No Bones About it: Sacred Relics in a Secular World

Posted: 30 Apr 2012

Date Written: April 27, 2012


This paper advocates for the repatriation of corporeal relics currently held by museums and secular organizations. Part I discusses relics’ role in Roman Catholic culture throughout history and briefly describes relics’ current position in Western society. Part II reviews relics in Catholic Canon law, before examining dead bodies under Common law. Part III presents legal and social problems where art museums possess Catholic corporeal relics. Part IV addresses the Catholic Church’s standing to bring a re-internment claim before a secular U.S. court. Part V then supplies different suggestions for addressing the challenges raised in the previous section. Ultimately, this paper proposes that art museums be proactive and end the public display of Catholic body parts.

Keywords: Saints, relics, canon law, common law, history, Catholicism, museum

Suggested Citation

Jacob, Katherine, No Bones About it: Sacred Relics in a Secular World (April 27, 2012). Available at SSRN:

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