Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism


1059. Is not the Catholic prohibition of cremation a mere point of discipline, not enforceable as the law of God?

The law forbidding cremation is a precept binding in conscience, and is enforceable within the Church. For members who accept the spiritual authority of the Church, rebellion against that authority involves sin and spiritual penalties no one with a spark of faith would wish to incur. Thus any Catholic joining a Cremation Society and giving it his active support is excommunicated; and any Catholic definitely asking for cremation cannot receive the last Sacraments unless he cancels the request. Such penalties are indication enough that the Church makes her disciplinary law an obligation under pain of grievous sin. The Church has divine authority to regulate the belief and conduct of her members, not only in matters directly concerning faith and morals, but in all things indirectly affecting the spiritual welfare of her subjects. And she regards the prohibition of cremation as necessary to the safeguarding of that spiritual welfare of her subjects. And as guide, she is the judge; not the subjects.

1060. It may be Canon Law. But is all Canon Law binding under pain of sin?

The Church certainly has legislative power given her by Christ in the words, "Whatever you bind upon earth, is bound in heaven." And obedience to that legislative power is included in Christ's words to His Church, "He who hears you, hears me; and he who despises you despises me." Using his authority, St. Paul made many regulations according to his own discretion, and insisted upon obedience to them. He was exercising the very same power as that which the Catholic Church exercises today. And the Canon Law of the Catholic Church certainly obliges under pain of sin. In the prefatory Apostolic Letter sanctioning the New Code of Canon Law, Pope Benedict XV. wrote as follows, "Having invoked the assistance of divine grace and with the plenitude of Apostolic power, we promulgate this present Code and decree that henceforth it shall have the power and authority of the law for the universal Church." And Canon 13 distinctly says that all Catholics throughout the world are bound by the general laws of the Church. The prohibition of cremation is a general law. obliging all Catholics, throughout the world, in conscience.

1061. It is all very well to say, "Obey the Church." But I think the Church exceeds its authority in entering into the domain of science when it forbids cremation.

The forbidding of cremation to Catholics does not involve any entry of the Church into the domain of science. Nor has the Church exceeded its authority in forbidding Catholics to be cremated. Christ gave to the Catholic Church a complete mandate to attend to all matters of religious significance. He said to her, "Whatever you bind on earth is bound also in heaven." And as religion extends to the complete human personality, including both soul and body, the Church certainly has the right to prescribe the religious ceremonies for the final disposal of the body, and to demand that the method of disposal will be in accordance with her religious rites.

1062. Why should she dictate the method of disposing of dead bodies which are often masses of contagious disease germs?

I have given the reason why she may dictate methods of burial. Here you try to show that she is trespassing on the domain of science. But science does not say that the dead must be cremated. Nor does science say that a person who has died of a contagious disease, and who has been buried in the earth, is a menace to the living. In fact, science has been employed in the most rigid tests, both of earth and seepage from cemeteries, always yielding negative results. The idea that normal earth burial affords no protection against contagion is not scientific, but due to an overdeveloped imagination.

1063. How and why did cremation originate?

For centuries before Christ, cremation was practiced side by side with earth burial amongst pagan peoples. But from the very beginning Christians repudiated cremation, and consecrated the use of earth burial. All Christians sanctioned and adopted this method so wholeheartedly that the Church had no need to make express laws on the subject. In the eighteenth century, however, rationalistic and materialistic enemies of the Christian religion tried to revive the pagan practice of cremation, chiefly because it was against the Christian custom, and it seemed a practical and imaginative way of attacking the idea of any future life. At first it made little appeal. But towards the end of last century the spread of unbelief weakened opposition to it; whilst the growing superstitious reverence for everything that pretended to be scientific, disposed many people to welcome a method which talked about hygiene and social progress. When, about 1880 cremation societies began to be established and government legislation was sought in various countries to render the process legal, the Catholic Church forbade Catholics to have anything to do with it.

1064. Cremation is not opposed either to the belief or the worship of true Christians.

Take the belief of Christians. A study of anthropology shows that in all ages religious belief has been closely associated with the disposing of the dead. And from the very beginning Christians adopted earth burial. They believed in immortality, and the very word cemetery chosen for their burial places means in Greek a dormitory or sleeping ground. As Christ was buried and rose again, so our dead are buried until they also rise again with Christ. Through the ages the Christian Church has blessed and sanctified "God's Acre," to which relatives may go to kneel and pray for those they loved, and whom they are to meet again in a happy eternity. But whilst our cemetery suggests a dormitory in which our departed ones but sleep until they awake to their new life in Christ, cremation symbolizes annihilation and the materialistic idea that all is over at death. "No wonder Catholics oppose cremation," said the Italian Freemason Ghisleri. "They have good reason to do so. Our crematoria will shake the foundations of Catholic doctrine." Take worship. The whole liturgy of the Church is adapted to earth-burial. And it is part of Christian worship to be buried in the Christian way, in consecrated ground. The Church reverences the dead who have been anointed in Baptism and whose bodies have been the temples of the Holy Ghost during life. Nor can the Church be expected to change her sacred liturgy from time immemorial to suit the fads of the times. Take the nobler instincts of Christian people. A Crematorium is but an incinerator under another name. We build incinerators for refuse; and humane instincts rebel against the burning of a loved mother as so much offal. We have no desire to adopt the attitude which says, "Let us get rid of her. Away with her as rapidly and completely as possible." Cremationists in France at least have acknowledged that cremation does not appeal to the nobler instincts of men. "Our fight," they say, "is not with clergy and legislators; it is with the people themselves." Of 73,000 cremations in France between 1889 and 1904, but 3,500 were cremated at their own previous request. Over 69,000 were cremated without having expressed any desire to be cremated, and at the instigation of others. The very rite exhibits repugnance. Relatives depart, leaving the body in the hands of people who have no interest whatever in the mortal remains confided to them. And the end is not "God's Acre," but a pigeon-hole of ashes; ashes which are posted in Europe with the products of commerce and industry. In fact a certain Professor Moleschott has recently calculated the value of human ashes as a fertilizer for fields, which will contribute to the welfare of the living. And Sir Henry Thompson in England, has worked it out that if all the dead in London were cremated, we would have 200,000 pounds of ashes yearly. Human instinct and Christian reverence revolt against such treatment of the dead, and the system which can lead to such a barbarous outlook.

1065. Since religious rites are so often associated with cremation, can it not he said that it is a form of Christian burial?

No. All we could say would be that some non-Catholics who are cremated have their cremation preceded by certain non-Catholic religious rites. But that does not make it Christian burial. Meantime, so far as Catholics are concerned, cremation is not only not burial, but no Catholic religious rites are ever associated with cremation. However non-Catholics may regard it, therefore, no Catholic could regard cremation as a form of Christian burial.

1066. I was very much opposed to cremation, not understanding it correctly till recently I was at a relative's cremation.

Your impressions are due rather to what you did see than to what you did not see.

1067. I was astounded by the reverence and beauty of the service.

The external religious service would not be less beautiful at an ordinary burial.

1068. It was most consoling; and there was nothing whatever to offend or hurt the bereaved one's feelings.

That depends on the bereaved one's outlook. We Catholics do not view death quite like others.

1069. Also isn't it much better to see a beautiful tree marking the place of a loved one's ashes, rather than the hideous tombstones we see in cemeteries?

Tombstones and cemeteries are not hideous. Cemeteries are the most peaceful spots on the face of the earth; and tombstones amongst the friendliest things I know. Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" awakens more beautiful thoughts than anything a crematorium could ever inspire. And that one's body should be reduced to a fertilizer for any kind of a tree is not a very appealing notion.

1070. If cremation symbolizes annihilation, so does earth burial.

Earth burial does not, in the symbolism accepted by the mass of mankind through all the centuries both before and since Christ. But cremation does symbolize annihilation, with its rapid and complete destruction of the last visible traces of those whom we knew and loved in life. Atheists and materialists were not slow to perceive this significance. And they were responsible for introducing this revival of a pagan custom into Europe, in order to impress on people in an imaginative way that there is no future life and that we perish utterly like cattle. It is significant that the idea was first mooted during the French Revolution in 1796, that Revolution which enthroned a prostitute upon the Altar of Notre Dame Cathedral, to be worshipped as the goddess of reason. The first Crematorium in Europe was built about 1880, and the influence of the godless has been the chief force behind the movement. The Catholic Church forbade cremation, and the godless at once made that an additional reason for propagating their new devotion to incinerators.

1071. I resent your assertion that the funeral service of cremation savors of annihilation of the soul.

I said that the modern movement in favor of cremation was introduced by men who professed atheism, and unbelief in immortality; and who hoped by cremation to foster in an imaginative way their doctrine that all is over at death. The idea was revived by the atheistical elements in the French Revolution, and was supported by the godless Freemasonry on the continent of Europe. A circular issued by the Freemasons in France in favor of cremation says, "The Roman Church has defied us by condemning the cremation of the body which our society has propagated with such excellent results. The brethren of the lodge should therefore employ all means to spread the use of cremation. The Church is merely seeking to preserve amongst the people the old beliefs concerning the immortality of the soul, and a future life, beliefs overthrown today by the light of science." That statement shows one of the motives prompting French Freemasonry. These men want to destroy belief in immortality and a future life; and one cannot blame the Catholic Church for refusing to accept their mode of disposing of the dead.

1072. May not one do with the body what science says is best?

Science does not say that cremation is best. Some people say that science says so. But they are wrong. Meantime, whatever others do, Catholics may not do what the Catholic Church forbids.

1073. The world must progress, and improve on the old methods.

Not all new methods are better just because they are new; nor is all so-called progress genuine progress.

1074. Earth burial may take one hundred years of slow, corrupting decay with necessary pollution of earth, air, and water, whereas cremation accomplishes "dust to dust, ashes to ashes," within an hour in a most hygienic way and without dang

It would not matter whether nature took two hundred years or three hundred years to pursue her own work in her own way. Neither the dead nor the living are affected by that. But the living are conscious of the implied attack by cremation upon their most sacred beliefs; the violation of their form of worship; and the inhumanity of the violence done to their dead. As far as hygiene and danger to the living are concerned, there is no difference between earth burial and cremation. There is no necessary pollution of "earth, air and water" in earth burial. There is not an atom of proof that residential areas in the vicinity of cemeteries are less healthy than other localities. And the most highly qualified specialists have shown that the earth and the sun between them are the greatest of purifying agencies in existence. They have proved by tests that water-seepage from cemeteries contains no deleterious elements, and that the air is not contaminated by any gases reaching the surface. Dr. Martin, a French expert in these matters says that the living, vicious, sick or diseased, pour out germs and bacteria incomparably more repulsive, dangerous, and even murderous than all cemeteries put together. If we want real hygiene, perhaps it would be better to slaughter the whole human race, and let the last man suicide. Then no human beings will be exposed to any danger of contamination!

1075. I think to stand by an open grave and see a loved one put down into the earth is horrible, and mediaeval.

You must not think that a thing is wrong because it is mediaeval. Mediaeval architecture, and painting, and music, and philosophy, and liturgy are all amongst the most beautiful things in the world. There is much more modern ugliness than mediaeval ugliness. As for the earth burial of a loved one being horrible, it is all a matter of viewpoint. Personally I prefer that the body of one whom I have loved should be buried in God's good brown earth, in ground that has been blessed and consecrated to Him, and left to the gentle absorption of nature in nature's own way; rather than make use of an incinerator dignified by the name of a crematorium, as if the body were, as you put it, but an old garment for which no one has any further use.

1076. Cremation seems a far better way than earth burial hygienically for the disposing of an old coat (so to speak of the physical body) which the soul has done with.

There is no particular advantage, from the viewpoint of hygiene, in cremation. Hygiene is the science of the preservation of health. Now earth burial is no danger whatever to the health of the living. That is scientifically certain. And the health of the body of the dead person cannot be in question. Meantime, though you profess to be a Christian, you do not speak in a Christian way when you speak of the physical body as an old garment that the soul has done with. That is not the Christian view. Listen to these words of a great Christian Saint on this subject - St. Augustine. In his book on "The Care of the Dead," he writes: "The bodies of the dead are not to be despised and thrown away; and above all the bodies of faithful Christians. For the soul uses the body in all its good deeds during life, in the service of God. The body is much more intimately united with the soul than any garments with the body; in fact the body is part of man's very nature. Therefore the bodies of the just have always been buried with reverence and piety, and with religious ceremonies."

1077. Cremation obviates being buried alive.

By substituting being burned alive! You may keep your substitute. If a person be not really dead, and consciousness did return, the shorter period of suffering in that infernal furnace would make up in intensity for the duration of asphyxiation in a state of semi-coma. One case is no better than the other. And there is another little matter of which you have not thought. In earth burial, we bury a man on the supposition that he is really dead. But when you agree that he may be alive, and that it would be better to cremate him, you advocate the more rapid killing of a living person. In other words, you suggest that it is better to murder him. Cremating a man on the supposition that he is dead is not so bad. But to cremate him on the supposition that he is possibly alive, and with the intention of killing him violates the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."

1078. Might not Catholics themselves prefer cremation?

It is quite possible that even a Catholic might entertain a preference for cremation, through concentration upon some particular aspect which might seem to favor it. But, even were this so, the Catholic is prepared to sacrifice his preferences and submit to the laws of his religion. Our obedience is not based upon our approval or otherwise of the laws put before us, but upon the authority of the one commanding us. This applies to all true obedience. An obedient child obeys its parents because the command expresses the will of those parents, and the parents have the right to dictate its conduct. The fact that the child might prefer to adopt some other line of conduct does not give it the right to disobey serious commands. So, too, we Catholics, and I include myself, obey the legislation of our Church because it is the legislation of our Church. For we know that our Church has received authority from Christ to regulate our conduct in all matters of religious behavior. And the disciplinary law of the Church forbidding cremation imposes a serious obligation upon us, demanding our implicit obedience to it.



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