishonored in useless experiments for which animal cells or tissues would suffice.

Never before has the human body been considered so much as an aggregate of elements to be reused or destroyed, for a purely utilitarian or pseudo-ecological purpose. In this Gnostic climate, any unreasonable use of human remains for “scientific” or “industrial” purposes must be opposed by Christians, especially when there are possible alternatives.

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