How much is Catholic Funeral?

If burying the dead is a corporeal work of mercy, why is scrutiny needed before a Catholic funeral? To answer this, a little clarification would be necessary between a burial and a funeral. Burial, otherwise known as interment, is the ritual or ceremonial act of laying the remains of the dead in the grave. Funeral refers to ceremony or service held when the dead is buried or cremated.

Yes, burying the dead is a corporeal work of mercy in Catholic teaching, but Catholic funeral is carried out according to Catholic rites as specified in canons 1176-1185 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and in canons 874-879 of the Code of the Eastern Churches. The funeral rite seeks three things namely, offering spiritual support for the dead in the new stage, honouring their bodies, and offering consolation and hope for the living particularly the immediate bereaved family.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican II document, in § 81 clearly expresses that: “The rite for the burial of the dead should express more clearly the paschal character of Christian death, and should correspond more closely to the circumstances and traditions found in various regions.”

Who is deserving of Catholic funeral? A baptised Catholic is entitled to a Catholic funeral upon death. Since baptism makes one a Catholic, baptismal aspirants otherwise known as catechumens are reckoned among Christ’s faithful deserving of a Catholic burial, because they are considered to have received the baptism of desire (Canon 1183 §1 &2). To ensure that no dead is dishonoured, the paragraph 3 of the same Canon 1183 provides that in the absence of their own minister, “baptised persons belonging to a non-Catholic or ecclesial community may, in accordance with the prudent judgment of the local Ordinary be allowed Church funeral rites, unless it is established that they did not wish this.”

However, Canon 1184 § 1 lists three groups of persons to be denied Catholic funeral rites unless they expressly showed sign of repentance before death:

  1. Notorious apostates, heretics and schismatics
  2. Those who for their anti-Christian motives chose that their bodies be cremated
  3. Other manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral could not be granted without public scandal to the faithful.

Priests often cite pastoral concerns for denying people Catholic funeral. This is because Canon 1185 is emphatic that any form of funeral mass is to be denied to a person who has been excluded from a Church funeral.

However, injuries incurred from the above provisions cannot be healed through money or clearance, otherwise, funeral would be for sale. Money does not erase or allay the feared public scandal, it rather causes more scandal. Canon 1181 while warning that care be taken that there is no preferences and that the poor are not deprived of proper funeral rites says that the provision of Canon 1264 should be observed concerning the offering made on the occasion of funerals. The said Canon 1264 grants a provincial meeting of the bishops right to fix the fees and set a limit on offerings on the occasion of the administration of sacraments and sacramental. These fixed fees are otherwise known as stole fees. Thanksgiving after funeral is a family choice.

Yes, it is true that burying the dead is a corporeal work of mercy, and it is truer that a Catholic funeral is earned through active faith. However, it is truest that a Catholic funeral is neither a Black Friday offer nor is it sold or bought. Inactive faith cannot be reactivated at death through a clearance. Catholic funeral costs only active faith at the moment of death.

© Felix Uche Akam: The Dragnet: 27.02.2022