Is “Human Composting” Morally Permissible?

On The Patrick Madrid Show, a listener named John wrote in to ask Patrick about cremation and human composting:


Has the Church said anything about human composting? I realize that cremation is permitted but not recommended. However, this latest fad is a whole new ball game. Thanks.

Traditionally, people are either buried in caskets or cremated and their ashes are kept in a vase or precious container. Some people want their ashes scattered in some place of significance, but the Catholic Church has stated on multiple occasions that the dispersion of someone’s ashes denotes erroneous conceptions of death.

As the Church teaches, our bodies are separated from our souls at death. Our souls are subject to particular judgment before being sent to either Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell. Death is not the end, our beings cannot fuse with nature, and our spirits are not “resting” at the place where our ashes are scattered. Therefore, the Church has sanctioned that though cremation is allowed, the ashes should be kept in a sacred place.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term or it’s rising popularity, human composting is a relatively new way of disposing of a body once a person has passed away. According to Wikipedia, “Human composting is a process for disposal of human corpses in which microbes convert a corpse to soil conditioner. It is also called natural organic reduction or terramation.”

Unfortunately, the Church has not yet made a statement specifically regarding the morality of human composting, but Patrick shared some of his personal thoughts based on what the Church says about respect for the dead.

“The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious.

The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300-2301)

According to those guidelines, there isn’t anything involved in the process of human composting that seems morally objectionable at face value. If the bodies are treated with care, they are still being buried and they should theoretically never need to be unearthed again. However, Patrick added that personally, he doesn’t think cremation nor human composting shows the body as much respect as a traditional burial does.

“Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with [human composting], but to my mind, I don’t think it is showing the due respect to the body that I think the Church would like to see,” he said. “I personally find the thought of cremation horrifying. Why destroy the body that way?”

But, at the end of the day, the Church permits the practice of cremation, and it has not condemned the practice of human composting. So, as long as a dead body is treated respectfully and as a temple of the Holy Spirit that awaits its resurrection, you are free to choose what happens to your corpse.

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.