EWTN Catholic Q&A
Unruly behavior at viewings
Question from Colleen on 02-07-2013:

The last few viewings I have attended were held in front of the altar of the church. The back slapping, introductions, even some laughter seemed quite disrespectful to me. When and why were viewings moved in front of the altar? Is it still okay to have viewings in the vestibule if there is enough space?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 02-08-2013:


I assume you are referring to viewings of the body of a deceased person before the funeral. A viewing usually is held at a funeral home, not in a church and certainly not in front of the altar. It may be that in some circumstances the family cannot afford a separate funeral-home event and that the church does not have the space for a viewing outside of the sanctuary. In that case, the viewing should be canceled. "Viewings of the body" are not necessary for most people; they became customary as a means to ensure the populace that a high-ranking person (such as a king or pope) really was dead.

Of course, this does not mean that the immediate family should not be allowed to view the body; only that a full-scale "viewing" does not need to be made into an "event" for which appropriate space must be set aside for an extended period.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers