How should a Catholic dispose of the dead body of a Non-Catholic?

Hello all. Let us say and pretend that you and another person get stranded in an isolated area (a small island; a high mountain; a remote valley; etc.). This other person reveals that he is not Catholic but a member of another religion (Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, Muslim Satanist, etc.). You may or may not be perturbed by this, but it does not really matter. You both have to work together to survive. After months of being stranded, you and this other person bond to the point that you both are practically brother/sister. Eventually, this other person dies. It does not matter whether he/she died by starvation, dehydration, or even an invasion of “Alien Astronauts.” He/she is dead and his/her body must be disposed of. But how?

For example, let us say this other person is Muslim. If I am not mistaken, Islam decrees that the corpse of Muslims must not come into physical contact with non-Muslims. Not to mention, they have to be disposed of according to their religious rites. But, as a Catholic, you do not believe these things and I guess it is morally permissible to dispose of that person’s corpse in anyway you see morally fit. At the same time, one must consider Christ’s “Golden Rule” which is to treat others the way you want to be treated. I most certainly would not want my corpse to be disposed of in a non-Catholic way, but I do not wish to perform a non-Catholic “corpse disposal rite” on anyone.

Personally, I think that this other person’s body should be disposed of in the most Catholic way possible (seeing as that a Priest did not get stranded with you). After all, I believe the Lord would only recognize Catholic “corpse disposal” rites. But what do you think? I thank you in advance for you answers.

*I say “corpse disposal” because I am aware that a body can be disposed of in many ways such as cremation or burial.

You are stranded. This is an emergency situation. Bury or burn the corpse, then say a prayer or two that you are familiar with. The prauer is really for ypu, praying for your friend, so it will be. Catholic or non-denominational.

Interesting question.

One example I know of. I had a student whose mother was a practicing christian (Non-Catholic) and father was practicing Muslim. The student was closer to her father but mostly practised christianity. Anyway, when her father died because he was far away from extended family the family made sure that he was buried within 24 hours and got the local mosque to do all the rites. However, my student and her mother held a memorial at her church for him that everyone attended.
When asked why they did all of that, they said because it was his request that he be buried according to his custom. So the “corpse disposal rite” was for him even though he wasn’t around to see it and the memorial was for them.

How would you want your body to be handled after death? Should a Muslim treat it like a Muslim corpse? You wouldn’t be to happy to have a Muslim burial. Treat others as you would like to be treated. If they are not Catholic then handle it in line with their own religious beliefs.

I would say that they should be buried according to Catholic ways. Granted they can’t have a funeral Mass and such since they’re not Catholic but just give them an ordinary burial in accordance with Catholic norms.

At first I voted to dispose of the body in that persons way. Now I’m having second thoughts. I believe the Buddhists in Tibet dispose of bodies by leaving them out to be eaten by vultures. I don’t think I could do that. They may not think it disrespectful but it seems so to me.

The Lord would only accept Catholic corpse disposal? Wow, Catholicism is so powerful that even God Himself must follow it!

Now, as to our (fantastically unlikely, like so many others on this board) scenario - bury the corpse and forget it. And while we’re at it, let’s lay off the one-in-ten-million scenarios as they seem to serve little bona fide purpose

We’ve become like brothers, so we’ve likely talked about dying, given that we’ve got nothing to do all day but fish and sit around talking. Probably we have worked out between ourselves what each will have the other do. I assume we would do to the extent possible what the other wishes. But if the other wishes me to cut out his cold heart and eat it, we are going to have to compromise. :stuck_out_tongue:

If I don’t know what the other would want, I’d go with a simple burial, assuming I have a shovel and am not marooned on a rock.

Burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy. Personally, I wouldn’t give Islam a millisecond of consideration. I would be gravely concerned with the state of the deceased person’s soul since Mohammedans deny the divinity of Our Lord. So, bury the dead with respect, and pray for them.

Posted from App for Android

Thank you all so far for your answers. I await more.

To PolarGuy

I found your reply most intriguing. May I ask what exactly you are implying in the first line of your reply? And please pardon my fantastical scenarios. Whenever I think of moral dilemmas, I always think of peculiar situations like this.

Okay, so we’re in some sort of extreme survival situation. And that person is of a different faith. (Who one earth would be perturbed by the mere presence of someone with another faith?) We’ve spent a month together and we’ve bonded. I would assume that in that time, we would have talked about what would happen if one of us should die. Here is what I would tell my friend.

Take everything off of me, clothes, jewelry, etc. You might not need them now, but I will never need them again. Consider them yours.

It’s okay if you need to use my body as a food source. I know it’s stomach turning to think about, but the most important thing is to keep you alive. The part of me that became your friend no longer occupies that flesh. I am gone. Do what you have to do to survive.

Whether or not you have needed to use my remains for food, bury or otherwise dispose of them so they will not attract predators. (unless you intend to use my flesh to bait animals so you can kill them and eat them.) Also, make sure my remains are placed in such a manner that they do not contaminate a fresh water source.

If you can, place some type of marker near my remains. When you are rescued, you can let people know where my body is. But no extraordinary measures should be taken to recover it. No one’s life should be put at risk and no great amount of money should be spent just to bring my body back to be buried somewhere else.

I would tell my friend that if they die, I will take similar actions with their remains. Let’s say they are of a faith that requires their body to be burned. I’m not going to expend the energy and resources to build a funeral pyre. I may tell them that I will do that, but… it’s just not going to happen. We are in a survival situation. And you have to practical.

Let’s say I’m lost in the woods during Lent and it’s Friday. And my friend and I manage to kill a deer. I’m not waiting until midnight to eat. Or maybe I get lost with a priest and he just happens to be carrying around a bunch of consecrated hosts for some reason. And we are starving. I don’t know about the priest, but I’m going to have something for dinner. Is that sin? I don’t know. But it beats starving to death.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit