Cremation: A popular end-of-life option

Published 7:41 pm Monday, November 23, 2009

Dear Savvy Senior,I am interested in learning more about cremation and would like to know what religions allow it. I understand cremation is a lot cheaper than a standard burial, but born and raised Catholic, Im not sure the church allows it. What can you tell me?
Guilty Catholic
Dear Guilty,
Almost all religions accept the practice of cremation including Roman Catholics. In fact, statistics show that about one-third of all Catholics today are opting for cremation versus the traditional casket burial. Heres what you should know.
Growing Acceptance
Over the past 30 years, the cremation rate in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds, jumping from only 6 percent in 1975, to 19 percent in 1995 to nearly 40 percent today. And by 2025, that number is expected to reach over 55 percent.
After forbidding cremation for centuries, the Catholic Church began allowing it back in 1963. However, it still prefers the traditional burial. Others religions that allow but discourage cremation include the Mormon Church, Reform and Conservative Judaism and Southern Baptist Convention, while Protestant Churches are much more accepting of the practice. Religions that forbid cremation are Islam, Jewish Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Cheaper Option
There are various reasons for the increased rate in cremation personal preference, its environmentally friendly, uses less land, its easier to arrange but the biggest reason is money. Cremation can cost one-tenth (depending on the services you choose) of what a funeral and cemetery burial brings, which averages around $10,000 today.
More Choices
Many people think that cremation limits your funeral options but it actually gives you more choices. With cremation, you can still have a funeral or memorial service of your choice, either with the body before cremation or without the body after cremation. And, after the cremation process there are options on what to do with the remains which include: scattering, being kept by the family, placed in a mausoleum or columbarium niche, or buried in a cemetery plot or on your own property depending on local ordinances. Personal memorials can also vary, but could include an urn, plaque, headstone, a simple marker or nothing at all. (Note: The Catholic Church prohibits scattering of ashes or keeping them at home. They believe the cremated remains should be buried or entombed.)
To assure your final wishes are honored and to prevent your loved ones from having to make decisions and arrangements at the time of your death, you should choose a cremation provider (most funeral homes provide cremation services) and prearrange your cremation and funeral or memorial service. The prearrangements should also be noted in your will and advance directive (if you have one), and be sure to tell your family and clergy. Also note that preplanning doesnt have to include prepaying, so be very careful before you put any money down. To help you locate a cremation provider in your area, look in your local yellow pages under “cremation” or “funeral” or visit
Savvy Tip: For more information on cremation and funeral planning contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit consumer protection organization that provides free publications and can answer all your cremation questions. They can also put you in touch with your area memorial society which offers consumer information and referrals to local cremation providers. You can find them at or call 800-765-0107.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.~ Savvy Senior written by Jim Miller

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox