UPDATE: See an important comment added below.
From a reader…
i always thought that tattoos were somehow sinful. but today’s third lesson from Matins about St. Jane of Chantal makes me question that. what is the Church’s teaching on “body modifications” like that?
First, I am impressed that you are looking at the lessons from Matins.
The Lesson in question says that St. Jane de Chantal:
“When her husband was killed while hunting, she made a vow of continence, and she so mastered herself that she did not hesitate to act as godmother to the son of the man who killed her husband. Lest later on she should be moved from her determination to observe chastity, she renewed her vow and inscribed the most holy Name of Jesus on her breast with a hot iron.”
I am tempted to say, if you want to mark yourself up, want it badly enough that you would be willing to do it yourself with a red hot iron. Any less zeal than that, you probably shouldn’t get a tattoo.
There were Old Testament prohibitions against marking the body, along with a lot of other prohibitions that we are no longer bound by under the New Covenant.
There is nothing sinful in itself in getting a tattoo. That said, there are other factors which would make getting a tattoo sinful, such as the topic or aspect of the tattoo, why you got it, etc.
For example, during our Traditional Mass Pilgrimage to the Holy Land last February, a few of the men got Jerusalem Cross tats on their arms for completing the pilgrimage. They went to a place on St. George Street which, it seems, has been in the business since the crusades and have been using the same stencil blocks for hundreds of years. I don’t see anything wrong with that. And their martyrdom will be assured when the Dems take full control.
On the other hand, it seems to me that mapping the whole body is an exaggeration. Frankly, I find it revolting.
Again, motives and content make a different.
Finally, you could be committing a sin if you are so stupid as to choose a tattoo inflicter who isn’t very good. And you could be committing a sin if you are so stupid as to neglect checking your spelling or verifying that that cool looking Chinese phrase really does mean “World Peace” and not “Turkey Sandwich”.
Remember. Hangovers last a day. Tattoos…. longer than that.