By Catholic Review Staff
More Americans than ever are turning to cremation.
According to statistics compiled by the Cremation Association of North America, the cremation rate in the United States stood at 43.2 percent last year – up from 26.2 percent in 2000. Maryland had 15,804 cremations in 2012, representing a 36.3 percent cremation rate.
By 2017, nearly half of all those who die will be cremated, according to CANA projections.
For centuries, cremation was forbidden in the Catholic Church because it was often viewed as a final means of denying the resurrection of the body. That stance changed in 1963, when cremation became permissible as long as it was not chosen to deny the teachings of the faith.
The teaching was reaffirmed in The Code of Canon Law of 1983, which 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 Catholic teaching.’’
In 1997, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments confirmed the appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals, which allowed funeral rites to be celebrated in the presence of cremated remains.
Cremated remains are expected to be treated with the same respect as the body of the deceased, and the practice of scattering ashes is not considered an appropriate means of disposition. The church teaches that the ashes should be placed in an appropriate vessel and buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.