Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to play an extraordinarily

constructive role in continuing the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II







1983 Code



1917 Code


 Liber Extra



 Eastern Code


1152 x 864


25 oct 2017

Factors in granting or withholding ecclesiastical funeral rites


There are objectively demonstrable grounds upon which ecclesiastical funeral rites should be withheld from Catholics; such factors, however, yield to very minimal demonstrations of repentance before death.


The Law

1983 CIC 1184. § 1. Exequiis ecclesiasticis privandi sunt, nisi ante mortem aliqua dederint paenitentiae signa: 1º notorii apostatae, haeretici et schismatici; 2º qui proprii corporis cremationem elegerint ob rationes fidei christianae adversas; 3º alii peccatores manifesti, quibus exequiae ecclesiasticae non sine publico fidelium scandalo concedi possunt. § 2. Occurrente aliquo dubio, consulatur loci Ordinarius, cuius iudicio standum est.


Eng. trans. 1983 CIC 1184. § 1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals: 1º notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics; 2º those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith; 3º other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful. § 2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.



In reverse chronological order, my writings on this topic include:


 • Blog post, A note on Madison's funeral policy, 25 oct 2017.


 • Blog post, Bp. Paprocki's norms on "same-sex marriage", 23 jun 2017.


 • Edward Peters, "Canonical consequences for suicide" (14 jan 2013), on-line here, in response to two deaf Belgian assisted suicides.


 • Edward Peters, "Still trying to get the Kennedy funeral lessons right", Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly 34/1 (Spring 2011) 57-59, on-line here, defending Cdl. O'Malley's decision to allow ecclesiastical funeral rites for Sen. Ted Kennedy.


 • Blog post, "A response to Fr. Gerard Moloney's attack" (9 oct 2009), on-line here, repudiating one Gerard Moloney's attempt to portray me as being opposed to granting Sen. Ted Kennedy ecclesiastical funeral rites.


 • Blog post, "I doubt Abp. Burke charged 'the Church' with erring" (24 sep 2009), on-line here, defending Cdl. Burke against attempts to portray him as being opposed to granting Sen. Ted Kennedy ecclesiastical funeral rites.


 • Blog post, "A reply to Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula in re Kennedy's funeral" (9 sep 2009), on-line here, responding to some inaccuracies in B. Carambula's assertions about the canon law on ecclesiastical funeral rites.


 • Blog post, "About Teddy's letter to the pope", (31 aug 2009), on-line here, assessing the canonical significance of the letter.


 • Blog post, "Some non-canonical reflections on Kennedy's funeral" (29 aug 2009), on-line here, criticizing how Sen. Ted Kennedy's funeral was actually celebrated.


 • Blog post, "A Catholic Funeral for Ted Kennedy?" (27 aug 2009), on-line here, in French here, outlines the case for granting Sen. Ted Kennedy ecclesiastical funeral rites.


 • Edward Peters, "State-sanctioned suicide and ecclesiastical funerals", New Oxford Review (Jun 2009) 39-40, on-line here, arguing that persons committing suicide in accord with state law leave little doubt but that their decision was culpably made and therefore are ineligible for ecclesiastical funeral rites.


 • Blog post, "Steven Sueppel should not be granted an ecclesiastical funeral" on-line here (26 mar 2008), arguing that family annihilators should not be granted ecclesiastical funeral rites.


 • Edward Peters, "Lest amateurs argue canon law: a reply to Patrick Gordon's brief against Bp. Thomas Daily", Angelicum 83 (2006) 121-142, on-line here, defending Daily's decision to withhold ecclesiastical funeral rites (but not Christian burial) from Mafia don John Gotti.


Ex auctoribus

• Todos estos dejan de ser "indignos" si antes de la muerte hubieran dado alguna señal de arrepentimiento. También esta cláusula recibe una interpretacíon benigna. Señal de arrepentimiento se considera non sólo llamar a un confessor, pedir perdón a Dios públicamente, besar un crucifijo, etc., sino también haber manifestado, pese a su situacíon irregular, signos claros de su adhesión a la Iglesia, v. gr., colaborando en sus obras, enviando a sus hijos al catecismo, participando ellos mismos en iniciativas eclesiales en la forma que les era posible. J. Manzanares, Commentary on Canon 1184, in L. Echeverria, ed., Código de Derecho Canónico: Edición Bilingüe Comentada, 5th ed., (Biblioteca de Autores Christianos, 1985) pp. 573-574, at 574.


Haec clausula restrictiva sedulo notanda est. Signa poentitentiae habentur, si moribundus sacerdotem advocaverit, nomen Iesu devote invocaverit, actum contritionis elicuerit, crucifixum osculatus fuerit, etc. Udalricus Beste, Introductio in Codicem (5th ed., 1961) at p. 662.


The privation of ecclesiastical burial by this canon [1917 CIC 1240 then, 1983 CIC 1184 today] has the nature of a penalty, and hence is to be strictly interpreted; moreover any sign of repentance before death excuses from the penalty; this means some positive sign, such as calling for a priest, kissing a crucifix, an expressed desire not to die without the sacraments. In doubt the Ordinary is to be consulted, but if the doubt in favor of the deceased remains, the decision should be in his favor. Bouscaren & Ellis, Canon Law: Text and Commentary (2nd ed., 1951) at 683, original emphasis.


• On peut être relevé de la privation de sépulture ecclésiastique, à condition d’avoir donné avant la mort quelques signes de pénitence. On trouve ces signes dans le fait que le coupable a demandé un prêtre avant de mourir, récité un acte de contrition devant témoins, baisé le crucifix, ou fait en public un acte équivalent (cit. omm.). R. Naz, “Funérailles. Refus de la Sépulture Ecclésiastique”, in DDC V: 930 (1957).


I should like to interject a comforting remark at this stage. It should not be forgotten that [even] an error in this matter of denying Christian burial has none of the consequences that could arise from a refusal to grant the sacraments. This law is purely of the external forum, and the external state of the soul is in no way determined by it. Where the reception of the sacraments may mean the difference between salvation and damnation, Christian burial cannot decide the eternal status of a soul which is already before God, and beyond the power of the Church either to save or to condemn.” Charles Kerin, “Christian Burial Problems” The Jurist 15 (1955) 252-282, at 262.


• Omnes autem hi enumerati digni fiunt, si ante mortem aliqua signa poenitentiae dederint (e. gr. confessarium petierunt, veniam peccatorum a Deo postulaverunt aut simpliciter Deum invocaverunt vel BM. Virginem aut Sanctos, si crucifixum aliamve iconem deosculati sunt etc; vel unus testis sufficit, qui referat de huiusmodi signis.)” Stephanus Sipos, Enchiridion Iuris Canonici, 6th ed. rev. by L. Gálos (Orbis Catholicus-Herder, 1954) at 575-576.


Some other views

Mark Brumley, "Signs of repentance or of the status quo?" (Catholic Exchange, 31 aug 2009), on-line here.