Are tattoos and piercings mutilation?

A few years ago, I was told to teach my Confirmation class that getting piercings and tattoos was self-mutilation, a mortal sin. If done without their knowledge, not freely chosen, it was not a sin of any kind. The example given to share with my class was pierced ears on a baby. Since this is a tradition for most families in our area, parents were horrified. I’m returning to the Confirmation classroom this year, so I’d like to be prepared in case the question comes up again. Are tattoos and piercings mutilation? If so, what do I say to the Moms?

Generally speaking tattoos and piercings are not considered mutilation by the Church, the morality is dependent upon the intentions of the person receiving them. For example, piercing the skin to draw blood can be done by a doctor or person for medical reasons or someone could do it to his/herself because of a psychological issue. Its not the act per se that needs to be judged but the why.

Obviously there is a common sense line that needs to be drawn for the protection of children so that their bodies are not scarred and adults should reflect upon their own intentions and reasons for obtaining piercings or tattoos.

Everyone has their own personal style and taste, so the important question someone needs to ask themselves is “why am I getting this?” As long as the answer is psychologically/emotionally healthy and the reason is not immoral/immodest then there is no sin or mutilation involved.

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