I would like to know if it is correct for a priest to bless cremated remains of a person that was not Catholic? Can he do the blessing in church?
Champagne, via e-mail
I wonder if you are talking about funeral rites or just a simple blessing. If it’s a simple blessing, I see no reason why a priest could not bless the cremated remains of a human being, since all are made in the image and likeness of God, even the non-baptized. Such a blessing would not be a sacrament, but a sacramental gesture recognizing the dignity of the human person. Sacramentals and blessings are not restricted to the baptized. Accordingly, the Church provides blessings for Christmas trees, places of work, and animals, especially on the feast of St. Francis. If a priest can bless your pet dog, he should be able to bless the cremated remains of a human being, baptized or not.
What the priest is not allowed to do is perform funeral rites for “notorious apostates, heretics and schismatics; those who for anti-Christian motives chose that their bodies be cremated; and other manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral could not be granted without public scandal to the faithful” (see Canon 1184). The local bishop can decide otherwise.
“Monday Morning Short Answers to Big Questions” by Rev. Francis J. Hoffman