The cremated remains of Ian Brady were buried at sea a few weeks ago. Both the cremation and the disposal of his ashes took place without ceremony. The arrangements were eventually decided upon by a senior judge, who ordered that there should be no funeral ceremony and no music.
Of course, Brady’s case was particularly extreme given the depraved nature of his offences and subsequent behaviour, and most people would probably feel this was the right decision. But what about others who have behaved in ways that cause significant harm to others? At what point is it morally justifiable to refuse someone some sort of ceremonial farewell if that is what they or their loved ones want?
It is a moral dilemma I and other celebrants have to consider, and in my view has to be a personal decision. One of the reasons I became a funeral celebrant is my belief that everyone has the right to a dignified farewell, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a person they might have been during their life. I also recognise that the issue is not as simple as that. So whilst that principle is my starting point, if I was asked to lead a ceremony that contained elements that might cause offence or distress to others I would refuse, even if they were not technically illegal.
Fortunately such dilemmas are not ones we have to face every day but worth thinking about so we are prepared if and when we do.