Author Topic: Cannibalism  (Read 812 times)

Joe Cupertino

Cannibalism
« on: October 24, 2017, 03:15:14 PM »
Is it immoral to eat part of a human body in cases of extreme necessity (i.e the Donner party and Uruguayan rugby team.)?  Is it intrinsically evil?  It's a weird topic, I know.  Someone at work made a passing comment that it wouldn't be wrong in such cases.  I've always thought it was gravely wrong under all circumstances, but I didn't try to correct him since I realized I wouldn't have been able to give a reason why it was wrong.  I don't think I've ever actually read any Catholic sources on the subject, but have simply held that it was intrinsically wrong since being raised to believe so.  It would be nice to see some Catholic sources that touch on the topic in some way.
 

Mithrandylan

  • Administrator
  • TTF Apprentice
  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Thanked: 276 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Divínum auxílium ✝ máneat semper nobíscum
Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2017, 03:40:27 PM »
I think it is lawful in extreme necessity.  Unlawful to kill others in order to eat them, of course.  But if they are already dead and the alternative is death, it would seem lawful.

In passing, McHugh and Callan say:

Quote
Cannibalism seems to be lawful in extreme necessity, but it is not lawful to kill human beings in order to eat them (§2484b, available here).

It seems a little counter-intuitive to claim it as lawful, but I think that the strongest case against it would be for the Resurrection of the Body-- the same reason that it is immoral (and forbidden by Church law) to cremate.  But it is not intrinsically sinful to cremate, and is allowed in certain extreme instances, such as when the dead are burned when their corpses pose a serious health concern.  Likewise, I would think it moral to cannibalize, supposing the person was already dead, and supposing that it was out of extreme necessity.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 03:43:02 PM by Mithrandylan »
I wear it for a memorable honor,
For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.
 
The following users thanked this post: Penitent, When Antisemites Attack!

Rubecorks

Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2017, 05:43:11 PM »
The title of the book is, "Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities" (1958)

I look at the year and title of that book, and right away it should give us all a bad feeling.

Imagine a book's title saying it is a "Complete Course" and yet all it has is one passing sentence saying it "seems" to be okay in extreme cases, without giving any explanation.

The McHugh and Callan "Handbook of Moral Theology" from the previous year did not mention cannibalism.

Look how the title mixes St. Thomas Aquinas with "Best Modern Authorities".  They are often at odds. St. Thomas says that cannibalism is sinful, with no qualification, and that it is the top carnal sin along with the unnatural sin.  I have seen the CMRI try to cite a modern authority and have come away with teaching to their seminary students that in some extreme cases telling a falsehood is acceptable.  St. Thomas says it is intrinsically evil.

There have been some imprimatured books rarely in the early 20th century, and were caught fairly quickly not to be reprinted. The 1950's had the most problems, and these didn't have time to be caught considering the volume and rate of publishing, and what was going on around that time in the Church.

 

Mithrandylan

  • Administrator
  • TTF Apprentice
  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Thanked: 276 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Divínum auxílium ✝ máneat semper nobíscum
Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2017, 05:53:08 PM »
The title of the book is, "Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities" (1958)

I look at the year and title of that book, and right away it should give us all a bad feeling.

Imagine a book's title saying it is a "Complete Course" and yet all it has is one passing sentence saying it "seems" to be okay in extreme cases, without giving any explanation.

The McHugh and Callan "Handbook of Moral Theology" from the previous year did not mention cannibalism.

Look how the title mixes St. Thomas Aquinas with "Best Modern Authorities".  They are often at odds. St. Thomas says that cannibalism is sinful, with no qualification, and that it is the top carnal sin along with the unnatural sin.  I have seen the CMRI try to cite a modern authority and have come away with teaching to their seminary students that in some extreme cases telling a falsehood is acceptable.  St. Thomas says it is intrinsically evil.

There have been some imprimatured books rarely in the early 20th century, and were caught fairly quickly not to be reprinted. The 1950's had the most problems, and these didn't have time to be caught considering the volume and rate of publishing, and what was going on around that time in the Church.

RC,

Can you please provide what Aquinas says?
I wear it for a memorable honor,
For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.
 

Mithrandylan

  • Administrator
  • TTF Apprentice
  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Thanked: 276 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Divínum auxílium ✝ máneat semper nobíscum
Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2017, 06:11:10 PM »
It is important to know exactly what we're talking about when we say "cannibalism", too.  Cannibalism in history typically refers to the murder of a person and the consumption of their flesh-- as is the custom among many of the American Indian tribes, as witnessed by the missionaries.  This is always wrong.  The question in this case is over whether or not a person already dead could be consumed in instances of grave necessity.

I am assuming that McHugh and Callan, who are very strong on every issue, are referring to the more narrow meaning (i.e., of eating a dead person, not of killing a person in order to eat them).  They are treating it under the heading of gluttony rather than violence, after all.  But in either event I would like to hear what St. Thomas has to say.  I tried to find something from him on the matter before posting and could not.
I wear it for a memorable honor,
For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.
 

Rubecorks

Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2017, 09:29:12 PM »
The title of the book is, "Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities" (1958)

I look at the year and title of that book, and right away it should give us all a bad feeling.

Imagine a book's title saying it is a "Complete Course" and yet all it has is one passing sentence saying it "seems" to be okay in extreme cases, without giving any explanation.

The McHugh and Callan "Handbook of Moral Theology" from the previous year did not mention cannibalism.

Look how the title mixes St. Thomas Aquinas with "Best Modern Authorities".  They are often at odds. St. Thomas says that cannibalism is sinful, with no qualification, and that it is the top carnal sin along with the unnatural sin.  I have seen the CMRI try to cite a modern authority and have come away with teaching to their seminary students that in some extreme cases telling a falsehood is acceptable.  St. Thomas says it is intrinsically evil.

There have been some imprimatured books rarely in the early 20th century, and were caught fairly quickly not to be reprinted. The 1950's had the most problems, and these didn't have time to be caught considering the volume and rate of publishing, and what was going on around that time in the Church.

RC,

Can you please provide what Aquinas says?

It's a pertinent question. I have been going on what I have learned in the past. Actually digging up what I had learned will take longer.
 

Mithrandylan

  • Administrator
  • TTF Apprentice
  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Thanked: 276 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Divínum auxílium ✝ máneat semper nobíscum
Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2017, 10:18:00 AM »
In Summa Contra Gentiles (Bk. 4), Chs. 80-81, St. Thomas addresses cannibalism as an objection to the resurrection of the body (the objection being that when men feed on other men's flesh, they absorb it, and therefore the consumed flesh would arise in him who absorbed it, posing serious challenges to a unique and individualized resurrection of each body).  He overcomes the objection but does not address cannibalism as a moral issue.

Chapters 80-81 found here.
I wear it for a memorable honor,
For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.
 

Mithrandylan

  • Administrator
  • TTF Apprentice
  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Thanked: 276 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Divínum auxílium ✝ máneat semper nobíscum
Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2017, 10:50:23 AM »
As I mentioned, I believe that there is a parallel between cannibalism and cremation.  Both involve the destruction of the human body, already dead.  In the case of cremation, it is strictly forbidden, but as a matter of ecclesiastical rather than moral law.  Bouscaren and Ellis:

Quote
Yet it is not intrinsically wrong [to cremate], and is therefore permitted in grave public necessity, for example, in a pestilence when public safety requires the quick disposal of corpses and there is not time for burial (Canon Law: A Text and Commentary,, 1946, p. 602)

Interestingly, Woywod says:

Quote
There is widespread propaganda in favor of cremation, often under the guise of scientific protection against disease.  In reality, it is furthered by atheists and materialists to divert men from the thought of death and belief in the resurrection and to foster materialism (A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law,Vol. 2, 1957, p. 53, §1269)

But Woywod disagrees that there is any health benefit, he does not go as far as saying that cremation would be wrong if this were true.  I think he's certainly right that such an agenda exists, though I don't think he is really addressing the principle substantively.

Both commentators (and C. Augustine) note that the unlawfulness of cremation is related to the Resurrection of the Body.  It is a very long-enduring custom out of respect for this dogma.  Now, if we cede that it can be conditionally lawful, for the sake of the community, to cremate, then it seems to follow (to me, at least) that the same would be true of cannibalism (again supposing that the person is already dead).  There is a difference in that cannibalism would typically occur in a survival situation, so an argument for the public welfare likely wouldn't exist, except possibly in the instance of a large group who is stranded.  But someone might levy an objection that if cannibalism did not secure the common good, perhaps it wouldn't be lawful?  I'm not sure.  I don't see how it would make a difference, since in both cases it's a matter of grave necessity that seems to condition the lawfulness more than the amount of people who are being kept safe.

I wear it for a memorable honor,
For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.
 

Rubecorks

Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2017, 11:44:51 AM »
Catholic moral teaching has been handed down from the Apostoles. That means the teaching existed the same in all ages. If you don't know the answer, you should just leave it at that and find out first instead of putting ideas in peoples' heads.. St. Thomas is known for creating articles about all sorts of things, and when he doesn't create an article about something, yet mentions it in passing here and there, it is because the issue is a given nobody questions. He treats it always as a given that it is unnatural like the homosexuality. Then this 1958 books comes along and tries to drop St. Thomas' name along with moderns to suggest somehow the one passing sentence is not against what St. Thomas wrote.
 

Mithrandylan

  • Administrator
  • TTF Apprentice
  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Thanked: 276 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Divínum auxílium ✝ máneat semper nobíscum
Re: Cannibalism
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2017, 12:02:07 PM »
Catholic moral teaching has been handed down from the Apostoles. That means the teaching existed the same in all ages.

With varying levels of explication.

If you don't know the answer, you should just leave it at that and find out first instead of putting ideas in peoples' heads.

This is the "Sacred Theology and Metaphysics" subforum, which is to be used "for serious-academic discussion of Catholic Theology or Philosophy."  If nowhere else, this is the part of the forum to present the perspectives of a variety of authors.

St. Thomas is known for creating articles about all sorts of things, and when he doesn't create an article about something, yet mentions it in passing here and there, it is because the issue is a given nobody questions.

He treats it always as a given that it is unnatural like the homosexuality. Then this 1958 books comes along and tries to drop St. Thomas' name along with moderns to suggest somehow the one passing sentence is not against what St. Thomas wrote.

McHugh and Callan are well-respected and revered, pre-conciliar authorities, fully approbated.  That doesn't mean they're infallible, but if you're going to say that St. Thomas clearly disagrees, then prove it.  I've done a fair amount of leg-work to find anything of his on the morality of cannibalism, and have found nothing.  You seem very confident that it's out there, and indeed it may be, but I'd like to see what he says, not what you remember.

Homosexuality isn't a good example, because there are plenty of works throughout the ages which actually explain why its wrong.  It's not like the sinfulness of sodomy is something that has been passed down for two thousand years without anyone actually explaining it. 

I'd be careful to contend too much without at least something besides your memory to back your arguments up.
I wear it for a memorable honor,
For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.