General Norms for Cemeteries, Mausoleums, and Columbaria

1. In the Diocese of Lansing, the creation or expansion of a parish cemetery is deemed to be an act of extraordinary administration as treated in c. 1281 §§1-2. Therefore, without the written permission of the diocesan bishop, who first hears the diocesan finance council, no parish cemetery is to be created or expanded by:

   a. the use of land that it owns, or

   b. the acquisition of additional land by any means, such as purchase, donation, exchange, or any other form of transfer of ownership.

2. Columbaria and mausoleums are only to be constructed, installed or expanded on the land of existing cemeteries (or below ground) and only with the written permission of the diocesan bishop.

   a. Permission will be granted only after a study of the impact of such construction or expansion on other cemeteries and mausoleums in the area.

   b. Permission will be granted also only when the proposed construction / expansion allows for the integral separation of the cemetery / mausoleum / columbarium in the event of the closure of the parish. This includes integral public ingress and egress.

3. The creation or use of a “scattering” ground or site for cremated remains is forbidden.

4. Cemeteries must be maintained in a manner consistent with their character as sacred places and the standards of “endowed care” established by the state of Michigan for licensed cemeteries even though Catholic cemeteries are not licensed. [1] Cemetery grounds should be maintained in the same condition as the grounds that surround a church.

5. Diocesan cemeteries are administered by the bishop through the Department of Catholic Charities and are subject to Rules and Regulations for Diocesan Cemeteries in addition to these norms. [2] Parish cemeteries are administered by the pastor of the parish. [3]

6. All Catholic cemeteries are to comply with federal, state and other civil laws and regulations that oblige them and that are not contrary to divine law or canon law. It is the pastor's / administrator's responsibility to comply with state regulations and diocesan norms regarding all aspects of cemetery law. (See the Advisory on Compliance with Civil Regulations pertaining to Cemeteries that follows.)

7. All cemeteries in the diocese must use the Uniform Accounting System of the Diocese of Lansing that is in force at the time of reporting and recording. (See #6.C.1 Accounting Systems.)

8. Each diocesan and parish cemetery must maintain all necessary financial records as identified by diocesan policies or civil regulations.

9. Parish cemeteries are to follow the internal control procedures established by the Diocese of Lansing, particularly those related to cemeteries.

10. All parishes with a cemetery are required to publish written rules and regulations for its operation.    

   a. No parish or cemetery committee may establish rules and regulations or take actions that contradict diocesan norms or policies, or the civil laws and regulations mentioned in number 3 above. All such rules and regulations require the signed approval of the pastor and the members of the cemetery committee or the parish finance commission. (Also see # Parish Cemetery Committee.)

   b. A copy of these rules and regulations, as well as any subsequent addition, deletion or amendment, is to be filed with the diocesan Cemeteries Office and is to be made available on demand to burial plot or lot holders. (A list of necessary content is available from the office. [4])

   c. Whenever burial or inurnment rights are sold with “endowed care,” the parish is to have a written policy that explains the meaning of “endowed care” and must maintain the funds necessary to provide that "endowed care."

(See resources on Endowed Care following these General Norms.)

[1] For a description of “endowed care,” see Commentary on Endowed Care following # . Also see Elements of Cemetery Administration, p. 81.

[2] Rules and Regulations for the Diocese of Lansing Cemeteries, supra. 

[3] c. 532 (and c. 540 §§1-2), cc. 1281-1288; Elements of Cemetery Administration, p. 27.

[4] An outline of the content is presented in Commentary and Review of Parish and Diocesan Cemetery Data (data collected by the Office of Pastoral Planning), prepared by Diocese of Lansing, Department of Finance and Administration, Cemetery and Property Management Office, September 15, 2010, p. 13.

Date approved by Bishop

Posted by
Msgr. S. J. Raica, chancellor