Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who Was Denied Burial in Consecrated Grounds and Why

Though the Catholic Church has changed it's stance on many issues, in the past the Church had complete power and the people were basically at their mercy. Catholic burials were denied to many groups of people.

Only baptized persons who have a claim to Christian burial and the rites of the Catholic church could obtain a Catholic burial. This obviously excluded unbaptized babies.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Moreover no strict claim can be allowed in the case of those persons who have not lived in communion with the Church according to the maxim which comes down from the time of Pope Leo the Great (448) “quibus viventibus non communicavimus mortuis communicare non possumus” (we cannot hold communion in death with those who in life were not in communion with us). It has further been recognized as a principle that the last rites of the Church constitute a mark of respect which is not to be shown to those who in their lives have proved themselves unworthy of it.”

Others who have historically and are today excluded from Catholic burial include pagans, Jews, infidels, heretics (and their adherents), schismatics, apostates and excommunicated persons. In fact, if an excommunicated person is buried in a church or in consecrated land, the place is thereby desecrated, and, wherever possible, the remains must be exhumed and buried elsewhere.

People who are of mixed marriages cannot be buried in a Catholic Cemetery unless the marriage is blessed by a priest. Therefore the Catholic spouse would have to be buried in a non-denominational cemetery if they wished to be buried next to their non-Catholic spouse.

Further, Catholic burial is to be refused to suicides except in case that the act was committed when they were of unsound mind or unless they showed signs of repentance before death occurred.

Criminals cannot be given a Catholic burial since they have mortal sin on their souls.

Perhaps one of the most difficult to justify is the denial of Catholic burial for the mentally ill (referred to as lunatics and possibly possessed by a devil). Given the fact that as many as one in four people suffer from some kind of mental illness, this could constitute a huge number.



  1. Not true. My father-in-law (an Anglican) is buried in the Catholic cemetery at St Wulstan's, malvern. Also many criminals are not guilty of 'mortal' sin, so it doesn't apply. It did apply to Chicago gangsters however - the Church was the only organisation to say no to them! Never heard of any (recent) case of the mentally ill being refused catholic burial, not even when it includes suicide. On the contrary, most suicides are now given burial on the grounds that they are ill, and therfore not morally responsible.

  2. Elizabeth

    Thank you for pointing that out. These practices were common in days of old, not in more current times (thankfully).

    I didn't know that about the Chicago gangsters. That is very interesting!

    As far as the criminals go, I was under the impression that all crimes were mortal sins.

    You are correct about the mentally ill and suicides, though it was common practice years ago.

    Thank you for your input. I appreciate it.