Debate on the morality of tattoos

The Church does not have an official stance on tattoos, but the priests that I asked said they were fine. You can also look in the “ask an apologist” forum and you will see that none of them condemned getting a tattoo(s). At the same time however, I have seen that people have made the argument of saying that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit(which is true) therefore getting a tattoo(s) is wrong. What if getting a tattoo is part of someone’s culture? Is it wrong to get a full sleeve? If it is okay to get a tattoo, is it possible that it can become sinful if it is excessive or if you have too much ink on your body? A couple clarifications I want to make is that it is wrong to get a tattoo of something that is impure or depicting sin or demonic etc., and where it talks about tattoos in Leviticus refers to the mosaic law, which we as Christians (Catholics) are not bound to. What are your thoughts?

The debate over whether or not it is absolutely, objectively sinful is closed imo. Otherwise, Rome would be speaking about it. You don’t just let millions upon millions of people do something that is sinful without a peep about it.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the idea that we can’t do it because our bodies are temples is very nebulous, and thus hard to defend. Does this mean cosmetics or oils are bad also? What about exposing certain parts of the skin? What about hair dye? What about earrings?
What qualifies as desecrating our temples or not desecrating our temples?

This truth about our bodies being temples in scripture was revealed by St. Paul in the context of our sexual purity. Since all conjugal relations between a man and a woman are the renewal of an earthly marital covenant, and indeed, exist as a dim reflection of the Beatific Vision, then they must likewise be both exclusive, and permanent, and open to life. Were we created to be God’s people for a little while, or for everlasting? Are we to worship gods of bronze and stone along with God, or worship only God? Is our eternal covenant with God a lamp hidden under a bowl, or is it shining so as to procreate more disciples? With the later, all of the above are true between God and mankind, and likewise are true between a husband and wife. This is why we must remember that our bodies are a temple to the Holy Spirit. What significance does an ink mark have to any of this? None that I can see.

All that being said, IMO, I would personally not get a tattoo, even a perfectly innocent one. My reasons being that tattoos have somewhat of a negative stigma attached to them. For this reason alone, I think it would be best not to get them.

I am not a minimalist, but when it comes to my body, I am. I just think life would be easier, happier, and less scandalous if we kept it plain. Our bodies, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, mean a lot to those around us. We are social creatures.

It’s a marking of the flesh in such a way as to objectify the flesh. It’s a changing of the flesh from an element of the body into an object - a canvas. It’s a tradition of roughnecks who purveyed their bodies as weapons and objects of intimidation - and prostitutes who purvey their bodies as well.

Perhaps in a primitive, tribal society such marks might be an additional sign of bondage, but in a civilized society such markings evoke the same tribal tendency in an anti-social manner. Why would someone ACTIVELY distinguish their flesh from other persons? To draw the onlookers’ thoughts to the flesh as an object of aggression or prostitution - or for the common hipster ‘irony’.

Of course, these are matters of principle, not consequences. The consequences of tattooing are relative; a hard time seeking work, an unwholesome appearance, potential health effects, etc.

I thought this was a joke post…it’s not though :confused:

“Hard time seeking work, unwholesome appearance, potential health effects”

How does a cross on your back from a reputable clean shop do any of those things lol

All of your negative stigma would have been true in 1950. About 25 years ago that stigma started to fade and is completely gone now, exception being perhaps excessive distasteful tattoos that this discussion is not about.

I don’t think it is a problem. I don’t have any tattoos, but the Jews forbid it. I am still not sure what to think about the issue.

I spoke of principle not ‘stigma’.

The principle of the tattoo is the altering of the flesh from bodily element to object. For what reason do you distinguish your flesh in this way? A private tattoo is understandable, but in regard to an image portrayed to the public, Is your flesh not already a sufficient image?

You hold the same position regarding make up, hair coloring,perfume, and ear piercing yes?

If not why not?

Do you wear t shirts with a logo or message? It’s no different, it is an expression of who you are, we are not just physical but spiritual and tattoos can passively convey spiritual truths about us to others.

I don’t see any issue with having tattoos. Depending upon what you get may cause a sense of consciousness.

I would totally want a tattoo of Our Blessed Mother if I could.

Just thinking about all the soldiers who came home from WW1 & WW2 with tattoos on their arms, (my father, one of them). Surely, it didn’t make them any less of good character. In fact; weren’t they this country’s greatest generation.

I have a few. I don’t see it as a moral issue.

The tradition in the USMC was that tattoos help to identify a body. Today, DNA matching is used and tats are irrelevant, but not discouraged. The US Navy now discourages tattoos (abandoning its own tradition), and will pay for tattoo removal.

This post is a digression, in a way. But I don’t see tattoos as any sort of moral question. Ink on skin has no effect on the body.

Obviously, the message that the tattoo conveys is relevant to the moral question.

Mine would be of St. Michael slaying the beast, and maybe the Papal keys between the shoulders. Most of the folks I have met sporting tats, but not all, are kind of rough around the edges. Not only that, it is very costly, and you cant go to the store for a refund. Really, it is just not me.

I know it’s like once you get one your stuck with it. (yes I know you can get it removed)

Is it “wrong” to get a sleeve? I don’t know. What I do know is that everyone I know who has one also has a prison record and a drug habit. Is that the impression you want to give? They are also for the most part closed out of major sectors of the job market, the military service, police and fireman work. Also what may seem really cool to you right now may seem quite stupid 10 years from now, but you would be stuck with it. So even if it is not wrong, it is not a very good idea.

I dont know about you, but if I were to build a temple myself I would decorate it with meaningful symbolic art.
And according to history books and pictures the people of old agree with me :shrug:

And as long as the ink isn’t all over your face, throat, neck or hands, there is no real negative effect at all really…

The Church has no teaching against tattoos. The Old Testament prohibition does not apply to Christians. I think that they should only be small and discrete.

I wouldn’t so much question the morality of tattoos unless as you mention it’s a depiction of something immoral etc.

I would more question the wisdom of getting a tattoo, particularly emphasising ‘PERMANENT’ tattoo. :smiley:

But anyway, I know a couple of really good people who have got tattoo’s and I wouldn’t call what they did immoral, but id say it probably wasn’t the wisest idea considering it’s permanent, I can only imagine the excitment quickly wears off and that probably 5-15% of their life will be thinking “This is awesome” and the other 95-85% drifting into “What was I thinking?”

Thank you for reading

Can this question also be applied to hair coloring and/or piercings?

The OP asks** : “Can this question also be applied to hair coloring and/or piercings?”**

It can if you make it so.

It seems like you are trying to keep this Thread going … (so later, you could ask about what colors of Clothing can be worn after Labor Day)

This topic seems to come up once a month and the same old battle is fought between those who believe tatoo’s are just a symbol or decoration and those who think they are the devil’s design. Quite frankly, I am getting tired of the fight. If you don’t like tattoo’s then don’t get one. If you do, and it’s not sacriligious, than by all means, adorn your temple.

I am sure you can tell which side of the fence I am on, especially considering the fact that I have 6 in total with 4 being religious.

It’s time to live and let live with this topic and put it to bed already.

Tattoos had divided people for a long time. For some, they consider it a symbol of expression, while to others, its a remant of past follies. In Melbourne, I see professionals and workers sporting tattoos, both men and women, young and old. Although, no longer the monopoly of shady characters (gangsters or bikies), there is still some prejudice for those who sport them excessively. Potential employers would be turned off by applicants who had visible tattoos on their arms, legs or neck. If you want to get one, make sure they’re hidden but if you want to flaunt it, be prepared for those disapproving stares. This obviously excludes cosmetic tattoos (tattooed eyebrows or added moles).

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