EWTN Catholic Q&A
Pius XII and Organ Transplants
Question from John Cryan on 05-15-2001:

I was told by someone that Pius XII had ruled organ transplants were not permissible but then Pope John Paul II said they were. Is this true? And if so, does that mean Catholics needlessly died by not getting an organ transplant because of what Pius XII taught?

Answer by Fr.Stephen F. Torraco on 05-15-2001:

Pope Pius XII did not teach that organ transplants were not permissible. As Pope Pius XII put it, "...a person may will to dispose of his body and to destine it to ends that are useful, morally irreproachable and even noble (among them the desire to aid the sick and suffering). One may make a decision of this nature with respect to his own body with full realization of the reverence which is due it...This decision should not be condemned, but positively justified." At the same time, Pope Pius XII was very clear in his teaching that the principle of totality could not be the basis of the moral justification of bodily mutilation. The principle of totality, the Pontiff pointed out, referred to the natural, physical body and not to the moral body of civil society. Extending the principle of totality to include the moral body of civil society, he noted, would leave the door open to the moral justification of subjecting the body of the human person to the service of civil society. According to the principle of totality, the Pope noted, the parts of the human body serve the whole body of which it is a natural part. The principle of totality does not envision the part of one human body serving another human body (Papal Teachings: The Human Body (Boston, 1960), pp. 204f.).