Chartres 2006
Photo Story

Remnant Tours

Click Here to visit
THE REMNANT Scrapbook!


See Remnant


Burning Souls, Melting Bodies:

Alkaline Hydrolysis Coming Soon to a Funeral Home near You

Father Celatus POSTED: 7/16/12

Among the countless sacred art treasures commissioned and possessed by the Catholic Church is the Renaissance masterpiece known as the Pieta, by Michelangelo. This famous work depicts the body of Jesus in the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The statue is displayed in the first chapel area of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, and its dignity and beauty mesmerize pilgrims and tourists alike.

Unfortunately, there are a few visitors to the Eternal City who have no respect for anything, even a marble sculpture of the dead body of our Lord, as manifested by vandals who attacked the Pieta some years ago, for which reason it is now displayed to the public from behind protective glass.

The profound respect afforded the body of Jesus after his death is biblically well attested: 

The Jews, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day, besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs…For these things were done, that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of him… And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. Nicodemus also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury…And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulcher, the sun being now risen…

The Church teaches that even during the span of time in which the human soul of Christ was separated from his body in death, his divinity remained and so his body was sacred. While we cannot claim the same divine phenomenon with the death of a Christian, in light of the grace of baptism by which we are joined to Christ and in view of the future resurrection of the body, traditional Church practice requires respect for the deceased. Consistent with this, canons of the 1917 code forbade the use of cremation for Christians.

Canon 1203: "The bodies of the faithful must be buried, and cremation is reprobated. If anyone has in any manner ordered his body to be cremated, it shall be unlawful to execute his wish."

Canon 1240.5: "Persons who have given orders for the cremation of their bodies are deprived of ecclesiastical burial, unless they have before death given some signs of repentance."

Canon 2339: "Persons who, in violation of the prohibition of Canon 1240, dare to order or force the ecclesiastical burial (of those who are to be deprived of it) incur excommunication ipso facto; and persons who of their own accord give ecclesiastical burial to the above mentioned, incur an interdict from entering a church."

Sadly, but not surprisingly, about the same time that the Vatican erected the barrier glass to protect the marble body of Jesus from the attack of vandals, the Church tore down the canonical and liturgical barriers intended to protect the bodies of the faithful. In 1963, an Instruction from the Holy Office lifted the ban on cremation by allowing it in certain circumstances provided that the reasons for choosing cremation were not contrary to Christian belief.

In the revised funeral rites of 1969, a further step was taken to allow for the Committal Rite to take place at the crematorium or gravesite.

The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law states, "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" (Canon 1176).

As a final step down this deadly path, an indult now allows funeral Masses in the United States to be offered with the ashes of the deceased present, in place of the body.

With this history in mind, we now come to an interesting outcry against cremation by a prominent diocese in the United States. A New York bill that would redefine cremation to include the “chemical digestion” of human remains into liquid waste, has met with rejection from the New York State Catholic Conference.

According to the Conference: “The Church’s reverence for the sacredness of the human body and its dignity arises out of concern for both the body’s natural and supernatural properties. It is therefore essential that the body of a deceased person be treated with respect and reverence. Processes involving chemical digestion of human remains do not sufficiently respect this dignity.”

More specifically, the proposed change to New York's law would revise its definition of “cremation” such that along with its conventional meaning, cremation could include “any chemical process” that breaks down a human body. One such procedure is “alkaline hydrolysis.” This process has been promoted in recent years as a “green” alternative to conventional cremation, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Alkaline hydrolysis uses lye to dissolve bodies into a liquid substance, which is typically drained into the sewage system. It is also referred to as “bio-cremation” or “flameless cremation.”

Meanwhile, in the country of Australia, there is a financial penalty for the burial of bodies. Recently a grieving family from Melbourne contested a fifty-five dollar "carbon tax charge" they incurred when burying a relative, being told, "Even the dead don't escape the carbon tax.” The bereaved family is outraged over the “tax on the dying.” No doubt a similar carbon footprint tax will be coming to America as a deterrent to burial.

Once again we see how the abandonment of traditional Church practice has put the faithful at risk spiritually—and in this case, physically. By opening the coffin lid to cremation, the Church now finds herself sliding down the slippery slope of green slime.

  HOME    |    PRINT SUBSCRIBE    |    E-EDITION    |    ADVERTISE    |    NEWS    |    ARTICLES   |    RESOURCES    |    ABOUT    |    CONTACT
Web Format and Content   ©  1996-2010 Remnant Press