The two Kansas City bishops object to the bodies exhibit at Union Station. Is their objection related to Pope JP II’s Theology of the Body?
Yes, there is a relation. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was an in-depth reflection on the body, on what it means to be created in God’s image, to have a body, and to be created male and female. However, the teaching about showing proper respect to the body even after death is nothing new and also goes back to the beginning. It is not just a Catholic idea. I read on a Jewish website that, “It has been said that one can measure how civilized a culture is by the way its dead are treated.” I for one can’t think of a culture that does not bury, cremate, burn, or do something to respect the body of the deceased.
In the “Bodies Revealed” exhibit, human bodies are put on display to the public as an educational piece. Of course, the Church is all for education and allows for the donation of a body to science as long as proper respect is shown to the body. The bishops have judged that this is not the case with this exhibit—that this reflects an “exploitation” of real human bodies “to teach something that could be done by use of models.”
The body after death is not a worthless shell from which the soul is freed. Although the soul exists outside of the body in the afterlife, we will all receive glorified bodies at the Resurrection at the Final Judgment. To be human is to be both body and soul. We should always show the body respect and say with the Psalmist to God, “I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you.” (Ps 139:14-15)