Tattoo's and the clergy?

I am quite interested in becoming a priest but i would really like to get a religious tattoo (for example crosses on the inside of my wrists, the nail holes in my hands and feet, the word catholic written across my back, both sides of the medal of St. Benedict with each side one on my chest on my heart and the other opposite on my back, and or the hands of Christ raising the Eucharist with blood dripping into a cup)… I have heard that it is ok to enter into the priesthood with tattoos as it happens quite frequently with those leaving the military who have tat’s and they have no problem… Any definitive answers? suggestions? I have tryed to get in contact with the priest in charge of our diocees vocations but havn’t gotten any replies…?:confused:

I don’t believe that there is an official Church position against this; however, you might encounter some resistance at an individual level. What I mean is that there may be those individuals (both Clergy and Laity) that prefer God’s creations (works of art) to remain unblemished and/or unmarked. Just a thought. God bless.

I know a priest who had tatoos before he entered the priesthood, when his life was a little wilder. I think your ideas for tatoos would be frowned upon for a variety of reasons. I would talk to your vocation director.

Two priests on EWTN were discussing this the other night. One of them, former Navy, had a few tattoos on his arms. They did not reveal if there was an actual ruling on this but they more or less said that a few small tattoos is no big deal but it’s when you cover your body or face this is a desicration to the human body which is a sin. They also said branding is a big no-no. So to answer your question… I don’t know. From watching the show I felt I was getting more of “this is my opinion” rather than an actual teaching/ruling.

Your body is a temple of the HolySpirit, why would you want to desecrate it with a tatoo, even a religious one. Buy yourself a sacred medal instead and wear it. Or wear a scapular. Live you life as a living message of your faith, rather than wear it on your skin! Something to pray about!

Same problem here. Although my ideas for tattoos aren’t as extreme as yours.I would like maybe the front side of the St.Benedict medal on one arm and the back on another. Small. I think it would be a good way to show your committment to God and the Catholic Church. Also a good way to avoid sin if you are about to sin and then you look down at the tattoo or something.

I was going to get jesus on my chest but I was afraid
people would think it was rob zombie.

My rule of thumb for would be and current seminarians is simple “Never give 'em an excuse”!

I don’t know that their is a ruling against it per se, given that there are priests out there with tattoos.

I think what might evince some “concern” on the part of some folks is they may be prone to see this as symptomatic of an inappropriate enthusiasm. Maybe.

Things are much improving around the world and the nation when it comes to seminary formation… That being said, I still caution seminarians or would be seminarians to be VERY cautious about making sure they do not stand out in their outwards signs of piety too much. A visible or known “Jesus tattoo” might be something some formators would latch on to as evidence you are “overly enthusiastic.”

That being said, during my time in seminary we wore bathrobes into and out of the showers. If any of my brother seminarians had tattoos, I never would have seen them!

  • Simple (who has a tattoo on his left shoulder, and had more than his ears pierced at one point in life!)

really? that’s funny. I’d think they’d be able to figure it out by the whole priest thing lol.

the nail holes in my hands and feet,

I really wonder about the propriety of home-made, self-inflicted stigmata.

Yeah, what the Sinner said. Outward signs of piety are frowned upon. In other words, don’t be the guy wearing a cassock when nobody else is. Nail holes in the hands and feet…even worse than a cassock in my opinion. I can’t conceive of a situation where anyone would see the one on your chest. If they ever do, you’ve got formation issues that go far beyond tattoos.

what if he goes swimming?

I do not know the ‘rule’ and would second what pp said about asking your vocational director. I agree with everyone about the nail holes…that seems a bit over the top. The others, if they are in places that could be covered and not shown at times would probably be more appropriate. Most of the younger generation isn’t going to care and may infact like the fact that you have them. The older generation (not all but alot) on the other hand, will freak and be upset by them if they are visible.

If your vocation director says yeah, then I say go for it!

Who says we’re desecrating it? If you are thinking of the Old Testament prohibition, there are a hundred arguments as to why that doesn’t apply. From, “we are not bound by the OT” to “it refers to certain specific funerary tattoo practices common among pagan tribes at that time.” Just decorating our bodies, doing what we think beautifies them, is not desecration. For the record, I have no tattoos. My DH does. But, is ear piercing desecration? How about nose piercing? What about permanent makeup? All these are skin-breaking permanent body decorations (or decoration enablers, as in earring holes).

I think the intent is important, not just the action.

I have to say, tattooed stigmata is strange. If I saw that, I would think that person was trying just a little too hard. It would turn me off to them as a spiritual authority.

Your body is a temple?
hmm, mine looks more like a rotunda.

In a seminary? Only the rich kid’s seminary has a swimming pool. Stick to the poor kids seminary and you won’t be taking your shirt off in front of anyone.

Check this information about tattoos in the early christian church. It falls in well with what I’ve come across on the subject over the years. I also seem to remember seeing somewhere that small tattoos of the the cross or Jesus’ name were common during the first centuries of the christian era as an outward proof that one was baptised and this was often one of the first things checked for during the roman persecutions on christians. One common theme to christian tattoos in the early church, though, seems to be that they should be small and not ostentatious.

Personally, I would agree with other posters that your plans might be a little over the top, the self marked stigmata particularly bothers me, but your sprirituality is between you and Him. When in doubt about things try to remember the good ethic of moderation.

Some more interesting info on early christian tattoos. I especially found this bit interesting

Pope Hadrian I, in 787 AD, banned tattooing (since it was associated with heathen practices) but there was an exemption for religious tattoos since they would “bring spiritual rewards.”

If you have a tattoo, I would not worry about it. On the other hand, I would not go out and get one. I don’t see anything redemptive in marking up your body in what was a pagan practice. It could be a barrier to others in your service as a Priest.

Mind you Jim Bakker’s son is now involved in ministry to tattoo culture and has them all over. Says he got them since being a Pastor. I am just not sure that no matter what your intention, you would create some barriers in an average Catholic Church in trying to connect with your pew goers (especially if you kept adding to your arms, your face, your neck and so on).

It is not that God cannot or does not use people with Tattoo’s and various body piercings to reach people as I am sure he does (as with Jay Bakker above). Discern wisely though.

Amen, amen, amen.

I wrote this a few months ago to a guy entering seminary who had questions about waering a beretta in seminary:

I also rattled off a list of real-life insults that are snickered at guys seen as piously over-devotional. Apparently I was too explicit, the list got edited out by the moderator. I will just say, questions about sexuality, stability, personality, and other cracks that I would never even try to get past a moderator will be spoken to someone behind their back and to their face.

Extreme visible tattoos will just mark you (some pun intended) for ridicule and give formators with an inclination to dislike you (for whatever rason) with the excuse they need to tell your bishop “He has maturity/stability/developmental issues. We recommend he be released from seminary.”

For good and bad (especially in the wake of a few years of scandals related to men who should NEVER have made it through year one of seminary let alone ordained) many bishops will prefer to err on the side of caution and will drop ANY sem with a hint of problem faster than a hot potato that was doused in gasoline and lit.

Stay discrete, stay focused, keep praying.

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