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Bishop of Manchester hits out at Body Worlds exhibition: CEN 2.15.08 p 5. February 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Health/HIV-AIDS, Popular Culture.


Dr. Günter von Hagens

The Bishop of Manchester has denounced an exhibition of preserved human body parts set to open next week at the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, calling Body Worlds 4 a “little shop of horrors.”

In a Feb 1 letter the Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch urged the Museum’s director to reconsider hosting the exhibition of preserved human corpses. It was irresponsible for the Museum to advertise free admissions for under 5’s to the show, he wrote, noting he had “great concern for the spiritual welfare” of young people attending the exhibition.

Advertised as “an unprecedented encounter with the human body in its post mortal state” that is “ideal for all ages” and “ideal for families,” the show will feature 200 partially dissected body parts and 20 corpses arrayed in stylized athletic poses by German anatomist Günter von Hagens. The body parts are preserved in plastic resins at a factory in China by Dr. von Hagens in a process he calls ‘plastination.’

In his letter to the Museum and at a Feb 5 press conference at the Cathedral, Bishop McCullough said the exhibition was a modern version of the “Victorian freak shows.”

The bishop also objected to Dr. von Hagens solicitation of corpses for plastination and display after death, calling it a “modern twist on body-snatching.”

Bishop McCullough asked “Is this little shop of horrors that has entered Manchester really a family day out? I do hope the science museum will at least put a warning on its website for parents to protect the young, review the under-five ‘free entry’ marketing policy and, just like a horror at the cinema, raise the entry age to 18.”

“I also have concern for museum staff,” he asked. “Do you have a mechanism for giving staff an opt-out from working in the exhibition area? This might be on the grounds of religious faith, or because they have suffered bereavement, or because they believe working with such exhibits for the next four months may damage them psychologically,” the bishop asked.

In a statement issued on Feb 6 Body Worlds 4 disputed the Bishop’s charge the show was unethical and prurient, saying the Roman Catholic Church in Germany “has followed the work of Dr. von Hagens for more than two decades. In 1983, church leaders there asked Dr. von Hagens to plastinate and preserve the heel bone of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 10th century beatified mystic revered in Germany.

The assertion that Body Worlds was a freak show was “disingenuous” organizers said, adding that “anatomical exhibitions originated in churches during the Renaissance, when the visionaries of that period believed that man’s life was worthy of study and contemplation, and church leaders viewed anatomy and dissection as a window into God’s work.”


1. four seasons in one day » bodyworlds - April 21, 2008

[…] been a lot of controversy surrounding the various Bodyworlds exhibitions, of course – see here for the Bishop of Manchester calling it “a little shop of horrors” – but I found it […]

2. terri myberryy - March 25, 2009

this is is very artisticly gross

3. Christopher - July 15, 2010

He can say what he want’s; it’s all about the money rapped in a bunch of crap. Placing bodies on display with extra penis and other crap makes this guy a moron. He’s just full of it. And he knows it.

4. Divine Joe - September 12, 2010

Dr Joseph Mengele is alive and well and masquerading as Von Hagens.
Words fail to adequately describe the gross
nature of this mans deeds.
Totally repulsive nauseating barbaric gross necromancy.
He is quite clearly mentally disturbed and in need of psychiatric help.
I speak as a psychiatrist.

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