“Ask a Priest: Is Getting a Tattoo Against Catholic Beliefs?”

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Q: I have been considering getting a tattoo for some time now but want to make sure that it’s not against Catholic beliefs. It would be a medium-size tattoo with a Bible verse and cross. -M.W.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There are no hard-and-fast Church rules against tattoos. There are, however, a few points you might want to consider.

The Catechism in No. 2288 notes, “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.” Tattoos carry a remote risk of infection, so you might want to consider whether it is worth the danger.

Another consideration is from Scripture: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Among God’s gifts to us are our bodies, and we are meant to glorify the Lord through our bodies. We can do this in the words we speak, in the way we dress, and the manner in which we groom ourselves.

You might ask yourself whether a tattoo will give glory to the Almighty. As a woman you have a natural beauty that is meant to reflect the glory of God in a special way. Will a tattoo mar that beauty?

Also, what if you change your mind in six months and decide you don’t like the tattoo anymore? Think about how often college students like to change the posters on their walls: An image that speaks to us in one season of our lives may not speak to us in the same way in another season of our lives. Posters are easy to change and take into account that reality. But tattoos aren’t easy to remove; they are meant to be permanent.

Would it be better, perhaps, to take the Bible verse you have in mind and make a special effort to live the verse in your day-to-day life? That is a way to really give glory to God. As for the cross, wearing a crucifix might suffice to let others know about your Christian faith.

I hope some of this helps. I hope that you choose wisely. God bless.

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