From small ankle tattoos to tattooed sleeves, I am seeing tattoos on men and women more and more frequently. In fact, an estimated 40 million Americans have at least one tattoo, and tattoo parlors are one of the fastest growing businesses in the U.S.
With the increased popularity of tattoos comes the question of their morality. After all, a tattoo is a permanent marking of the body—a serious issue to be sure. So are they wrong? Should a good Catholic get one?
I am well aware that the answers to this question vary widely. Some feel strongly that marking your body is always immoral. Others see tattoos as a perfectly legitimate form of self expression. But personal feelings aside, is there an objective answer? Let’s take a look.
Right or Wrong?
The primary argument opponents of tattoos cite is the Levitical law prohibiting them. Leviticus 19:28 says, “Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD.”
While this sounds like a fairly clear condemnation of tattoos, we have to keep in mind the context of the Old Testament law. It’s fairly obvious to me that the prohibition against tattoos was directly related to pagan worship, just as the prohibition against graven images was.
But regardless of the original intent, it is Catholic teaching that the old covenant ceremonial law no longer applies to us as new covenant faithful, and to say otherwise is contrary to the whole message of the New Testament. For example, immediately preceding and following that verse are prohibitions against trimming one’s beard and eating red meat. Now, I recently ate a medium rare steak, and I’m pretty confident I didn’t sin. I also regularly trim my beard, which also isn’t a sin (though some might think it is!).
There are literally hundreds of old covenant laws that no longer apply to us as Christians. We can’t cherry pick laws

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