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The Question of Tattoos, Pop Culture, and the Catholic Church.

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1 The Question of Tattoos, Pop Culture, and the Catholic Church


3 Earliest known tattooed specimen was a mummified body dating from around 3300BC These were simple tattoos of lines, dots, etc. Found on remains from ancient Egyptians, Germans, Gauls, and Britons Oldest picture tattoo was found on a Scythian Chief in southern Siberia Totem-like images in the same style as other art from that culture American tribes would prick the skin and rub soot into the scars; Inuit used needle and tread coated with soot to create images, while in southeast Asia they used a variety of tools to break the skin while introducing color Europeans re-discovered tattooing when they came across indigenous cultures in Southeast Asia, South America and even North America Sailors brought people back to Europe to show off through Circuses and side shows (18-19 th century) Sailors and other military personal began to get tattoos while in other countries Shops popped up around military bases

4 Why they tattooed themselves? Women tattoo themselves to show their specialized skills Ward off illness/evil Clan identification Harness the spirit of the animal through its image Mark spies (Greeks), criminals (Romans), slaves (Romans) Social status (Asia), mark of religion (Japan) Family Crest (Danes, Saxons, Norse) Profession (military, circus performers, working class, etc.) Countercultural (50s bikers, 60s social outcast, musicians) Youth Culture (90s-00s increase in HS and College students with tattoos, popular musicians, athletes, movie/TV actors)

5 Rebellious Anti-social Criminal Outcast Uneducated Foreign Exotic Enlisted service Vain Impulsive Artistic Alternative lifestyles Under-educated Remembrance Gang/organized crime Survivor


7 Leviticus 19:27-28 Do not clip your hair at the temples, nor trim the edges of your beard. Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD. Deals with rituals surrounding mourning. Members from the surrounding religions would shave their heads, cut off their beards, cut up their skin and mark themselves while mourning. These laws are repeated in three different places in the Tanach, but not the part about marking the skin (tattoos). In fact in Isaiah there is a reference to writing on ones flesh as a dedication to God. The Church does not teach that Sacred Scripture forbids tattooing, but the Church does offer principles by which to discern whether, in particular situations, it is sinful to be tattooed

8 Respect for Health and Bodily Integrity "Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good" (CCC 2288) If a particular act of tattooing entails a risk to health, it would be more or less sinful depending upon the gravity of the risk If a particular act involves mutilation (renders a bodily organ unable to perform its function) it is immoral (CCC 2297). The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who., by drunkenness or love of speed, endangers their own and others safety… (CCC 2290) Charity and Respect for the Souls of Others Tattoos whose words and images celebrate the demonic, are unchaste, or otherwise offend against charity are immoral the act of obtaining a tattoo can be rendered immoral if done so with an evil intention… ie to spite ones parents or society (CCC 1752)

9 Tattoos are not intrinsically evil, however the Church encourages diligent discernment before beginning the process Questions to consider: Does this particular act of tattooing or body piercing involve a risk to my health? Would this act mutilate methat is, would it inhibit the proper functioning of my skin or another organ of my body? Is the explicit message of my tattoo compatible with love of God and neighbor? Is the implicit message of my tattoo compatible with love of God and neighbor? Does it convey an implicitly unchaste message? Why do I want to get a tattoo or have my body pierced? If I am under the authority of my parents, would this act be an act of disobedience that would violate the Fourth Commandment? Would this particular act needlessly offend my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and thus hinder my ability to lead others to Christ and His Church? Can the expense involved be justified in light of the needs of my family, the Church, and the poor? Other things to think about How will it look after 3 years, 8 years, 20 years (gravity, sun exposure, weight change, accidents)? Is this an impulse decision? Could I wait a year and still consider getting it? Am getting pressured into it?


11 The morality of tattoos falls into a somewhat gray area…the act is not evil or sinful in itself, but instead it is dependent on the intention, the meaning, and the result of placing that particular image or word on your body. Prayer, Scripture, Tradition, reason, properly formed conscience, and Community are all means to evaluate decisions…and especially with something as permanent as a tattoo ALL of these avenues should be used Its an invasive procedure! There is pain, swelling, bleeding, and risk of infection, allergic reaction, and severe pain. Also its PERMANENT!! A little mistake can ruin the whole thing or completely change the meaning.


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