Unequal ends

Mar 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Ministry

“Would Judas have been allowed to be buried?”

“He was buried.  That’s what we just read.  They bought the Potter’s Field.”

“Yes, but if he had died and the church had to bury him; would they let him be buried?”

“Oh, I understand now.  No.  They wouldn’t let suicides be buried in consecrated ground”.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know why not”.

“Maybe they thought they were sinners.”

“Maybe, but aren’t we all?”

“Do they allow it now?”

“Yes, but only for a the last century or so”.

Why were suicides barred from Christian burial? I could not remember.

The inquirer will have gone home from another class with another to add to his list of unanswered questions.

There was a temptation to answer that whether you were buried depended on your social standing.  Images of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet came to mind.  The two gravediggers, cast as clowns, discuss the funeral rites for Ophelia, who has drowned herself

First Clown

Is she to be buried in Christian burial that
wilfully seeks her own salvation?

Second Clown

I tell thee she is: and therefore make her grave
straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it
Christian burial.

First Clown

How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her
own defence?

Second Clown

Why, ’tis found so.

First Clown

It must be ‘se offendendo;’ it cannot be else. For
here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly,
it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it
is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned
herself wittingly.

Second Clown

Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,–

First Clown

Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
stands the man; good; if the man go to this water,
and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he
goes,–mark you that; but if the water come to him
and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he
that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.

Second Clown

But is this law?

First Clown

Ay, marry, is’t; crowner’s quest law.

Second Clown

Will you ha’ the truth on’t? If this had not been
a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o’
Christian burial.

To succumb to the temptation to point to the church treating differently would have been to express prejudice, but isn’t there equal prejudice in avoiding the truth?

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  1. Hi Ian,

    Which truth? Puhlease.

  2. That the refusal to bury suicides was about the church’s belief that it had the right to determine a person’s destiny; that the sacraments were exercised as a form of societal control; that for its history since the time of Constantine, the church has frequently exercised oppressive and exploitative power over people’s lives; that by medieval times, the church is unrecognizable as anything that might be connected with a carpenter from Nazareth; that the church has not repented of that history and still clings as much as possible to worldly things; the list goes on.

    Sorry, Protestant prejudice!

  3. Of course the Church is prejudiced! And across the board! Aren’t we all?

  4. Thanks

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