The Temple of the Holy Trinity (2017)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 11th June 2017, Prague, Czech republic
More and more people don’t want to be buried, they want to have their bodies cremated.
Their arguments are quite different:
Is it not the Holy Scripture that says: “For dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.“? (Gen. 3:19)
So the cremation turns the body back to the dust. Can it be wrong?
Somebody says: “I have a cancer and I don‘t want to pollute the ground with the chemicals.”
Another one says: “I am alone, I have no relatives in this village. So nobody will take care of my grave.“
A third person says: “Cremation is less expensive than the burial.“
A fourth person says: “If there is an infectious disease, the cremation is safer.“
And a fifth person is afraid of being buried alive.
What did the Church say? The Church always stood in awe of the body that became a temple of the Holy Trinity by baptism and a living monstrance by Holy Communion. By these reasons the Church leaves the destruction process of the bodies on the natural laws.
According to the words of Our Savior: “Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit“ (John 12:24), a dead is put in a grave. He is God’s seed. He is put into the earth for the great day of harvest when Jesus will come again. The cemetery is therefore a holy place. It is God’s field. That is why a public sinner (e.g. the one who lives in concubinage) or heretics (e.g. people who deny the dogma of Hell, of Holy Trinity, of the virginity of Our Lady, of the necessity of receiving confession in case of mortal sin etc.) cannot have the Catholic burial.
Our Savior himself was buried even though he had died on the cross. We profess this truth explicitly in the Creed: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.”
In contrast to other peoples, the people in the Old Testament always insisted on the funeral of the deceased. Just think of the book of Tobias: Tobit was in exile. He had to live among the gentiles but even under these circumstances he obeyed the law. When he found the corpses of the children of Israel, he carried them into his house and buried them at night even in danger of life. (Tobit 2:3-9)
It was so also in the New Testament and in the following time till the sixties of the last century.
The young man of Naim, the only son of his mother, was carried to the grave (Luke 7:11), Lazarus had already been in the grave for three days (John 11:38) and the martyrs of the first three centuries were buried in the catacombs. And when the Church was free in 325, the Christians buried the deceased in the cemeteries.
Wherever the Christians came, they refused the pagan corpse incineration. In the age of the Renaissance, the corpse incineration in France was restored. In 1848 it spread around other countries and also the International Masonic Congress in Naples decided in 1870 that their members had to be cremated after their death. This decision was made against the Catholic Church and the Catholic teaching. Since 1717 every Pope condemned the Freemasonry till 1960. In view of the fact that the Freemasons occupy the Vatican, we should not be surprised that both the membership in the Masonic lodge and the corps incineration is no longer punished. The two paragraphs of the old Code of canon law were changed in the new Code of canon law of 1983.
The Church did not allow cremation especially due to non-Catholic philosophies. We have seen the philosophy of the Freemasons but there are also others saying: “With death everything is over!” or “I will return to the nature and let my ashes throw into the Sea or down from an airplane.”
The Church always wanted the faithful to think of the deceased and to pray for them.
In the case of suitably designed cemeteries there is no risk of contamination of the air, the ground, and the drinking water.
The cemeteries as a public park promote public health. But they are not places for jogging, listening to the radio or relaxing. This is forbidden in the Catholic cemetery.
The danger of being buried alive is according to today’s scientific knowledge extremely rare and certainly not more terrifying than of being burnt alive. Furthermore, the incineration of corpses no longer permits exhumation in criminal cases.
I remember a faithful who was employed by a funeral house in Salzburg. He told me that one day he had to dig out a dead man who had been buried a year ago. This man had made a life insurance before he died. After the burial the family requested the insurance company to pay but they refused saying that the deceased was an alcoholic and he died in a pub. Certainly he drank alcohol there though he had been prohibited to do so by the doctor.
The family let the necessary investigations be made at the deceased. The result was he had not consumed alcohol and the insurance company had to pay. If he had been burnt, these investigations could not have been made.
A corpse incineration is against the veneration of relics, too.
We know about three kinds of relics: the first class relics are directly from the body (hair, teeth, bones, nails etc.), the second class relics are articles of the daily use (books, clothes, the watch, rosary, etc.). By incineration the first class relics are destroyed completely.
Moreover, Heaven has preserved corpses of numerous saints after their death from corruption, e.g. the corpse of st. Catherine Labouré, of st. Bernadette of Lourdes, st. John Vianney, better known as the Curé of Ars.
Certainly, someone may be blown by an explosion but in this case there is a violent cause coming from outside. As far as we can make a choice, we have to make it according to the Faith, according to the custom of the Catholic Church.
Since God is the author of the Ten Commandments and also of the Nature, the Church has always insisted on the natural way. We find this principle in other areas as well:
Why is the in-vitro-fertilization not allowed by the Church? Because it is a generation via a sinful doing and not the natural way. The marital union is the natural way. Reagent glass generation also raises many problems that cannot be solved: Cells are fertilized that are not planted. They are kept in the refrigerator. But what if the electricity fails, if the mother dies before implanting? Can a mother let cells implanted when the father has already died?
Why the contraception is not allowed by the Church?
Natural regulation is allowed because the “Yes” to conceive a child remains upright, in the case of the contraception “No” to conceive a child is pronounced which is a grave sin.
The dictionary of theology says that corpse-burning does not contradict any dogmatic truth or the Holy Scripture but it is contrary to the Christian tradition.
For a Catholic it is enough to know that the corpse incineration was forbidden for nearly 2000 years. Those who don’t care much about the Faith will not understand these arguments anyway.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has changed many things that have a long tradition: For 2000 years the olive oil was the only oil that could be used for the sacraments of Confirmation and for the Extreme unction. Now you can use any plant oil.
For 2000 years no layman was permitted at the altar. For 2000 years the consecration words were “for many” and not “for all”.
For 2000 years the Holy Mass was celebrated in the direction to the East where Jesus Christ is expected for his second coming. For nearly 2000 years there was no discussion about priestly celibacy and about the date for Easter. Easter always fell on the Sunday after the first full moon in spring.
The Catholic Church preserved prayers and customs for centuries as we preserve customs in our civil life. If something is more than 100 years old, it becomes customary practice.
If we keep these principles, we cannot do anything wrong. In contrast, if we leave these customs it is often connected with sin and great conflicts of conscience.
Our body is the temple of the Holy Trinity. We are not allowed to destroy our body deliberately! Amen.