Tattoos and the Priesthood

I’m a 21-year-old and I’m considering entering the seminary. One of the (many) things on my mind as I think over and pray about this decision is the fact that I have several tattoos which aren’t always covered.

What are the Church’s guidelines regarding preists who have tattoos? If you don’t have an answer to that question, would you please share your thoughts if your parish were to have a new pastor who had tattoos?

Thanks very much for your help.

I do not know if the church has any guidelines on tattoos for priests. My suggestion is to ask your diocesan vocations director or parish priest.

I would not be bothered at all if a priest had visible tattoos. On the contrary, it would lead me to believe he had been down roads some of those he counsels have been down ~ which would make them more comfortable.

If the tatoo is pre-seminary, then no probs. But if they are post-ordination, I’d have to question the priest’s priorities!

I wouldn’t unless they were tacky and offensive.

I agree.

I happened to vote in the a great deal category. That being said, I do not think this should deter you from pursuing a discernment. My feeling have a lot to do with my generation & that I don’t quite “get it” when it comes to the tattoo thing. One of my daughters has a tattoo & to be honest in high school I had the
“extra hole in my ear” so if I were of your generation, I would probably have a tattoo lol.
The important thing in a priest is really their calling and devotion to our Lord and his call.
If a tattoo was in some way embarrassing to anyone priest or laity and they felt the Spirit was convicting them regarding this, removal procedures are available.

It is very exciting that you feel a call, & I pray that you will pursue it just the way you are :thumbsup:

As I understand it, tattoos still have somewhat of a youth-rebellion connotation in the North American culture; and this goes counter to the priesthood which is all about obedience (to God and to the hierarchy).

It does not bother me; and by all means, do not defer your discernment because of them! But keep in mind that they may well make the process more difficult. Hang in there, though, if God wants you to be a priest, your skin won’t be an issue.


visible “in your face” tattoos also bother me on wait staff in restaurants, on therapists, on medical personal, at the hair dresser and on anyone in a service capacity, mainly because they give more personal info than I want to know about people. This is probably a generational thing but I would be less than honest if I did not say it would also affect my hiring decisions if I was still an employer. I am not talking about a discrete butterfly on the ankle or an anchor on the arm of an ex-navy man, I am talking about someone where half the visible skin is marred in this way.

If you are going to get one please find a reputable place who is going to do it properly so it does not turn into a dark indecipherable blob in a couple of years.

You know tattoos can be anything. I’ve seen a lot of “Jesus tattoos” and the like. It maybe a rebellion thing but i voted -it will bother me if it was offensive, because some priests especially those that work with young people may for one reason or the other wear a religious themed tattoo, cos sometimes they are leading a rebellion for Christ. I know i’ve seen a few that didn’t seem out of place
Well that’s just my opinion

I think if it was visible during Mass, i.e. tattoos on the neck or especially on the hands that consecrate the Eucharist. then there may be an issue. If you’re talking about forearms or other areas, provided they are not obscene or blasphemous subjects, I wouldn’t see any problem.

Again to encourage you, keep pursuing your vocation. If the tattoos get in the way, then removal is a possibility.

As I understand it, tattoos still have somewhat of a youth-rebellion connotation in the North American culture; and this goes counter to the priesthood which is all about obedience (to God and to the hierarchy).

This may very well be true for some people here, as well as abroad however; not all persons who get tattoos here do for that reason. I spent 10 years in the military where it is simply a show of brother/sisterhood (in an organization which is strictly all about obedience). In other clubs and/or organizations it is a show of pride in membership; for some individuals it is done in memorial of someone, as a show of loyalty TO someone, etc. i.e., the cross a show of pride in Christianity, the Rosary a show of pride in Catholicism, etc.

Where on your form are the tattoos? Unless on the upper neck, head, or hands, they should not even be an issue if you choose not to make them one.

God Bless, ICXC NIKA

Point taken.

However, I did not say everybody; I said that they have that general connotation. Tattoos are perceived in the general society as being about youth rebellion, even if for many people they have no such meaning.


I know some priests that completely cover their body at all times, except for their hands and their neck upward. Unless your tattoos are in these areas, you could wear dress that would always cover them.

Absolutely and in other cultures it can have particular meaning. For example Ta Moko in Maori culture to take a well known example.

I’m with you my brother, I’ve served in the military. My tattoos are military pride.

I think it’s really shallow to be bothered by someones tattoos, as long as their not offensive.

I cant believe how many people would be bothered by it!

The Church has no official teaching on Tattoos, leaving it up to the individual to decide.

Even still if you think tattoos represent something sinful or bad, let he who has done no wrong throw the first stone. You cant judge a person on their looks. Who are we to judge others? A tattoo is not something easily removed even if it was a mistake.

I dont think there is anything wrong with it at all, and to anyone considering becoming a priest who has a tattoo dont even worry about it! People shouldnt judge you on your past or your looks.

For all we know, the Pope has a tattoo on his back. Wouldn’t know because he’s always fully dressed. :stuck_out_tongue:

I chose, “Yes, but only if the subject was offensive.”

To elaborate, I think if the tattoo was before becoming a priest, it’s okay. I would hope though that if it was an offensive tattoo, they’d get laser surgery or go about some means to get rid of it. Nobody would want to see some horned creature when they go up for the Eucharist. :stuck_out_tongue:

Preferably, the tattoo would be one that honors God. A Bible verse, a white dove, Jesus, Mary, imo would all be tattoos that honor God.

And yes, I’m not shallow enough to judge someone on their tattoo but if it was vulgar, I’d find it distracting.

But remember, our bodies belong to God, not ourselves.

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