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“Ask a Priest: What If My Husband Wants His Ashes Scattered?”
Q: I am a baptized Catholic, my husband is unbaptized and has no ties to any religion. He prays to God every night, and we raised our daughter Catholic. We were making our end-of-life plans, and he stated that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered. Can I as a baptized Catholic honor his wishes? I want to honor my husband, but most of all I don’t want to sin against God. – M.E.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s admirable that you are asking this question. That shows that you are attentive to your conscience.
The short answer is: If you don’t want to offend God, then don’t.
You could explain to your husband that you cannot in good conscience fulfill his wishes. In effect, he is asking you to ignore one of the corporal works of mercy (burying the dead) and doing something (scattering cremated remains) that implies a lack of faith in the resurrection of the body.
In Catholic teaching you would actually be disrespecting your husband and your faith by acquiescing to the scattering of his ashes.
Your husband could arrange with an attorney to have his ashes scattered, and thus be at peace that his wish will be carried out.
Having made your case, you could be at peace too.
For more reading on the rules of cremation, see the Vatican instruction Ad Resurgendum cum Christo.
I hope that some of this helps. Count on my prayers.
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