Cannibalism in Andes Mountain plane crash - moral or not?

For those who don’t know the story, a plane crashed in the Andes mountains back in the 1970’s. Some survived the crash, some died. The ones who survived the plane crash ate the bodies of the ones who had died, and the bodies of those who would die during the 10 weeks before they were found and rescued.

Is cannibalism intrinsically evil? In other words, is it morally wrong to eat the flesh of dead people when that is the ONLY thing you can do to survive?

Story here:

‘It was a price we had to pay for surviving. I found it very sad, very humiliating. But in that society of the mountain, that was the only manual we could apply to survive. There was a progressive process in which you begin starving and then see your belt goes a hole further and you are dying.

My wife saw the movie on this years ago when she was in school and still remembers it vividly. I bought a copy of it on ebay.
Some of the people would not eat the bodies of their fellow passengers and starved to death. The plane crashed in barren mountains where there was no food at all.
I haven’t decided if this was wrong or not–but the passengers had to decide this themselves, and so whether they would live or die.

i am a little familar with the story and I think once the men were found and returned back, one of the first groups to defend them was the Catholic church. I do remember seeing a picture of all of them lined up to receive communion.

I remember my parents arguing about the morality of this when I was little. My dad said he would have been one of the ones who starved to death instead of eating the dead, my mom said that even if it were wrong, she would have eaten the others so she wouldn’t be eaten. I remember being so traumatized hearing about this that I prayed for months to never find myself in such a situation.

I remember when this happened and the Catholic Church did not condemn the survivors for what they did.

I don’t think it was evil. They were already dead. In fact, I heard that some actually even said to each other to eat their bodies once they had died so the others would survive. It was sort of Christ like in that case.

In fact, that movie starts by saying how they found God in the Andes. Remember, they also prayed the rosary. One was praying the rosary when they crashed, if memory serves. Then, some would resist praying it. I think in the end, all of them prayed it.

Against all odds, some survived, despite freezing temperatures, being without food and all the rest.

Cannibalism, where we kill someone and eat them is a whole different story. That would be evil.

The story you mention is a story about faith.

There is even more to it than that. They rationed what they had, they found a way to melt water to drink. Only 16 out of the original 45 survived. Even the 10 day walk that Parrado and Robert took through some of the toughest mountains in the world without any mountaineering gear and in blue jeans itself was amazing. I think Parrado was very motivated to see his dad alive after loosing his sister and mother in the crash enambled him to keep going. I watch the 2010 show on this and even the expert mountaineers that retraced their path were amazed at what they did. The families of the dead never held it against the survivors. I think if one just focuses on what they ended up eating, then you miss the bigger picture of what happen.

You touch on an important aspect: each person had to decide for themselves. I can only imagine that such conditions could drive anyone to consider this, and that there would be so many biochemical changes in the brain that no one could really be held to very culpable for what they did nor did not do. I, personally, could not find fault with any of them.

As for myself, I can say I don’t know what I would do. Now it is easy to say “Oh I would never do that.” But I am not starving to death either. It is a repulsive idea, and all I know is I would probably be half out of my mind if I decided to do this. I would beg God’s forgiveness for sure and I would hope no one would judge me to harshly.

Whether people believe it or not, cannibalism is one reason the earliest settlers of this country (USA) survived. The “Pilgrims” lives were horribly harsh and cruel. I imagine it is a practice common to every group of people out there. Sad, gross and horrific, but common to us all. When people are desperate they will cross lines they would earlier have said they never would.

Pax Christi!

The bishop of that area publicly declared that there was no sin.

God bless.

I think it was very selfless of those before they died to offer their bodies to the others, giving them permission. I don’t see how that could be sinful.

I would not eat the others

However, I don’t think I’d mind being eaten. If I’m dead anyway, I won’t care.

The survivors held a press conference shortly after their rescue, and Alfredo Delgado spoke eloquently about their experiences:
… When one awakes in the morning and sees the snow capped peaks all around, it is very impressive. The silence in the Cordillera is majestic, sensational. It is something frightening to feel alone in the world… and I can assure you that God is there. We all had that feeling inside ourselves, for we were not the kind of pious youths who were always praying rosaries, at least in the ritual aspect, but we had a religious education. Up there, one feels the presence of God. One feels, above all, what is called the hand of God, and allows oneself to be guided by it…

And then the moment came when we had recovered our spirits enough to go out in expedition and we did not have any more food, or anything of the kind. On the sixteenth day, the avalanche came and killed our best friends. We really think that the ones who died… God took them with him because they were better than us, because every one of our friends who died taught us something. An example of courage…of all the values that can be mentioned. I think that to put it in words is to diminish the real dimension of all that happened. We all have it inside our hearts, and to mention specific acts of courage and of greatness would reduce the significance of the whole. So I prefer not to mention them, but I wanted to make the point clear.

Then, the moment came when we had nothing to eat and we thought that if Jesus at His last Supper had shared His flesh and blood with His Apostles, then it was a sign to us that we should do the same. We took this, the flesh and blood, and that was an intimate communion between us all. It was this that helped us to survive, and now we do not want this, which was for us something very intimate, to be misunderstood or twisted or anything like that…
You should read the book. It has much to say about the public controversy over their actions.

They were trying to survive a horrific situation. I wouldn’t think there would be any sin and I’m thankful the Church came out and stated there wasn’t.

If I found myself in that situation. I’m not sure what I would do. I think I would do what I had to do to survive, short of killing someone for food. Psychologically I’d have to convince myself that eating human flesh would be a form of “organ” donation. It wouldn’t be a heart, liver or kidney, etc. transplant, but the “donor’s” body would give me and anyone with me life.

Thanks for all the interesting answers everyone. I’m glad to hear the Church does not condemn what those men did.

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