Concerning the obsession for photos at Liturgies – A Consideration of a Liturgical and Pastoral Problem


Msgr Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in the Archdiocese of Washington, has an interesting blog post about the obsession with photos during liturgical celebrations:

Concerning the obsession for photos at Liturgies – A Consideration of a Liturgical and Pastoral Problem

Consider the scene. The Bishop has taken his place at the entrance to the sanctuary. He is prepared to confirm some twenty children. It is a sacred moment, a Sacrament is to be conferred. The parents are in deep prayer thanking the Holy Spirit who is about to confirm their children for mission…… Oops, they are not!

Actually, they are fumbling with their cell phone cameras. Some are scrambling up the side aisle to “get the shot.” Others are holding the “phone” up in the air to get the blurry, crooked shot. The tussling continues in the side aisle as parents muscle to get in place for “the shot.” If “the shot” is gotten, success! If not, “woe is me.” Never mind that a sacrament has actually been offered and received, the point was “the shot,” the “photo-op.”

Consider another scene. It is First Holy Communion. Again, the children are assembled. This time the parents have been informed that a single parishioner has been engaged to take shots and could they please refrain from amateur photography. This is to little avail, “Who does that deacon think he is telling me to refrain, denying me the shot!?” The cell phones still stick up in the air. Even worse, the parish photographer sends quick word via the altar server, “Could Father please slow down a bit in giving the children communion? It is difficult to get a good shot at the current (normal) pace.” After the Mass the photographer has two children along side, could Father perhaps “re-stage” the communion moment for these two since, in the quick (normal) pace of giving Communion, their shot was bad, as the autofocus was not able to keep up…”Look how blurry it is Father.”

It would seem the picture is the point.


The rest is well worth reading.

Your thoughts?


I largely agree because even the professional ones, at ordinations, get in the way and distract. I hate it. The only way to do away with it is the parish take it into their own hands, make sure the professional photographer is well versed in where to stand and what to do (all black would be a good thing). But, this has to be discussed at the meetings with the parents. DO NOT TAKE PICTURES DURING MASS!


I agree. This is a problem at other services (as in not formal Masses) as well. I assisted at my parish this year with the First Reconciliation service for the second graders, and one mother actually followed her child to the pew where the priest was waiting to hear the child’s confession, in order to take pictures. Father had to ask her to step away and give them privacy. :eek:


It was as late as 1985 when my then parish announced that no pictures were to be taken of the Eucharist.

I don’t when that changed, perhaps with the advent of cell phone cameras?


:yup: I thought I remembered that also. I think just asking them to put away their phones is the best start.
I don’t have one anymore so that temptation is completely gone. The only time I regret not having one is when an outright serious liturgical abuse is happening - get it on record to show what I am talking about. But, I am thankful even in those circumstances to not let it disturb my peace - focus on the abuse.


Sigh, I happened to be present for the spectacle of First Holy Communion at my parish. They actually encouraged people to take photos, and just asked that people not step in the sanctuary to get their photos) and Father would turn and kneel down for every child, so that their parent could get their photo. There were people rushing up the main aisle, the side aisles, squeezing by other first communicants with their cameras, their ipads and phones. Whatever happened to reverence and dignity during First Holy Communion, how are we supposed to express the Holy mystery to kids, if their First Holy Communion is a zoo?


In my experiment the only way for a pastor to keep people from taking pictures at First Holy Communion or Confirmationn would be to have the rule enforced by very large ushers. I am not sure how well that would go over in the parish.


The only time we’ve been successful at stopping the photography frenzy is at Baptism, which are almost always celebrated during Mass. We always do a walk-through/refresher with the parents and godparents a few days or the evening before the Baptism. At that time they are instructed in what we expect with regards to pictures during the ceremony. Granted our Font is in the sanctuary and the family sits in the first pew so that makes our instructions easy to follow.

*]Appoint 1 person to take pictures if you want some.
*]That person slips into the pew you have just vacated to come up to the Font.
*]That person uses zoom to get close ups, never approaches the sanctuary and stays in the pew in order not to make him/herself the focus at this moment.
With one notable exception our instructions are followed. The exception is that of the most prolific family in our parish. One member almost crawled over Fr. to get ‘the perfect shot’.


The solution is a “photo op” after the Mass…the problem?

Well, while we are quick to criticize the parents, friends, and other family members for taking photos during the liturgy, many times, on the rare occasions when he does visit a parish, the Bishop makes a quick exit due to other important commitments (I am assuming) on his calendar.

The Pastoral approach would be to make the sheep as important as the shepherd, and plan on making his parish visit longer.


This is just what happened at the Confirmation I was at a few weeks ago. Our bishop was most pastoral, and made himself available long after the service for formal and impromptu photos. Honestly, the photo of us standing at the altar with the bishop, facing the camera, (I was a sponsor) was much better than the “back of the head” shot one would get during the actual confirmation. Once everyone knew there would be ample opportunities for photos after the sacrament, those that could not resist at least stayed in the pews with their cell phones. I applaud our bishop for the time and attention he devoted to all of us that day.


Now that’s a shepherd!!:thumbsup:


This is going to be a tough battle to fight because it’s bigger than the Church. It’s a problem for concert theaters, cinemas, and other secular venues as well.

We’ve turned into a society where life exists on the internet. Until an event is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, (or for those still living in the Stone Age: Flicker and Photobucket) it just hasn’t happened.* And of course we ought to broadcast it on Ustream so the relatives and friends attending their own events can all be one big happy family.

We want our Church to be one happy family, right? :rolleyes:

Perhaps the Church needs to start a campaign saying that it’s the event, not the photo, that matters. I’m not sure I want to go so far as to have the ushers telling people to turn off their devices or leave like they do at the movies but maybe it will come to that someday.

I’m not holding my breath that this will change anytime soon. People have been taking photos of sacraments for years now. They might have been more selective when they had to worry about the cost of film and developing it. But digital media and always connected media devices have changed people.

  • I’m guessing anyone who reads this post in the future will be laughing about my “old school” references to media sharing.


That is the usual procedure in our parish. After confirmation the bishop sticks around for photographs. (But that doesn’t stop people from wanting to take their own photos of the actual confirmation itself.)


I recently went to a Christening which was a lovely family oriented affair…but there was an official photographer ( from the parents I imagine) creeping around getting pictures with a HUGE camera. Didn’t seem right to me. There’s an urge to photograph everything!


I know it’s a bit off topic but I think I can connect it. :slight_smile:

We have a new theatre in our town, the perfect venue for the annual ‘kiddie dance recital’. We don’t allow photography in our theatre and the first recital after we opened was a particularly hard time when dads with large cameras were told “NO, Sorry, there is no photography allowed.” They were so angry!!

Then one of them came out after it was all over and said, “Thank you. It’s the first time I’ve really seen my child dance. I’ve always been so busy trying to get the best shot that I’ve never really paid attention to what she was actually doing.”

It’s the same at weddings and other sacraments. Family members with cameras are so intent on getting the perfect shot that they totally miss what is actually happening.


Yes, our bishop does this (stays after and has group shots with the newly confirmed) and you know what, he was outrageously accused of “molesting” a boy during the photo op. It was of course all ridiculous, but he was out of active ministry for over 3 months, while we waited for the “investigators” to declare the accusations to be baseless. So much for being able to make time for the sheep.


I know of two photographers who are able to take pictures at Masses without being distracting. It’s amazing to watch both of them work, they’re able to naturally stay out of sight for the people, but get into ideal places to photograph the liturgy.

For everyone else, there’s the USCCB for photographers, How to Cover the Mass.


The obsession with taking photos is ridiculous. I remember when no photos were allowed during Mass or any sacrament. Wedding photos were taken after Mass. First Communion photos were taken before or after Mass with the whole group or individually at home. There is no reason that anyone needs to capture that exact moment when their child actually receives First Holy Communion. It’s not a show people - it’s a sacrament.


I think one reason two of my daughters still (more or less) practice our faith is a pastoral bishop who stuck around. The youngest was 16, being confirmed; the oldest was 21 and her Confirmation sponsor. Afterwards, the bishop stayed to meet and greet and have photos taken. One girl was on each side and everyone was smiling for the photo op. At the count of three, as the camera clicked, both girls kissed him on his cheeks! Smiles, surprise, laughter . . . it all added to the joy of the moment and has been long remembered sense.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit