Thursday, November 29, 2018


The National Catholic Register has an article on the morality of tattoos.  You can read it here:

I must say that my visceral reaction to tattoos has evolved over the years. Clearly some tattoos are done as a desecration and/or mutilation of the body. But others are works of art. I guess it is all a matter of perspective. It does seem to be a cultural shift in our country.

Catholics are to respect our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. That is why we are to give our mortal remains, even after cremation, a Catholic/Christian burial or entombment. 

But with that said, I have come to appreciate many elaborate tattoos. Of course we have no idea how some of these will look on young men and women now when they enter their 70's and 80's. And of course some people age much sooner than others with sagging, crinkled, crepe like and creepy like skin.

 Do tattoos show contempt for the body or the glorification of it?  What do you think about the Catholic morality about tattoos?


At least Bristol Murunde of HGTV's Flip or Flop Las Vegas has a Catholic religious icon on his arm.



Anonymous said...

Other than the time they last, are tattoos that different from lipstick, eye shadow, rouge, false eyelashes, pierced ears, dyed hair, etc.?

And then there is medically unnecessary cosmetic surgery...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I just now viewed my post on my iPad where I can really widen the photos and below the Chiro is St. Michael the Archangel and really nicely done.

TJM said...

I noticed "In Hoc Signes" is tattooed on this arm!!

Tony V said...

No one ever looks better because of a tattoo. You only look uglier, sleazier. Tattoos are "tramp stamps".

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

In my day, only sailors and rough types of people got tattoos. Respectable people did not get tattoos. My mother and father would have been horribly scandalized and embarrassed by one of us getting a tattoo. I think it was sort of frowned upon by the Church, being a kind of bodily mutilation.

Glad I was born way before it became fashionable. I know several younger women who are now wives and moms who regret their smallish tattoos because it suggests to their children they were somewhat wild, and undermines their parental authority to some degree.

God bless.

TJM said...


My experience exactly. My uncle was a sailor in WW II and he ended up with an anchor on his upper arm after a night of drinking!!!!

Anonymous said...

George Schulz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, was hardly a rough type. He had a very large tiger tattooed on his derriere. He had it done when he was an undergraduate at Princeton.

rcg said...

My dad was Navy. I remember his coolest friends had tattoos. Not the russian mafia blanket type, but the globe and anchor type and a few with a seal and some sort of rope. I wanted one so bad. Mom got upset and told me no but dad and his friends said I could when I grew up. Dad’s friend brought me a shrunken head from Indonesia as a consolation. That disappeared soon after. After I actually grew up I didn’t like tattoos as I felt the wrong types had them. Most of the men I know that are the right sort and that actually have them now say they wish they didn’t. They are like bellbottom pants you can’t take off. Glad I didn’t get one.

Anonymous 2 said...


And that, presumably, is how Secretary Schulz could claim to have sat on a tiger!

mf said...

Generally, tattoos are unnecessary mutilations of the body and should not be done. If one wants to argue art or decoration, then it would also lead to acceptance of people splitting their tongues, implants under the skin that look like horns or other "body modifications." Do these really give glory to God and his creation?

The Egyptian said...

IMHO, a Marine, Sailor or soldier having a tattoo on their shoulder or upper arm of a symbol representing their branch of service,such as an anchor or a marine crest or the like is actually quite fine and proper, and honestly looks good, but to compare that to the almost satanic body art some are doing, we used to look at Nat geographic to see things like that on aboriginals
in the case of the picture, not quite so bad and at least he has one that can be covered up by a long sleeve shirt

Anonymous said...

How isn't fun tattoos are mutiliation, then is ear pearcing also mutilation?

Mordacil said...

I want to get a chi ro on my forearm. And maybe the first paragraph (in the original Latin) of st. Augustines confessions in scroll around my wrist "you are great oh lord and greatly to be praised..." but hey, maybe that's ungodly desecration of the flesh.

John Nolan said...

Thirty years ago, to have a tattoo was equivalent to hanging a sign round your neck saying 'I belong to social classes D and E.' Queen's Regulations do not allow officers to have tattoos, although this was not always the case in the Navy - King George V had an anchor tattoo he acquired as a midshipman in Queen Victoria's day.

Circa 1980 a Met Police officer told me that if they fished a female 'stiff' out of the Thames and found a tattoo (usually on the ankle) they knew she was a prostitute.

As late as the 1990s female recruits for the Army were rejected if they had a tattoo which was visible when they were in shirt sleeve order. This did not apply to their male counterparts, unless of course they were officer candidates.

Visible tattoos (and even worse, piercings) are still regarded as unprofessional in most walks of life. Of course people will imitate 'celebrities' but those that do are usually from the lower classes.

I suspect this particular (and laudable) prejudice will die hard.

Jacob said...

The priests at our traditional parish preach any tattoo is a sin and must be confessed. (We are in Union with Rome)

Anonymous said...

With respect to the boxer with the Christian symbols on his body: it seems to me he has a greater problem i.e., bashing the brains out of people for a living.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect this particular (and laudable) prejudice will die hard."

As will, unfortunately, the deplorable concept that there are lower classes.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think bashing brains is a hobby, flipping houses, construction work, is his occupation and now an HGTV star! On TV he comes off as a very nice, fine family man.

Anonymous said...

From Catholic Answers:

"Could you please explain to me rationally without using [complex] words, and yet using theology, and convince me why I shouldn’t get a tattoo? There’s too much mumbo jumbo on the Internet, and I would truly appreciate finding something concrete and understandable."

"I’m afraid that I cannot explain—either with simple, or complex words—why you shouldn’t get a tattoo. The reason being that, in principle, the Church does not oppose tattoos."

From Catholic News Agency:

"In the 787 Council of Northumberland – a meeting of lay and ecclesial leaders and citizens in England – Christian commentators distinguished between religious and profane tattoos. In the council documents, they wrote: 'When an individual undergoes the ordeal of tattooing for the sake of God, he is greatly praised. But one who submits himself to be tattooed for superstitious reasons in the manner of the heathens will derive no benefit there from.'"

From EWTN Library:

"The Scriptural reference is from Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

The prohibition, however, had specific purposes in circumventing any tendency for the people of ancient Israel to lapse into idolatry and assorted forms of pagan worship. It is important to note, of course, that this Old Testament prohibition on marking one's body does not apply to Christians because the Old Testament Law does not apply to Christians.

Having said that, I would add that while the Church certainly teaches against any form of self-mutilation and encourages modesty, there are no specific teachings against tattoos of which I am aware."

Marc in Eugene said...

'Christian commentators' at the Council of Northumberland? I suspect that if they issued the decrees of the Council they weren't 'commentators'.

John Nolan said...

I can find no record of a Northumbrian synod or council in 787. There were synods at Aycliffe, near Durham, in 782 and 789.

I believe the Second (Ecumenical) Council of Nicaea, which indeed took place in 787, condemned body marking as a pagan practice.

Marc in Eugene said...

There is nothing in Denziger (43rd ed Hünermann) about the Second Council of Nicaea condemning tattoos. And Gaudium et spes's n 27's mutilationes can scarcely be construed to refer to tattoos voluntarily received. I tweeted to the CNA article author, Addie Mena, asking her if she can provide a cite to... something concrete.

Marc in Eugene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TN Papist said...

Just curious about the pictures you used? Did you get permission to use them. I know Getty images and some other places can get litigious at times and some have said that violating copyrights can break the seventh commandment.

John Nolan said...


Interesting. I imagine that for clerics and professed religious a tattoo would be considered an adornment. That's why you don't see a priest with a moustache, unless he is a progressive Jesuit who wants to look like a layman.

Marc in Eugene said...


There was something-- I have no tattoos, nor ever wanted one, and am not much interested-- in the pages I looked at the other day when this post was made about clerics in the East or in early days (or both, I don't recall) not being advanced to the episcopate if they were tattooed. Yes, either be clean-shaven or bearded but not obviously styled, lest you want to be mistaken for that creature of mockery, a progressive Jesuit.

Addie Mena hasn't replied to my query.

Am considering tagging all my 'social media' posts with 'Societas Iesu delenda est'.

60's Survivor said...

I have no tattoos, as my parents would have also been horrified. I grew up with the same "outdated" values as Bee Here and Anonymous and we considered tattooing something only the scummiest people indulged in.

Now that tattoos are hip and fashionable (for some) I have not changed my opinion. I would only add that they are also addicting. Many people who get one tattoo want more and the desire just keeps growing. It becomes sad to see people whose bodies look like a wall of scribbled graffiti.

But what do I know? I'm just an out of touch old guy.