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Catharine Vaz wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can you please tell me the Church's opinion of cosmetic and plastic surgery?

Also, could you provide any information regarding the Church's view on the morality of the issue.


  { What's the Church's opinion of cosmetic and plastic surgery? }

John replied:

Hi, Catherine —

Thanks for the question.

Well, cosmetic surgery covers quite a wide range of procedures. Certainly, the Church does not object to skin grafting for burn victims.

To the best of my knowledge, there is not a huge body of teaching on the specific topic of cosmetic surgery, but there are underlying Biblical principles with regards to modesty in the way one dresses, adorns oneself, and the extent to which one is consumed by their external appearance.

St. Peter in his Epistles admonishes us to let our inner beauty be our radiance, not to be excessive in our dress and jewelry.

Having said that, there is no prohibition against nice apparel, make up, earrings, or fashion.

The same principle should be used with regards to cosmetic surgery.

  • Is it pure vanity? or
  • Is it a reasonable procedure to correct a defect that is grossly distorting our appearance?

As Christians, we need to be careful that we don't become slaves to Madison Avenue images of what we should look like.

We need to ask ourselves:

  • What is the purpose of the surgery?

If a woman decides she is not enough of a woman, or that she is not turning enough heads on the beach, and decides to make certain areas "augmented" to attract more people to herself, then I'd say that is pretty close to, if not over, the line for vanity.

The same holds true for men, who are being told to be obsessed with their hairlines, or abs. Others are poorly advised to run out and get calf implants to appear more muscular.

The Church expects us to have genuine respect for our bodies, as they are part of the entire person and the Temple of Holy Spirit. Mutilation is not acceptable. While most people don't mutilate themselves, in the way we would use the word, excessive use of:

  • piercing
  • tattoos
  • bizarre hair styles, and
  • coloring

can be forms of mutilation rooted in an obsession to draw attention (positive or negative) to oneself.

This can be either a sign of low self value or vanity, which are two sides of the same coin.

Another consideration is the appropriateness of age. If a woman in her twenties has some kind of condition which makes her look like she is in her fifties, then one could argue that any cosmetic procedure, surgical or otherwise, used to alleviate the condition is therapeutic. On the other hand, if a person is seventy and is still getting face lifts in an obsessive attempt not to age, then I would say that it is a vanity issue. So the key question is:

  • Why is the person doing it?

Hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Mike replied:

Hi Catherine,

I just wanted to make a small comment off of what John has said.

I never could understand tattoos and piercings, especially on men.

I like the way God tattooed my face and pierced by body. That's good enough for me :)

The only one who doesn't like my face is my brother. Go figure :)

[Related posting]

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