US Catholic bishops rail against ‘aquamation’, an eco-friendly alternative to burial

CONCERNED that members of their cult might be drawn to what what they wrongly believe is a newfangled method of disposing of human remains—alkaline hydrolysis, or “aquamation”—the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued a statement condemning the process.

The statement says:

In recent years, newer methods and technologies for disposition of the bodies of the deceased have been developed and presented as alternatives to both traditional burial and cremation. A number of these newer methods and technologies pose serious problems in that they fail to manifest the respect for last remains that Catholic faith requires.

While approving cremation, providing the ashes aren’t scattered—more on this later—the Conference has come down really hard on “aquamation”, saying:

The 100 gallons of brown liquid in which the body is dissolved is treated as waste water and poured down the drain into the sewer system (in certain cases it is treated as fertilizer and spread over a field or forest).

This procedure does not show adequate respect for the human body, nor express hope in the resurrection.

Image via YouTube

So, no “resurrection” for Desmond Tutu, above, one of the few clerics I’ve ever had cause to deeply admire. Apart from being exceptionally gay-friendly, the late Archbishop of Cape Town, who died in 2021, was an “eco-warrior” who chose to be “aquamated”.

Process was patented 135 years ago

There is nothing new about the process, as the Bishops suggest. Wiki informs us that was patented by Amos Herbert Hobson in 1888 as a method to process animal carcasses into plant food.

In 2005, Bio-Response Solutions designed, sold, and installed the first single cadaver alkaline hydrolysis system at the Mayo Clinic where it was still in use as of 2019.

In 2007, a Scottish biochemist, Sandy Sullivan, started a company making aquamation machines, and calling the process (and company) Resomation.

With regard to cremation, the Conference statement says:

The basic requirement for showing proper respect to the ashes of the deceased is that they ‘be laid to rest in a sacred place’. They may not be kept permanently at home or divided among various family members.

They may not be scattered ‘in the air, on land, at sea or
in some other way’. They may not be carried around encased in jewelry or other mementos. They must be put in a sacred place, usually a cemetery, though it could possibly be a church or some other area that has been ‘set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority’.

Such a placement shows our respect for the last remains of the deceased and manifests our Christian hope in the resurrection of the body.

For all I care you can throw me into a landfill site

In January, 2022—the month I was summarily sacked as editor of The Freethinker, I wrote a piece for OnlySky about prepaid funerals, setting out my objections to them.

In it I wrote:

In Spain, such plans are aimed mainly at British expats and are widely advertised. A few years back I spotted a sales booth outside a supermarket in my hometown of Benidorm. The woman in charge of the pay-now-die-later booth, stopped me and said, ‘can you spare a moment to discuss what plans, if any, you have for your funeral?’

‘No,’ I snapped. ‘I’m running late for an appointment—and I am not planning on having a funeral. EVER! For all I care,’ I added, ‘put me in a biodegradable plastic sack and throw me into a landfill site.’

Just a week before this encounter I took possession of a Spanish directive, drawn up by a local lawyer, stipulating that if were to be struck down by any condition likely to leave me permanently disabled, I should be allowed to die.

The legally binding Acta De Manifestaciones also states that I want my organs harvested, and whatever remains to be donated to medical science.

If my cadaver is deemed unsuitable for either organ transplants or for science study, then I am simply to be incinerated at minimal cost without a funeral—just like David Bowie, who took the direct cremation route in 2016.

And, in a belt-and-braces move, I had tattooed at the base of my neck the words “No me resucites” (don’t resuscitate me).

If there’s any dosh left over after my disposal costs it will used for a party at my favourite gay bar, Sensations, where Monty Python’s Eric Idle’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” will be at the top of the list of songs I have chosen for the event.

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6 responses to “US Catholic bishops rail against ‘aquamation’, an eco-friendly alternative to burial”

  1. I’m very much in favour of the most simple disposal of my remains with little fuss and as few people there as possible. The means of simple disposal seem to be developing. This must be bad news for the undertaker racket where the prices are extortionate. Fancy coffins add to the costs.

    With the way the world is going old age may be less of a factor in age of death. As well as the global warming issues, Putin has been using the nuclear threat. One of his ideas has been quite imaginative: explode a nuclear device underwater from a submarine and create a tsunami to sweep London and much of the south coast.

    In passing, has Boris Johnson devalued any remaining confidence in the oath to tell the truth? He confidently held the bible, uttered the words and proceeded to lie for three hours. I think we need to hear from the Archbishops about this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would like to invite the Pope and Ayatollah Khomeini for live aquamation together.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I second the motion.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Donald Johnson is a clone of Boris Trump, they are both atheists and regard their constituents as complete fools who will believe their every word.
      I once affirmed in a magistrates court about speeding charge, I saw the magistrates look at me in disgust, since then, I swear on the bible to tell the truth to almighty gog (say it quickly and they don’t notice) which gives me a licence to lie like hell, as do all defendants.


      1. Johnson still has supporters, including that weird character Rees Mogg, and some of these supporters say they are Christians. And yet they watch a serial liar like Johnson whose lies are blatant and obvious. And yet they watch their besmirched holy book, held in his hand while he insists he will “tell the truth etc.” And not a murmur of protest comes from them. Nor from any clergy. Swearing on the bible has been demonstrated as an empty gesture which acts as no more that a cover for lies.


  2. “Such a placement …. manifests our Christian hope in the resurrection of the body.” What a laugh!!

    Liked by 1 person

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