“Ask a Priest: What If My Husband Wants His Ashes Scattered?”

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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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One Comment
  1. Another compromise you could present to your husband: you will respect that he wishes to be cremated,
    if he will respect your faith (that he has done all your married lives) and be BURIED with you (I assume
    you have a plot? but not a single plot) So … compromise (because really you don’t know who is ‘going up
    first’ right? So if you go up… your husband should provide you a Mass of Christian Burial (a wake, for the
    closure to himself and family members) and burial. When he goes, he can be cremated, the church is ok
    with that… so, WHY NOT be BURIED in your grave or if you are being cremated also, why not put your
    ashes and husband’s in two urns (not sure if mixing the ashes is permitted) in a mausoleum. This is also
    to be buried, correct Father? If he is just scattering ashes ‘just because’ . . . well then ‘why not’ JUST
    BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU… why not bury his ashes with you in your grave (a small box, placed in your
    casket… if you should go first) If he goes first, a small box … or urn can be buried and then if you are
    cremated last the two of your buried in one grave. WHY SCATTER? or a mausaleum.

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