(LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Monday issued a statement strongly condemning the destruction of deceased human bodies through “composting” or alkaline hydrolysis (also known as water cremation), a method that liquifies human remains to be disposed of in sewers or fields.
In a March 20 doctrinal statement entitled “On the Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains,” the bishops affirmed that “[e]very human being has been created ‘in the image of God’ (Gn 1:26-27) and has an inherent dignity and worth.”
Accordingly, human beings “are therefore obliged to respect our bodily existence throughout our lives and to respect the bodies of the deceased when their earthly lives have come to an end.”
U.S. Bishops’ Doctrine Committee Issues Statement on the Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains | Read the complete press release here: https://t.co/NhQPdnvcS7
— U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) March 23, 2023
Noting that “[b]urial is considered by the Church to be the most appropriate way of manifesting reverence and respect for the body of the deceased because it ‘honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit,’ the bishops said cremation can also be permitted so long as it’s not “chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.”
However, the USCCB condemned two more novel methods of disposition of the human body that, they said, “pose serious problems in that they fail to manifest the respect for last remains that Catholic faith requires.”
According to the statement, both human “composting” and “alkaline hydrolysis” are not to be practiced by Catholics.
Human composting, the bishops pointed out, is a method in which “the body is laid in a metal bin and surrounded by plant material (such as alfalfa, wood chips, straw, etc.) that fosters the growth of microbes and bacteria to break down the body. Heat and oxygen are added to accelerate the decomposition process.”
READ: New York becomes sixth state to legalize human composting
Meanwhile, in alkaline hydrolysis, “the body is placed in a metal tank containing about 100 gallons of a chemical mixture of water and alkali and then subjected to both high temperature and high pressure in order to speed decomposition,” leaving nothing but “some bone material.”
One of the core moral problems with these newer methods, the USCCB said, has to do with their end results.
In burial and even cremation (unless ashes are scattered, which the Church forbids) the remains of the body are kept together.
In the newer methods, however, “[t]here is nothing distinguishably left of the body to be placed in a casket or an urn and laid to rest in a sacred place where Christian faithful can visit for prayer and remembrance.”
Moreover, the disposal of the destroyed remains poses crucial problems.
The bishops stated that after a body is destroyed via alkaline hydrolysis, “there are the 100 gallons of brown liquid into which the greater part of the body has been dissolved.”
“This liquid is treated as wastewater and poured down the drain into the sewer system (in certain cases it is treated as fertilizer and spread over a field or forest),” a process that fails to “show adequate respect for the human body” and to “express hope in the resurrection.”
Just as with human composting, the “body and the plant material have all decomposed together to yield a single mass of compost,” the bishops said. “What is left is approximately a cubic yard of compost that one is invited to spread on a lawn or in a garden or in some wilderness location.”
“Like alkaline hydrolysis, human composting is not sufficiently respectful of the human body,” the USCCB noted. “In fact, the body is completely disintegrated.”
The bishops concluded their statement by reaffirming that since humans “are not pure spirits like the angels” but actually “share in the physicality of the material order” as “both body and soul,” we must “respect our bodily existence throughout our lives and to respect the bodies of the deceased when their earthly lives have come to an end.”
“The way that we treat the bodies of our beloved dead must always bear witness to our faith in and our hope for what God has promised us,” they wrote.
The bishops also urged the faithful to pray for the dead and to visit the cemeteries in which their loved ones have been buried.
READ: Denying the transcendent turns us into animals, cannibals, or fertilizer
The bishops’ strong statement against novel materialistic methods of human decomposition was released the same day as a similarly clear statement from the conference upholding Catholic teaching in opposition to mutilating transgender surgeries and drugs.
LifeSiteNews previously reported that the USCCB released a document directed to Catholic medical establishments on March 20, making clear that “gender transition” surgeries and drugs may not be prescribed by Catholic medical providers.
In the statement, the bishops denounced transgender ideology as a form of “dualism” that rejects the true nature of man as being both body and soul.
They affirmed that for human beings “to find true happiness, we must respect” the “created order” made by God and the fact that “humanity occupies a singular place in the created order, being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).”