Tattoos and piercings have originated far longer than most people think. While both forms of body modification became popular in the western world in the 80s, the history of tattoos and piercings have existed for thousands of years in indigenous cultures.
Despite the fact that tattoos and piercings started in small communities as a form of cultural significance, the argument around whether such body modifications are acceptable in religion continues.
Each religion has their own laws or opinions about tattoos and piercings. Islam, for example, prohibits tattoos in the religion, as they are considered dirty and damaging to the body.
However, the rules of body modifications are somewhat ambiguous in other religions such as Catholicism, leading people to wonder “can Catholics have tattoos and piercings?”.
If you’re a Catholic wanting to get a tattoo or piercing without disobeying your religion, or if you’re simply curious about the rules of body modifications in Catholicism, you’ve come to the right place.
Here is everything you need to know about if Catholics are allowed to have tattoos and piercings!
Can Catholics Have Tattoos And Piercings?
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a definitive yes or no answer for this question. According to the Catholic Church, there are no laws that prohibit tattoos and piercings.
This might be surprising to some people who aren’t fully versed in the religion of Catholicism, but the truth is that it’s not actually a sin to have a tattoo or piercing according to the Catholic Church.
Instead, the Catholic Church allows the freedom to do whatever you want with or to your body.
As Catholicism views the body as a temple of sorts, it is truly up to you how you choose to decorate it. The only thing to remember is that your body is a gift given to you from God when you were born.
Here’s where it gets a bit complicated. While it’s not prohibited to get tattoos and piercings as a Catholic, some Catholics frown upon the idea.
They would argue that because our bodies are a temple given as a gift by God, it would be offensive and insulting to Him by “littering” it with piercings and tattoos.
Other Catholics, however, couldn’t care less about the presence of tattoos and piercings, because they don’t see such modifications as insulting or a sign of betrayal to God or Catholicism.
As a result of this unclear argument that is only really built up of different opinions, the whole topic of tattoos and piercings in the Catholic world is rather taboo.
A bunch of other factors play a role in why people dislike tattoos and piercings, such as age and generation, harmful stereotypes, and the risk of infecting your body.
New Testament vs Old Testament
To understand the Catholic viewpoint on tattoos and piercings further, we must look at the differences between the New Testament and the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is the foundation of Christianity and is followed by those of the Jewish faith, and infamously states how tattoos are sinful and harmful:
“Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:28).
While there is no mention of whether piercings are considered sinful in the Old Testament, it is safe to assume that the same rules apply to all body modifications.
The New Testament, however, features laws created and abided by after the birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Sure, there are links to Catholicism and Christianity, but Catholicism doesn’t listen much to the rules of the Old Testament unlike Christianity.
With this in mind, as there is no mention of tattoos or piercings being sinful in the New Testament, there are no laws to suggest that either body modification is sinful.
Despite this, there are countless references in the Bible to how our bodies are like temples that God has given us, which we must treat with respect.
To put it simply – some may not be concerned with decorating their temple with tattoos and piercings, while others might argue that any type of body modification is a huge sign of disrespect to both yourself and God.
For And Against Factors: Tattoos And Piercings In Catholicism
It’s easy to argue why somebody would want tattoos or piercings. Both body modification types are a form of self expression and a type of art.
A lot of the time, tattoos are pieces of art designed to express the individual’s love for something or someone – for example, a memorial piece for a loved one.
Some piercings are deliberately placed through a part of the body for health issues, such as faith piercings for migraines.
Sometimes, the meaning doesn’t even have to be deep. Someone might just really want their ears pierced or a tattoo of a flower just for the sake of it, because their religion doesn’t say they can’t do it.
If the body is a temple given by God, why can’t it be decorated however you like?
However, a lot of Catholics won’t agree with this mindset.
Without categorizing every senior Catholic, it is found that older members of the religion are appalled by the idea and sight of tattoos and piercings.
Body modifications, in the eyes of some generations, are mostly symbolic of rebellion, disregard of consequences, and a sign of disrespect to God who gifted our bodies to us.
A lot of people will stereotype tattoos and piercings with “thugs” and those in prison, as both body modification types are frequently offered amongst jail mates.
As the argument for and against whether Catholics can have tattoos or not goes beyond the rules of the religion, sometimes it’s better to keep your opinion to yourself.
You may find that there are a surprising number of Catholics who have tattoos and piercings in small places that can be easily hidden, such as a tattoo on their rib cage or a belly button piercing, so as to not offend their religion or God.
Catholic Priests And Tattoos Or Piercings
Like there are no laws in the New Testament to say that Catholics can’t have tattoos or piercings, the same non-existent rules apply to Catholic priests.
So, if you’re thinking about becoming a priest, or if you’re a priest wanting a tattoo, or if you’re simply curious about whether priests can have body modifications, the answer is: yes! Catholic priests can have tattoos and piercings.
However, the same argument exists about such body mods. In some churches, the idea of a priest sporting a tattoo or piercing might be too much for some parishioners.
These people would argue that while God gifted parishioners with temples for bodies, God gifted priests with the gift of preaching as well as a temple.
In their eyes, it would seem hypocritical for a priest to preach about right and wrong and sins while having something that is considered disrespectful permanently on their body.
However, there is a bit of a “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” argument. If a priest had a discreet tattoo or piercing that is never seen by the parishioners, then the parishioners would be none the wiser.
If the priest decided to be vocal about their tattoos or piercings, the response would be unpredictable.
It also comes down to the type of parish the priest is preaching to. Some parishes are filled with a certain demographic of people, while others are mixed.
Parishes can range in size, age, race, sexuality, and varying political opinions – all of which can contribute to a person’s opinions on tattoos and piercings.
Does The Pope Permit Tattoos And Piercings?
Interestingly, the Pope is pro-tattoos! He has said countless times that tattoos are nothing to be afraid of, and in a lot of cases can prove somebody’s faith.
If a Catholic or priest is willing to mark their faith in indelible ink for the rest of their lives, then that is an impressive and respectable way to show their commitment to Catholicism.
The reason why the Pope doesn’t prohibit tattoos and piercings is because there are no such laws that prohibit them in the New Testament.
The Pope sees tattoos as a conversation starter and a symbol of belonging to something that somebody loves (such as a favorite flower, a memorial piece for a lost loved one, or a reference to a favorite book).
The tattoo doesn’t necessarily have to be related to Catholicism for the Pope to accept it – he just does.
Another reason why the Pope doesn’t prohibit tattoos and piercings is because he wants to allow the church to be as inclusive and as welcoming as possible for young parishioners.
He understands that times continue to change, which means that mindsets can also change.
As long as the roots of Catholicism are not changed in the faith of the individual, it shouldn’t matter whether they have a tattoo or piercing.
Can I Become A Catholic If I Have Tattoos?
There is nothing prohibiting anybody from becoming a Catholic.
Tattoos and any form of body modification are not prohibited in the New Testament, so even though you might be entering a church of varying opinions, you can still become a Catholic if you have tattoos.
If you are wanting to make a good impression, you can cover up your tattoos with long sleeves in church.
If you want to stay true to yourself, you can show your tattoos with pride. It’s your body and your temple, and you can show it off how you like!
Technically speaking, you could have bright blue hair or ridiculously long fingernails and still become a Catholic.
The Pope has been open about his opinions on tattoos, preaching that times continue to change as they always have done, and tattoos aren’t something to be afraid of.
As long as you commit yourself to attending church and partaking in your local Catholic community, you can become a Catholic.
Of course, there are some complications that would make your journey into Catholicism slightly less straightforward, such as your marital history and sexuality.
While these are mostly up for debate and come down to personal preference, tattoos will not prohibit you from becoming a Catholic.
How To Have A Tattoo As A Catholic
Technically speaking, there is no right or wrong way to have or show off a tattoo.
You can hide it or have it on show however you like, but if you’re wanting to remain respectful to your faith, there are some ways to have a tattoo as a Catholic.
Firstly, if you’re prepared to have a tattoo and you’re already committed to Catholicism, you can always get a religious tattoo!
Religious tattoos can range from the cross to your favorite passage from the Bible.
Any image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary are beautiful reminders of your faith and what these figures served and died for, and can be seen as the ultimate sign of respect.
Unfortunately, you’re probably going to encounter negative opinions about tattoos from people regardless of their faith.
Your parish might be totally accepting of tattoos, while someone on the street might tell you that your tattoo isn’t nice.
Having a tattoo is a personal preference and can come with negativity, so if you’re worried about upsetting fellow parishioners, you might want to consider getting a tattoo in a discreet place.
It’s a general rule to cover up your skin in church anyway, which can help to hide tattoos, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos In The New Testament?
There is no mention of tattoos in the New Testament. This is somewhat contradictory to the Old Testament, which claims that tattoos are sinful.
However, as there isn’t a single mention of whether tattoos are good or bad in the New Testament, it is believed that tattoos are welcomed into the Catholic faith.
Is It A Sin To Get Piercings?
While it mostly depends on the religion, it isn’t considered a sin to get piercings as a Catholic.
According to the New Testament, there are no laws against body modifications like tattoos or piercings, meaning that neither are sinful.
It can be argued that because piercings are less permanent than tattoos, they can be considered far less of a sin.
There are even some stories in the Old Testament that reference piercings, such as Rebecca’s nose piercing in Genesis 24.
Because of these stories and references, piercings cannot be considered sinful in either Catholicism or Christianity.
Of course, it also comes down to personal opinion. There will be some members of the Catholic faith who don’t like piercings or consider piercings sinful.
This is because the Catholic faith claims the human body to be a temple gifted by God, and it would be considered disrespectful to God to harm your body with piercings and other body mods.
However, others would argue that God gifted us our bodies to do whatever we like with it as long as we are safe and respectful to ourselves, which would make piercings not a sin.
What Does God Say About Tattoos And Piercings?
According to the Old Testament, God finds tattoos to be sinful; “Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28).
Interestingly, while there are mentions of piercings throughout the Old Testament, none of the references allude to piercings being a sin.
However, there is no mention of either tattoos or piercings in the New Testament, which is followed by both Christians and (mostly) Catholics.
As a result of this, tattoos and piercings are not considered sinful in the eyes of God or the Catholic Church.
While it all comes down to personal opinions and how to remain respectful in the church, God doesn’t actually say anything bad about tattoos and piercings.