Can Non-Catholics Have a Memorial Service at a Catholic Church?

Catholic funeral rites can be extended to non-Catholics.
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Obtaining a Catholic funeral Mass or memorial service for a non-Catholic is not an easy feat. Catholic funerals are typically only granted to baptized Catholics, even if they weren't regularly practicing at the time of their passing. However, the Catholic Church does make exceptions in certain circumstances—especially if you or your loved one is a faithful Christian.

1 Are You Baptized?

Baptized people not of the Catholic faith can receive Catholic funeral rites.
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If you or your loved one was not baptized in the Catholic Church, but in a Christian church of another denomination, a priest will permit a memorial service in several circumstances. According to Canon 1183.3, baptized Christians can receive funeral rites in the Catholic Church if a minister from their own church is unavailable; the diocese's bishop does not disapprove of the arrangement; or the deceased did not state during his life that he did not want such a funeral.

The only time the Catholic Church provides funeral rites to non-baptized persons is in the case of children who were not yet baptized prior to their passing, but whose parents had the intent of baptizing them.

2 Did You and Your Spouse Marry in the Catholic Church?

Funeral rites for spouses of baptized Catholics are possible.
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Priests will often grant funeral rites to a non-Catholic if his spouse is Catholic and they were married in a Catholic church. Priests will also allow funeral rites for a non-Catholic if his children were raised as Catholics and he has shown support for the Church throughout his life.

3 Cremation

Cremation is not allowed in the Catholic Church if the ashes are going to be kept in an urn.
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The Catholic Church has eased up on its strict anti-cremation policy during the latter half of the 20th century and now more and more Catholics are choosing cremation over burial. While funeral Masses and memorial services can be granted to those who have been cremated, Catholic priests will deny funeral rites to those who have had their bodies cremated for reasons that are contrary to the Christian faith. These reasons include the scattering of the ashes; the displaying of the ashes in any place that is not a cemetery or mausoleum; and cremation with the intent of denying the resurrection of the body.

4 Heretics, Schismatics and Non-Believers

Those who have publicly dissented against the Church are not granted funeral rites.
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Catholic bishops and priests have the right to deny funeral rites to anyone, including baptized Catholics. But these circumstances tend to be extreme situations, including heresy or creating a schism within the Church. If you or your loved one have been an active opponent of the Catholic Church and its beliefs, or have committed a grave sin and failed to repent before death, then Catholic funeral rites will most likely not be granted.

Lauren Barbato has written about politics, health and women's issues for "Ms." magazine, AlterNet and the Women's Media Center, with entertainment writing featured in "FILTER," "MovieMaker Magazine," Yahoo! Movies and other sources. Barbato holds a BFA in writing for screen and television from the University of Southern California, where she served as lifestyle editor at the "Daily Trojan."