From time immemorial, people have buried the dead. Sometimes, they even risked their lives to carry out this most basic duty. In times of persecution, for example, Christians put themselves in great danger to recover the bodies of martyrs so that they might receive the holy rites of Christian burial.
The Old Testament recounts the story of the elder Tobias, who, while exiled to Nineveh, observed the Hebrew Law by burying the dead against the wishes of King Sennacherib.
The body is sacred and must be treated with all due dignity and respect. It has always been that way. No one needed to explain why the dead must be buried—until our time.
Thus primed for a Catholic author, John Horvat II, to call on his church to repent of allowing cremation, I instead got standard-issue tongue-clucking about the Washington legislature, which is prepared to allow insult to reposed humans by a different pagan-tinged means than the cremation the Catholic Church now allows:
[I]t is hard not to be shocked by a bill now before the Washington State Legislature with a good chance of passage. Lawmakers are working toward allowing a new process called “recomposition,” by which human beings would be turned into compost.
Human composting is not just a practical alternative to burial. It is an eco-religious act. Its advocates openly promote it as an expression of social justice and ecological fervor. It fits into a pantheistic worldview where everything is reduced to matter in constant transformation.
The process of human composting consists of putting shrouded unembalmed human remains in a revolving cylinder with wood chips, alfalfa and other organic matter to hasten decomposition. After a month, the body is reduced to a cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil that can be used for planting trees to benefit the Earth.
The comments to this article features some (presumably Catholic) readers arguing over the relative environmental benefits of cremation versus composting (the author at least focused on the right thing), which tells me that the Catholic Church has already been utterly routed in the battle for human dignity after death.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
I began reading John Senior’s The Death of Christian Culture anticipating delight and insight.
Those haven’t been absent, but neither has bitter disappointment:
The only way to bring Christianity to the Bantu or the British, however, is to bring them clothes, chairs, bread, wine, and Latin. Belloc was exactly right in his famous epigram: “Europe is the faith; the faith is Europe“ … The church has grown in a particular way and has always brought its habits with it, so that wherever it has gone it has been a European thing—stretched, adapted, but essentially a European thing.
(Page 19) I do not believe this, and don’t even think that an observant Roman Catholic should believe it. If Senior is not taking Belloc out of context, I’m disappointed in both.
This was first published in 1978, not 150 years ago, when it might have been forgivable for “a man of his times.” They read like the words of a man who mistook mere cantakerous atavism for fidelity.
His great-grandchildren will see Christian African missionaries in Europe (if it’s not too Islamicized in Europe to allow it), and they won’t be bringing tea, crumpets or chairs.
Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Coming Test Acts Will Challenge Religious Freedom, predicts that government is turning against orthodox faiths and will “threaten employment and restrict the political action of those dissenters who c[an] not endorse the established opinions of the state. And the pressure they bring to bear will be a major test of faith for Christians themselves.”
I may be wrong in thinking this fairly remote, but I am right to observe that concentrated corporate power is doing the same thing on its own, without laws to compel them or to impede them.
I’ve said for years that I oppose big corporate power as well as big government power, but at the moment I fear it far more.
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