BY Ian Dunn | November 17 2017 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Humanist society slammed over Catholic funeral poverty claims

Church says secular attack on burial advice is ‘cynical’ and ‘disingenuous’

The Humanist Society Scotland has been condemned for peddling ‘disingenuous’ and ‘vindictive’ claims that the Catholic Church is responsible for funeral poverty.

The society used a post on Facebook this week to wrongly claim that the Church forbade cremations on economic grounds, which they said could push struggling Catholic families into funeral poverty and thus damage the mental health of grieving families.

Many faith traditions like Islam and Judaism insist on burial of the deceased, however the Catholic Church states burial is preferable but it has no doctrinal objection to cremation ‘chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations,’ provided it does not overturn the ‘explicitly stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful.’

A Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) spokesman refused to retract their statement after being informed of its inaccuracy.

The Catholic Church said the secular campaign group’s remarks were ‘disingenuous but sadly predictable.’

“Many people request Catholic funeral services and burials in accordance with their deeply held religious and spiritual beliefs, and receive pastoral care and support throughout this difficult process,” a spokesman for the Church said. “To suggest that people should not be encouraged to have their final wishes met due to their social and economic circumstances appears to miss the point.”

The Church spokesman suggested that the ‘cynical drive’ by the HSS to criticise the Church is ‘perhaps motivated by a desire to increase their own revenue and commercial viability.’ The HSS currently offers funerals or ‘extended funerals’ for ‘between £160-£200.’


‘Hysterical nonsense’

One independent funeral director told the SCO the HSS comments were ‘vindictive, hysterical nonsense.’

“This is just completely made up,” the director said. “After Vatican II the ruling was changed allowing Catholics to be cremated. We ­probably cremate more Catholics than bury them now. And in some places if you have a family plot burial can be cheaper than cremation.”

“We would tend to speak to the priest after the family has been in touch with them. This has never come up. I don’t know where [the HSS] are getting this from but it seems vindictive.”

The spokesman for HSS stuck to their incorrect claim that the Church ‘rejects economic concerns as sufficient grounds for choosing a cremation.’

“The evidence shows that burials cost 50 per cent more than cremations,” he said. “The recent decree rejects economic concerns as sufficient grounds for choosing a cremation. At a time when funeral poverty remains a concern for many families in Scotland we hope that all faith and belief bodies will sign up to the positive work of the funeral poverty working group.”


Vatican policy

Last year the Catholic Church issued a decree that Catholics who wish to have their remains cremated should not have their ashes scattered, divided up or kept at home but rather stored in a sacred, Church approved place.

For most of its 2,000-year history, the Catholic Church only permitted burial, arguing that this best expressed the Christian Faith in resurrection. But in 1963, the Vatican explicitly allowed cremation as long as it didn’t suggest a denial of Faith about the resurrection. The document repeats that burial of remains is preferred but lays out guidelines for conserving ashes for the increasing numbers of Catholics who choose cremation.

The Vatican said it was releasing the document to counter what it called ‘new ideas contrary to the Church’s Faith’ that had emerged since 1963, including New Age ideas that death is a ‘fusion’ with Mother Nature and the universe, or the ‘definitive liberation’ from the prison of the body.



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