Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
The act of destroying the human body by fire after death. Christians followed the Jews in disposing of corpses by burial rather than by cremation, thinking of the latter as an unnatural and violent destruction of the human body, the repository of the Holy Spirit during life on earth. Since no principle of faith would be jeopardized by cremation, it has always been allowed with permission when public health required it. The Catholic Church has always opposed it, though, when it meant a defiance of belief in the resurrection of the body, and for centuries excommunicated those who ordered cremation for themselves or for others. At present, to meet changing world conditions, the Church is more lenient in her views on this method of disposal of the dead, while still preferring burial. (Etym. Latin cremare, to burn.)