Alan Q posted
A little background:
Roman Catholics for centuries disposed of the bodies in whatever was the fashion for the local culture. This included burial of the body and cremation. (In centuries past, I don’t believe anyone ever ‘kept’ the ashes specifically as the remains of the dearly departed – it would be difficult to do so with an open air bonfire.)
Then comes the Enlightenment and the rise of atheism. To cheese the RCC, certain Enlightenment figure purposely chose cremation to thumb their dead noses at the belief of a bodily resurrection. Of course, the problem was that these Enlightenment fellows and the Church were thinking a bit too materialistically in believing that the doctrine of bodily resurrection meant that this body comes back to life. The RCC’s reaction was to forbid cremation to all Catholics.
But with the scientific knowledge that all bodies eventually go to ash and a more nuanced teaching of the bodily resurrection (we get a new, glorified body like our old one, but much nicer); cremation no longer is a sign of atheistic spite. And so, the RCC does allow cremation now.
However, even though the RCC believes the body left behind is just an empty shell, that’s no reason to be cavalier with the body. During life, it is who the person is (or was). To disrespect it after death just looks bad. Besides, who wants to see the body of their dearly departed being mistreated? And so, the RCC has guidelines for how their members should be treating the remains.
And so, whether a corpse or burned (also called the cremains), the body should be intact. Just like you don’t bury mum’s arm in Toledo and her feet in Tallahassee, you don’t scatter her ashes to the four winds. And just like you don’t sit the corpse of grampa at the dining room table, you don’t keep an urn of ashes on the mantle.
Entombment, burial, or burial at sea are all perfectly acceptable and respectable resting places for the body or cremains.