Friday, April 5, 2013

Is Getting A Tattoo Wrong?

Q - Simple question, is getting a tattoo wrong?

A - Thanks for the question. I know that in today's society, tattoos are more popular than ever and many people have questions about this.  I hope that I can help sort it out.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a tattoo. This means, that in and of itself, a tattoo is not a moral evil.

Now, there are situations when getting a tattoo would be sinful. For instance, a tattoo that causes offense to others, because of the image causes scandal would be wrong, if there is significant damage to the bodily integrity, a minor who gets one without permission from parents, etc.

As Christians, we should also consider why you would ever need a tattoo. The Church teaches us about the sacredness of our bodies. Our bodies were created to image God and he believes they are "good". So, why would they need to be decorated? Furthermore, they are to be the home of the Holy Spirit, which is why St. Paul wrote:
"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 Cor 6:19
Some questions that might guide a person thinking about getting a tattoo:
  • What is the intent behind the desire for a tattoo? 
  • Is the purpose of doing so to spite someone?
  • Will my bodily integrity remain intact or will this mutilate my body?
  • Do you have a bad self-image or are trying to hide a feature we don't like?
  • Is it done to please someone else
  • Is it a part of a tribal ritual? 
  • Is your body being treated as a temple of the Holy Spirit?
  • How will this affect others? 
  • How will my parents, friends, family, employers, etc. react? 
  • Is this good use of my money?
  • What will the tattoo contain? Would it be offensive to others?
  • Is it a good message within the tattoo?
Furthermore, there are some kinds of modern body decoration/piercings that lead to mutilating the body - these would be sinful to participate in, because the bod's integrity is at stake.

So, while it is not intrinsically wrong to get a tattoo, there are circumstances that might make it immoral. If you don't get a tattoo, you need not even ask the questions above.

I hope this helps.

For more on related topics:
**The Catholic Church and Plastic Surgery


Gert said...

When I was in Catholic school, oh those many years ago, a nun told us it was wrong to deface the body by even writing on it with ink. Her reasoning, the body is the temple of the holy spirit. Still makes sense to me, and if it keeps a young person from making a permanent mistake, all the better.

Joel said...

A "permanent mistake" seems a bit harsh to me. I think it is possible to get a tattoo that is good in taste, one you do not regret later down the line.

annmarie said...

I would never get one - to me they make someone look cheap - even if the design was a statement I would be proud to make (like IHS, a fish or a dove) and is a permanent feature of my life.

Gert said...

Trying to figure out why this comment I made a long time ago comes up with a post date that makes it look I made it a few minutes ago. It's okay though. I stand by my comment Joel. Permanent mistake. I'd like to see you make your case with the good sister who reamed my big brothers for inking themselves with their pens.

Sue Zanna said...

If our body shouldn't ever be decorated, why do we take the trouble to wear attractive clothing, get haircuts, paint our nails, etc? If it is tasteful, meaningful and artistic, why wouldn't it glorify God as much as any kind of beauty or art?

Karlos1234 said...

I've always considered getting a tatto of the Chi-Rho. The people I know who got tattoos got them because they considered whatever the image of to be a piece of their soul. Seeing that I consider Jesus to definitely be a part of my soul, I don't see how a tatto of the chi-rho would be sinful, nor do I consider it a "permanent mistake."

Harold said...

Another helpful guiding question would be: is getting a tattoo virtuous?

The point with that question is that every human act is either morally good or morally bad, so it is worthwhile to think of it from both standpoints "am I avoiding sin?" and "am I doing good?", which are two sides of the same coin. After all, we're not only called to avoid offending God but to be saints!

Also, I would add to the money question the observation that the right to private property is conditional and has a purpose. What I mean is that ultimately all of creation belongs to God, and if I have money, it's because God has given it to me as a steward so that I would use it for the good of all. I think this point gives a little more oomph to the "is this a good use of my money?" question.

Me Too said...

If my body is my temple, can't tattoos be like stained glass windows? Beautiful, meaningful and special?

That is how I view my tattoos. Not as cheap or as defacing myself.

Justin Michael Schwartzbeck said...

My opinion (and I believe this is shared by many) is that tattoos make a person look immature. Like body piercings they are associated with being young and rebellious. If you like artistic expression then take up painting.