Alternative Burials: An Intriguing Issue
Jacky Powell, Cape Town – I take the Southern Cross weekly and my husband (not a Catholic) turns first to Conrad and the Church Chuckle over breakfast before reading the headlines (at least) while I usually read it in its entirety.
I remember that some time in the last two years or so you published an article on the Church’s response to contemporary “green burials” and its view on burial rites.
As I recall, the Church does not permit us to simply scatter the ashes of the deceased (even in a much-loved spot like a nature reserve or Table Mountain) but that these ashes should be interred in a consecrated repository, such as we have here at our parish.
I was intrigued then to read a recent article on the BBC entitled “How do you compost a body — and why?” from the US and Canada.
I followed this up by reading two previous related articles: “The rise of alternative funerals” and “The world is running out of burial space”.
They all make interesting reading!
Over our early morning cup of tea, I read the first to my husband, who remarked, “I wonder what the Church would have to say!”
Since our earliest matrimonial “argument/debate” 37-plus years ago was on the subject of composting, it looks like it might be our final too.
My husband’s argument is that in the natural world, flora and fauna decompose and return to the earth and very little remains thereafter.
I thought of the various fossils and the skulls of elephants and so on, but he was not persuaded — not much evidence of all the dinosaurs, he commented.
Particularly with the subject of land restitution here in South Africa, and the increasing rise in the population and number of deaths, there is an argument which could be made for composting.
And since my husband feels strongly about land being used most productively, I may have to concede in the end.
But I do not think that it would sit well with a large proportion of the population, and there was resistance from Orthodox Jews in Israel noted in the March 13, 2015 article on burial space.
I look forward to your comments. It could lead to some very interesting discussions.