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Question: At an ordination i saw a priest snap photos during mass, is this okay?

Q: At an ordination I saw a priest, vested and concelebrating, step away from the altar. He took out a camera and took photos (not once, but several times). The bishop seemed oblivious to this, but it puzzled me. Is this a matter of liturgical law or regulation; a breech of etiquette; or something else? To me it seemed quite out of place and inappropriate. But if it’s OK, I could overlook it. — J.P., Illinois

A: Among the few documents that address the theme of photographs at Mass is the 1967 instruction “Eucharisticum Mysterium,” issued by the Congregation of Rites. No. 23 briefly touches on this subject:

“Great care should be taken to ensure that liturgical celebrations, especially the Mass, are not disturbed or interrupted by the taking of photographs. Where there is a good reason for taking them, the greatest discretion should be used, and the norms laid down by the local Ordinary should be observed.”

Since the task of formulating precise norms and guidelines falls upon the local ordinary, many dioceses have issued directives, above all, related to weddings, baptisms and similar situations where photographers and camera technicians can easily get out of hand.

Not surprisingly, nobody mentions concelebrating priests taking photos for the simple reason that the possibility never crossed anybody’s mind.

A concelebrating priest taking pictures obviously violates the norm of disrupting and interrupting the Mass — in this case the Mass he himself is celebrating. The fact that he is a concelebrant takes nothing away from the fact that the Mass requires his complete and undivided attention.

The same could be said of other situations in which priests engage in activities which distract them during Mass. I once saw a priest choir director slip on a stole for the Eucharistic Prayer and attempt to concelebrate from the choir loft, a practice of very dubious validity.

Large concelebrations do sometimes have a detrimental effect on many of us priests, leading to a certain forgetfulness of who we are and what we are doing. Added to that, the ubiquitous digital camera has made multiple image-taking almost a reflex reaction.

A good rule of thumb for a priest is to not do anything that he would not do while celebrating alone with a congregation.

No priest (I hope) would whip out his camera or cell phone in the middle of his parish’s Sunday Mass and start snapping pictures. If that appears absurd, then it is no less so while concelebrating.

With the current ease for distributing digital photos, it should be easy to designate photographers for special occasions such as ordinations and make the pictures freely available to all.

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
ROME, 15 JUNE 2010



  1. David J. Hinkle Reply

    Personally, smart phones have ruined communication. Souls do not look deep into each other’s eyes as much in modern society. Modern technology in an attempt to help communication skills has only made us text more, tweet more, type more, like I’m doing now. Yet, something has been lost. An ancient art of just looking at someone in the eye and being able to read them. ” “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. ” – Personally, I am not as fond of smart phones as some are. I really don’t like the idea of any being turned on and operated during Mass. Is not the Mass important enough that one can just turn the smart phone off for just a little time. As a former Protestant, I really got tired of all the noise in church. I visited a Roman Catholic Mass for the first time in my life and was touched in a holy way. Why? Was it the readings? Was it the stained glass? Was it the alter? Smoke and Incense? The symbols that touched my heart. Well yes, all those things, but the one that reached into my broken heart and beaten soul was something very special. Quietness. If smart phones are allowed into mass, my fear is that the noise will come back. I don’t want anymore noise in my life. Lord knows I’ve had enough noise for a lifetime.

  2. Robert Gardner Reply

    I know that at my cousin’s children’s baptism, it was a circus of flashing phone cameras, Unfortunately, I am afraid many are not there for religious reasons and it does take away from the sanctity of the celebration. (You can pick out the people receiving communion that were not Catholics). The above rule is well founded, I imagine it is up to the Priest to notify attendees of what is appropriate ahead of time.

  3. Reply

    Never would i bring cellphone during mass. You need to focus into the Eucharist and no earthly things should distract the validity of a mass because you need to submit yourself to the lord our God.

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