Does the Catholic Church have any teaching on cannibalism?

I wasn't able to find much about it.


2 Answers 2


Does the Catholic Church have any teaching on cannibalism?

Under normal circumstances, it is sinful to mutilate a human person who has died. This is plain logic and the the courts treat this as a desecration of a human corpse and take it very seriously.

Nevertheless, exceptions have historically happened.

The Oct. 13, 1972 plane crash in the Andes is a notable example.

Two spokesmen for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York said yesterday that the survivors of a plane crash in the Chilean Andes two months ago “acted justifiably” when they ate parts of bodies of dead companions to keep from starving to death.

Msgr. Austin Vaughan and the Rev. William Smith, pro fessors of theology at St. Jo seph's Seminary in Yonkers, declared in a statement issued in response to inquiries: “A person is permitted to eat dead human flesh if there is no feasi ble alternative for survival.”

Twenty‐nine persons died in the Oct. 13 crash of an Uru guayan Air Force plane or later in an avalanche. The 16 survivors, all Roman Catholics, spent 69 days staving off death from starvation and below‐zero temperatures. To stay alive they ate parts of the bodies of the dead.

The comparison was termed “not unreasonable” by the two Catholic theologians. They said that there was a “serious obli gation” to show respect for the dead and that eating human flesh would be a breach of this obligation “in [almost all cases.”

Cannibalism would be justifiable, they held, if there were no alternative.

Two Catholic Aides Defend Cannibalism In Chilean Air Crash


St. Thomas Aquinas, in Super Sent. lib. 4 d. 10 q. 1 a. 1 arg. 1, says

to eat the flesh of a man suggests a certain bestial cruelty and an irreverence for what is eaten.
manducare carnes hominis sonat in quamdam bestialem crudelitatem manducantis, et irreverentiam manducati.

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