Catholic teaching on Tattoos
The Catholic Church has a nuanced approach to tattoos and their meanings. While tattoos can be seen as forms of self-expression, they can also be viewed as violative of the body, which is considered a temple of the Holy Spirit in Catholic teaching.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The human body shares in the dignity of the image of God: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.”
This means that Catholics are called to respect their bodies and use them in a manner that glorifies God and reflects their dignity as children of God. Tattoos can be seen as a form of disfigurement, which goes against this belief.
Tattoo in it’s self is not a sin neither does the mother church is against it. There is nothing immoral about tattoos. Mother Church has never condemned them, and neither can I. Tattooing is a form of body art, in which ink is applied to the skin. One can apply color to one’s skin by make-up (as is common among women), magic markers (as is common among children), press-on tattoos (as are common in Crackerjack boxes), or with real tattoos. The mere fact that the ink goes into the skin in the latter case does not create a fundamental moral difference.
The only thing that makes a tattoo to be a sin is if the tattoo images are immoral, such as sexually explicit, Satanic, or in anyway opposed to the truths and teachings of Christianity.
But in the other hand tattoos can be used in such a way it glorifies God. We should use our body to glorify God, Honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6). In other words, we should assess our motives in the light of whether or not our contemplated action brings honor to God. Examples of these tattoos are beautiful tattoos of Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Sacred Heart that were chosen out of devotion and love. When choosing a tattoo, the best rule is that of St. Paul: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.
Additionally, tattoos that depict graphic or violent images, or those that promote immoral or sinful messages, can be seen as an affront to the moral values of the Church. Such tattoos can also be seen as a sign of a disregard for the sanctity of one’s own body.
It’s also important to note that the Church recognizes the reality of cultural and historical differences, and therefore, the moral evaluation of tattoos can vary from one cultural context to another.
The Leviticus passage, which reads “Do not put tattoo marks on yourselves” (19:28), is not binding upon Christians for the same reason that the verse “nor shall there come upon you a garment of cloth made of two kinds of stuff” (Lev. 19:19) is not binding upon Christians. This is because it is a part of the ceremonial law that was applicable only to Jews but not applicable to Christians.
But regardless of the original intent, Catholic teaching is that the ceremonial law no longer applies to us as new covenant faithful. To say otherwise is contrary to the whole message of Christ’s resurrection and revelation. For example, immediately preceding and following that verse are prohibitions against trimming one’s beard and eating red meat.
In conclusion, while tattoos can be seen as a form of self-expression, Catholics are encouraged to consider the potential moral implications of getting a tattoo. It’s important to choose tattoos that honor the dignity of the body and reflect the values of the Catholic faith. Ultimately, each person must use their own discernment to determine whether or not a particular tattoo is appropriate for them.