Paul Cardenas asks the following questions:
1. Ayon dun sa Canon [Canon 1176], nabanggit po ang cremation. Pwede po ba paki-elaborate po ito? Marami na po ang sumasang-ayon sa cremation dahil mas mura po ito kumpara sa libing sa sementeryo lalu na kung walang lupa o burial plans. Payag po ba ang Simbahan dito?
2. At yung ibang nabigyan ng funeral rites sa simbahan, at bago inilibing ay saka nagpa-cremate, me pagkakamali po ba dito?
3. Anu po ba ang talagang maliwanag na turo ng Simbahan tungkol sa cremation?
CHURCH TEACHINGS ON CREMATION (Q#3 of Paul)
Q: In the first place, does the church allow cremation?
A: The current law of the Catholic Church permits cremation, provided that the person has not chosen cremation for unacceptable reasons (e.g., as a way of denying belief in the resurrection).
Like a human body, cremated remains must be buried or entombed in some manner.
CODE OF CANON LAW
The Catholic Church teaching on cremation is contained in the Code of Canon Law (#1176). It reads: "The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching."
CREMATION IN HISTORY
There was a long standing tradition in Judaism of never burning the bodies of the dead, and Christianity continued the Jewish practice of burial or entombment of the deceased, following the example of Jesus himself. During the persecutions of the Church in the early centuries, pagans would sometimes attempt to burn the bodies of the martyred Christians in an effort to ridicule Christian belief in the resurrection.
Later, during the rise of materialism in the 19th century, many atheistic groups began to promote cremation, again as a challenge to, and a public denial of, the Christian faith. These instances of using cremation as some kind of public profession of irreligion are examples of what the Church means by 'reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching', and are what led to a specific prohibition on cremation in 1886.
This prohibition was subsequently removed, with conditions, by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1963.
FOR FURTHER READING
You may take a look at our official blogsite at http://afccrome.blogspot.com/2011/02/liturgical-norms-on-cremation.html for the Liturgical Norms on Cremation promulgated by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Is the Funeral Liturgy celebrated before or after cremation? (Q#2 of Paul)
Liturgical Norms no. 418 states that "When the choice has been made to cremate a body, it isrecommended that the cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy. In this case, the Vigil for the Deceased and related rites and prayers, as well as the Funeral Liturgy are celebrated as they are provided in this ritual."
However, it is also permitted to administer the funeral liturgy after cremation but the provisions in nos. 422-425 must be followed.
Can I keep the remains at home?
The cremated remains must be put into a worthy container and buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum. "Scattering cremated remains on the sea, in the air, on the ground or keeping them in the homes of relatives, does not display appropriate reverence." We must respect the body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit, the "body once washed in Baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life."
Further elaboration of Canon 1176 (Q#1 of Paul)
The provision in this canon is presumably rarely actually invoked. A person would only incur such a prohibition if, before death, he or she requested cremation explicitly and publicly motivated by a denial of some aspect of Christian faith regarding life after death.
Among possible such motivations would be a lack of faith in the survival of the immortal soul and thus requesting cremation to emphasize the definitiveness of death. Another could be the denial of belief in the resurrection of the dead.
More recently, some nominal Catholics who have dabbled in New Age pantheism or believe in doctrines such as reincarnation or migration of souls might request cremation in order to follow these esoteric doctrines or the customs of some Eastern religions.
In all such cases the motivation for seeking cremation is contrary to Catholic doctrine and, if this fact is publicly known, performing a Church funeral could cause scandal or imply that holding to Church doctrine is really not that important.
Hope that these explanations suffice.