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Question Corner: COVID-19 vaccine booster

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Q. I am thinking of getting a tattoo on my arm of my late daughter's handwriting. Is there anything in Catholic teaching against this? (I want to do this for my 75th birthday which is coming up soon.) (Louisville, Ken.)

A. There is nothing in Catholic teaching that prohibits getting a tattoo.

Some point to a passage in Leviticus 19:28 that says, "Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves."

But in its context, that was a Jewish ceremonial prohibition that may have dealt with expressing devotion to a false god; two verses earlier Leviticus had warned, "Do not eat anything with the blood still in it."

Tattoos that are sexually explicit or satanic would naturally be immoral, as would a minor's choice to disobey a parent by getting a tattoo.

But a tattoo itself, even though it is permanent, violates no moral principle, and I see no problem with the questioner's getting a tattoo of her daughter's handwriting as a permanent memory.

I think it wise, though, for anyone considering a tattoo to ask: Will I still want this on my body 10 years from now?

COVID-19 vaccine booster

Q. My question regards the Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster. Six months ago, Catholic bishops were recommending to get any vaccine available, notwithstanding that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was morally questionable. But now, with vaccines no longer in short supply in the U.S., should Catholics receive a Johnson & Johnson booster, or should Catholics opt instead for the Pfizer or Moderna booster? (Henrico, Virginia)

A. To be precise, what the U.S. Catholic bishops said in March 2021 was this: "If one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson's."

That statement came from the chairmen of the bishops' Committees on Doctrine and on Pro-Life Activities. The moral preference for Pfizer or Moderna is based on the fact that, with these two, an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines.

I would judge that it would be permissible for one previously vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson to stay with J&J for the booster.

Editor's note: According to the current recommendations from the CDC, individuals eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot may opt for any of the vaccines authorized in the United States.


Pope kissing hand

Q. I have always seen on television the reverence shown to the pope, including people kissing his hand. I am wondering whether the pope ever kisses anyone else's hand. My understanding is that the Holy Father never does this. (Kansas)

A. The pope does, in fact, sometimes kiss people's hands. I can remember in 2014 a much-publicized visit of Pope Francis to Jerusalem.

At Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust, the pope laid a wreath of flowers and then kissed the hands of six Shoah survivors in a sign of humility and honor, as he heard their stories of loved ones killed by the Nazis during World War II.

More recently, in May 2021, following a general audience with the faithful at the Vatican, Pope Francis kissed the numbered tattoo of a survivor from the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

He leaned over 80-year-old Lidia Maksymowicz and kissed the tattooed "70072" on her elderly arm, then gave her a warm embrace, then blessed her head. Maksymowicz, a Polish citizen who was deported to Auschwitz from her native Belarus at the age of 3, was among the children who were experimented upon by Josef Mengele, the Nazi physician known as "the Angel of Death."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021