The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 2012

The Principle of Totality and Integrity

Krishan M. Thadani
Pages 37-42

The Myth of a Catholic Religious Objection to Autopsy
The Misinterpretation of De sepulturis during the Renaissance

Was there resistance in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages to human dissection? Was autopsy thought to be a desecration of the body? The belief that the Church is opposed to dissection was due in part to the misinterpretation of a papal bull issued during the fourteenth century. Dissection of a corpse and autopsy were never in fact decreed by the Church. Rejection of these was based not on Church teaching but on a perceived violation of social honor because of the unappealing public nature of the practices. To this day, the Catholic Church does not view dissection and autopsy as desecration of the body; the practices remain theologically compatible with Catholic doctrine. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 12.1 (Spring 2012): 37–42.