Limits foreseen on photos in church

Guidelines for when and where photos can be taken of children, including in church services, are likely for dioceses in New Zealand.

The director of the National Office for Professional Standards in New Zealand, Bill Kilgallon, said many dioceses around the world have such policies.
Indeed, most organisations working with children do, he said.
But Mr Kilgallon was unaware of any diocesan guidelines on the topic in New Zealand.
Media reports recently detailed how Dublin archdiocese in Ireland is enacting a total ban on all photographs during religious services, including at weddings, Confirmations and Baptisms.
The reason for this is twofold — to protect children, and to reduce disruption to services.
A spokesperson for Dublin archdiocese said parental permission for a photo of a child can’t be given in the middle of a service.
The fear is that photos could get into the hands of potential abusers.
The Dublin ban arose out of guidelines introduced by Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
Each diocese in Ireland has been directed to have specific guidelines governing the filming and photography of children while they are on Church grounds, the Irish Independent reported.
Mr Kilgallon sees requirements of this sort eventually being being mandated worldwide. They already exist in the United Kingdom and have recently been introduced in Brisbane.
Mr Kilgallon heads the guidelines working group for the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that was set up by Pope Francis.
“I think it will become standard procedure that there will be guidelines for when and how people can take photographs of individual children or of groups of children they are working
with,” Mr Kilgallon told NZ Catholic.
He said it is sensible to ensure that photos of children are not taken without parental permission.
But he wasn’t sure that any future New Zealand guidelines would imitate the Dublin ban. Other dioceses in Ireland, while still having guidelines on the topic, haven’t gone as far as Dublin.
National Liturgy Office director Louise Campbell said there are parishes where people are requested not to take photos during some services, but rather order them from a professional
photographer who is present. But she wasn’t aware of any guidelines regarding ordinary Catholic church services in New Zealand.
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland business manager Kevin Sherlock said there is no overall policy at the cathedral regarding photos during services.
If professional film crews want to film in the cathedral for commercials or other professional reasons, the cathedral requires them to sign a film or photo application form, he said.
Mr Sherlock said it is usually families who want to take photos at Confirmations and Baptisms.
NZ Catholic also asked the Office of the Privacy Commissioner whether there is a reasonable assumption of privacy during church services under New Zealand law.
A spokesman said the consensus among those he spoke with at the commission is that there can be an expectation of privacy in a church.
“However, it is a grey area. While churches are clearly public places, we would expect that privacy is a factor, especially during some occasions, for example, when people are mourning
at funerals, or simply sitting in quiet reflection,” the spokesman said.
“It is arguable that there can be an expectation of privacy in a church,” he added.
The spokesman said a similar situation exists with public swimming pools, which are public places, but councils do put rules around photography, including banning photos of children
“These rules and guidelines do not contravene the Privacy Act and extend our cultural expectations of privacy — even if it is technically a public place where some might argue that there is no expectation of privacy,” he added.
It would be up to churches here to make their own determination on what is and what isn’t acceptable, he said.
An example of a photograph guideline from the United Kingdom is that of the Anglican diocese of Southwark, from their “A Safe Church” document.
“If, at a church-related event, children or adults who may be vulnerable use cameras or mobile phones to take photos of each other, or if parents or carers take photos of children or adults other than their own, they should be advised that these can be used for personal
use only, and should not be displayed in any publicly accessible space, including on Internet or web-based communication channels such as MySpace. Schools, including church schools, will have their own policies, which apply to children on school premises or engaged in school-sponsored activities.”

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Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Graeme says

    Silly me. When I saw the headline, I thought: “Oh, it looks like the bishops are giving consideration to respect for the Blessed Sacrament present in our churches”.

    No, no, just another totally secular bureaucratic initiative designed to justify the ongoing existence of the extraordinary, gratuitous National Office for Professional Standards.

    Oh, what Planned Giving funds are spent on !!

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