Hi Father,

I wonder if you would comment for a story I am writing regarding the Burr Oak Cemetery tragedy. Aside from the obvious show of disrespect, I am wondering if there are spiritual or religious ramifications to having a grave desecrated. Does being disturbed while interred hold any consequences for the deceased, or their family members? I suppose what I'm asking is, do people who mess with graves also mess with God?

Thank you,
Donna Vickroy

SouthtownStar Newspaper
(708) 633-5982
 

Dear Donna,
 
        That is an excellent Question. You have asked a question that may be troubling many families as they look this terrible crime which has been committed against them and the person they love. Let us first remember that salvation and eternal life is a gift of God given to those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Our life after death, just as our life in this world, depends upon the love and grace of God. Our salvation does not depend on the burial, or the condition of our physical body. A dead body can be embalmed and buried. It can be cremated and scattered. It can be buried at sea. The body can be exhumed and moved. It can even be stolen and thrown away. As Christians, we believe and we know that we can rely on a loving and forgiving God save us and redeem us after death.... and to preserve our soul for eternal life in Heaven. God has made us this promise and God will not break his promise. When we look upon the resurrection of Christ Jesus, we can see a concrete proof that God's promise of eternal life is real... ever-lasting... and for us.
 
        On the other hand, those who rob graves and desecrate the remains of the dead are sure to suffer grave spiritual consequences and punishments. Scripture and religious tradition call upon us to take proper care of the dead and to also give
care, sympathy and love to the grieving families. Thousands of years of law, custom and civilized practice demand that dead bodies.... when possible.... be treated with sensitivity and respect. The proper treatment of the dead constitute many of the most ancient customs and practices of human civilization.  All religious faiths demand respectful and appropriate treatment of those who
have died and of the families they have left behind.  
 
       These people who desecrated and robbed these graves have carried out one of the most cruel and heinous crimes of which human beings are capable. They have deeply wounded grieving family members, and they have wounded our entire society. This story has become an international phenomenon because everybody who hears about it is shocked and wounded. These people have cut all of us...our entire human society... deep in the soul and we all bleed... even if just a little. And these grave robbers have carried out their crime for money, and that makes it all the worse.
 
        Another name for grave-robber is GHOUL. You sometimes run across that word in old horror movies. But a ghoul is someone whose soul has been seared and blinded by the terrible and cruel things they have done in life. As Christians, we believe that God deeply desires to forgive all our sins and to call our spirits and souls to salvation. We also know that some people.... sometimes, all too many people...have souls that are hardened, blinded and broken by the cruel things they have
done. Their spirits.... their minds and emotions... are so deeply wounded by sin and alienated by years of lies and self-justification... that they are unwilling and unable to respond to the loving grace of God or to seek the forgiveness
that God gives so freely in the Gospel.
 
       Let us hope that these grave-robbers... these ghouls... are forced to answer for the sins they have committed against innocent families... and against all human society. But let us also hope that their souls have not become Totally hardened by sin and lies.
Let us hope that they can still turn to God, in repentance and remorse, and seek the forgiveness that we all need today.
 
The Rev. Rod Reinhart
Rector of St. Clement's Episcopal Church
Harvey IL
Vicar of St. Joseph and St. Aidan's Episcopal Church
Blue Island IL