It was a pagan practice which Christians avoided from the very beginning. In the third century we find Christian writers, such as Minucius Felix, warning Christians against imitating the practice, and bidding them retain the custom of earth burial. In comparatively recent times Atheists and irreligious materialists have reintroduced it in order to destroy Christian belief and to impress in an imaginative way the doctrine that all is over at death. This, in itself, would be enough to justify the Church in her refusal to accept a practice credited with such closely associated ideas opposed to the doctrine of immortality. But there are many other reasons. It is opposed to human instinct and the better sentiments of the human heart. Filial piety protests against such treatment of, say, a deceased mother. Christian reverence for the dead also protests. The body that has been anointed in baptism and that has been the temple of the Holy Spirit during life, should not be treated as so much offal or refuse, but should be allowed to disintegrate according to the ordinary laws of nature in God’s earth. Again, the whole liturgy of the Catholic Church for Christian burial, from time immemorial, is adapted to earth-burial, and she cannot be expected to change her sacred liturgy with fads of the times. If a Catholic is cremated, he forfeits the privileges of such Catholic burial, a liturgy of great benefit to the soul which inhabited that body. The man who does not bother about such things, and holds that once one is dead that is the end of it, and that nothing else matters, is saying just what the advocates of Cremation hoped that he would say. It is good to be buried in the Catholic way, in consecrated ground. That is the proper place for a Christian. We can add to these reasons the medico-legal aspect of the case. Cremation destroys all signs of violence or of poison, and thus prevents exhumation and medical examination for the detection of crime. Many murders have been discovered by such examination after burial, and if Cremation became a general practice, it would be an easy way out for the poisoner and murderer.
Radio Replies Volume 1 by Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble MSC and Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty
The Case for Catholicism - Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections
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