Can Catholics Donate Their Organs?

organs2Question: I recently started listening to your podcast. I was wondering what the Church teaches on organ donation after death. I have to renew my health card soon (I live in Canada), and I got a form for organ donation. I know that it helps others, but I also know that the body is special and that it will be used for our resurrection. Hope you can help, thanks!

The gift of one’s organs is a precious gift given to another. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was himself an organ donor when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and often lauded the practice of organ donation as long as it “is done with full consent and not part of a business transaction.” Once he became Pope and passed a certain age the donor card became obsolete.

Donating a kidney to save the life of another, for instance, can certainly be done with full blessing of the Church to save the life of a friend or relative. Donation after death is also acceptable as long as consent is given.

You mention that we are going to be reunited body and soul after the resurrection on the last day. And that is what Catholics believe. However, two things to note. A resurrected body is not merely a resuscitated body. Remember that Mary Magdalene confused Jesus with the gardener, so His resurrected body did not necessarily look like His old one and this is a foretaste of what will happen for us.

The second point is that all things are possible with God. If we donate skin and eyes and hearts and lungs for others, why would we think that God couldn’t somehow reunite all of us with our body parts once again? Our donor would just get their old body parts that ceased working and ours would return to us. There’s also not a need to take these things so literally, rather we should just have faith that God will make all things new again, however that might happen. I’m certain that the laws of biology are not what God is bound by — so however we are raised up, know that God can take care of it without us or the decisions that we make regarding our body parts.

Mike Hayes

Mike co-founded in 2001. Currently, Mike is the director of campus ministry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. A frequent speaker on ministering to young adults, Mike is the author of "Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s" and "Loving Work: A Spiritual Guide to Finding the Work We Love and Bringing Love to the Work We Do."