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Dusting down the ashes of the dead

De Facto

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

WE all know the guy. He is the little maneen, often nameless and faceless, who introduces some little rule that is so daft you really cannot believe you are on planet earth. Most Government departments have such a little maneen working full time. No matter how clever you are, you could never think up the string of rules, regulations, exclusions, what ifs, if onlys and all associated diatribe that these boys produce. The older generation just sigh deeply and say, “They are sent to try us.”
The latest such outpouring comes from no greater place that a department in the Vatican. Those of us who sucked on country pleasures, childishly, have been abruptly weaned. The CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) has issued an instruction on the burial of the dead and the conservation of ashes. The Catholic Church lifted its prohibition on cremation in 1963. Now, 53 years later, some bright spark (no pun intended) has woken from his cathedral slumber.
This little maneen has decided to issue a new set of rules, regulations, laws, instructions and all associated by-laws and sub-sections that are the wont of such creatures. The new rules are now sacrosanct. What has gone before is frowned upon. Those who must be obeyed have promulgated. It is a bit like Limbo revisited, where you make up a story to get you over a hump, regardless of what the people of God think, feel, want or know.

Sacred ground
Consultation? Not really, in fact, no. Certain people in the church are not good at that. It does not fit the image. How can one seek advice from those who expect you to know everything? The new laws state that ashes of the deceased must be buried in sacred ground, not scattered or shared.
“…the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority…the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted…
Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.
“…it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimised by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.”
Many ashes have been spread since 1963, with the blessing of the Church. To come out now and start changing the goalposts is nothing short of an abuse, especially for devoted Catholics who respect Church law. This does nothing but heap guilt on people, especially older people. The way this has been done is outrageous. If there were issues regarding ashes then they should have been dealt with sensitively and properly, not by a bulldozer diktat.
Do those in the CDF not realise that they are dealing with people who have already suffered bereavement? Do they have any idea how hurtful their comments are?  
Sacred ground, they say? What is not sacred about Christians’ homes? Is not the top of Croagh Patrick a sacred place, where the ashes of countless loved ones have been scattered? Is not all creation sacred? On the other hand, the official Church can wheel out the ashes, bodies and body parts of saints to be paraded at will around the globe. It seems as if it is one rule for them and one rule for us.    
A priest classmate scattered his father’s ashes earlier this year. “It was a task undertaken in faith and in love and with respect to my father, attended by many who were unable to travel… for his Requiem Mass. That is all I have to say in light of this recent instruction from the CDF.”
The little maneen has been busy. This time, he will be treated with the contempt he deserves.

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