THE Catholic Church has accused the secular Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) of peddling "cynical and disingenuous" claims that its funeral services are driving people into poverty.

Church leaders condemned comments made by the HSS on social media that it forbids cremations on economic and doctrinal grounds, instead insisting on costly burials.

However, the church no longer demands Catholics be buried, while funeral directors say that most of their cremation services involve members of the faith.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “Many people request Catholic funeral services and burials in accordance with their deeply held religious and spiritual beliefs, and receive pastoral care and support throughout this difficult process.

“To suggest that people should not be encouraged to have their final wishes met due to their social and economic circumstances appears to miss the point.”

The Church spokesman told the Catholic Observer that the "cynical drive" by the HSS to criticise the Church is "perhaps motivated by a desire to increase their own revenue and commercial viability."


READ MORE: Funeral costs soar

Last year the Catholic Church issued a decree that Catholics who wish to have their remains cremated should not have their ashes scattered, divided up or kept at home but rather stored in a sacred, Church approved place.

For most of its 2,000-year history, the Catholic Church only permitted burial, arguing that this best expressed the Christian Faith in resurrection. But in 1963, the Vatican explicitly allowed cremation as long as it didn’t suggest a denial of Faith about the resurrection.

While burial of remains preferred, the church lays out guidelines for conserving ashes for the increasing numbers of Catholics who choose cremation.

The row broke out over a post by the HSS on Facebook, which said: "In Scotland, research from Citizens Advice Scotland shows on average cremations cost 50 per cent less than a burial.

"Despite this, the Vatican has decreed that "economic motives" should play no part in the decision of a funeral, even going so far as to say that Catholics who chose to be cremated "for reasons contrary to the Christian faith" must be denied a Christian funeral.

"This will put pressure on already stressed and stretched families in the Catholic community to funeral choices that will be more expensive"


READ MORE: Plan to tackle funeral poverty 

One independent funeral director said the comments made by HSS were "hysterical nonsense."

“This is just completely made up,” the director added. “The ruling was changed allowing Catholics to be cremated. We probably cremate more Catholics than bury them now. And in some places if you have a family plot burial can be cheaper than cremation.”

“We would tend to speak to the priest after the family has been in touch with them. This has never come up. I don’t know where [the HSS] are getting this from but it seems vindictive.”

A spokesman for HSS said: “The evidence shows that burials cost 50 per cent more than cremations,” he said. “The recent decree rejects economic concerns as sufficient grounds for choosing a cremation.

"At a time when funeral poverty remains a concern for many families in Scotland we hope that all faith and belief bodies will sign up to the positive work of the funeral poverty working group.”

HERALD VIEW: 'It's time to talk about the cost of funerals'