Archbishop of Cincinnati says “Bodies...The Exhibition” undermines human dignity


The Archbishop of Cincinnati has commented on the “Bodies...The Exhibition” presentation opening in Cincinnati, calling it “unseemly and inappropriate” and deeming it an improper destination for Catholic school field trips.

The “Bodies...The Exhibition” exhibit, which will spend seven months at Cincinnati Museum Center, displays 20 human cadavers preserved by polymerization and arranged in various poses.   The exhibit also includes between 200 and 250 preserved body parts.

Premier Exhibitions of Atlanta, the firm that puts on the exhibit, says the goal of the program is to show the inner workings of the human body.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk issued a statement on the exhibit’s opening, raising his concerns about the display.

He noted that concern for the dignity of the human person extends even to a dead body. 

“Catholic moral thought does not regard body and soul as entirely separate. Rather, it recognizes that human beings are embodied spirits. That means the body is more than just a container for the soul,” the archbishop wrote.

Archbishop Pilarczyk said the Church has consistently maintained respect for dead bodies.  Their long-permitted use in scientific research and in educational programs, he said, takes place in that ethical framework.

“Bodies...The Exhibition”, he said, did not proceed from the same respect for the body.  “The public exhibition of plasticized bodies, unclaimed, unreverenced, and unidentified, is a different matter entirely. It is unseemly and inappropriate,” he wrote.

Saying the exhibit, while perhaps well intentioned and educational, fails to respect persons.  “I do not believe that this exhibit is an appropriate destination for field trips by our Catholic schools,” Archbishop Pilarczyk stated. 

Parents, the archbishop said, should be the ones who take their children to see “Bodies...The Exhibition” if, acting “as the primary educators of their children,” they believe the exhibit has educational value.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has almost 500,000 Catholics and 117 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

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