Church bans parents from taking Communion and Confirmation photos
Parents are being banned from taking Confirmation pictures during the ceremony - because the Catholic Church fears images of children may end up in the hands of potential abusers.
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 rules derive from the 'Safeguarding Standards' guidelines, introduced by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCC), in 2008.These stipulate that each diocese must have robust child protection policies in place, which are "implemented consistently".
The National Board was established in response to the clerical abuse scandals, as a way of ensuring that a given set of standards were put in place, and are adhered to.
"It's to avoid a situation whereby photos get into the wrong hands of potential abusers," said Ger Kenny, spokesman for the NBSCCC.
"The risk issue is people will be taking pictures of kids who are not related to them, and for inappropriate reasons."
Annette O'Donnell, spokeswoman for the Dublin Archdiocese, said there is a ban on taking photographs during any religious ceremony.
These include confirmations, baptisms and weddings. She said it extends to all churches in the Dublin diocese.
She stressed this is now "best practice" for anyone dealing with groups of children, whether they are in "churches, schools or sports clubs".
"Parents are not allowed take pictures during Mass. Our child protection officers tell our parishes not to allow photography without parental consent.
"The practice during confirmations is that we ask people not to take photographs, full stop," she told the Irish Independent.
"The guidance issued to all churches is that no photography is allowed during Mass."
Ms O'Donnell said the guidelines have a twofold objective.
"One is for child protection reasons, the other is that it would be a huge distraction for the religious ceremony taking place. We can't have a situation whereby somebody is standing up taking photographs during Mass - people might be taking pictures of children without parental consent.
"Because you can't control people getting up and down during a ceremony, you don't know who's being photographed. While Mass is ongoing, it is impossible to establish if parental consent has been given to photograph a child. It's just too difficult to try and organise things in this fashion.
"During a confirmation, all the kids are sitting into the pews. You have no control over it, and parents can't give permission while the Mass is ongoing."
Ms O'Donnell pointed out that when the child is brought to the church, they are accompanied by their parents, but when they're in the congregation "this is not the case".
"So at that point photographs are not allowed," she said.
"People can take photographs afterwards, when the child is back with their parents. That is the easiest way to monitor things."
The child protection measures
The Safeguarding Standards stress the importance of monitoring how children communicate with religious, volunteers, and each other, when using digital and online systems by way of the internet, mobile phones, and email.
• They state it is important to develop "guidance to reduce the risk to children associated with online activity".
• All efforts should be made to prevent children being groomed online by paedophiles.
• Children also need to be protected from online bullying, accessing or being exposed to inappropriate or harmful material, or having personal contact details which are not secure.
• Care needs to be taken over personal images being uploaded and used without consent.
• It is also important to think about how Church organisations, Church personnel and volunteers, use images (photographs/film) of children in publications or on websites.
• Guidance needs to be developed to make sure that the content of a photograph or film is appropriate.
• Photographs and images likely to be published in the press or on the internet should avoid using children's full names and detailed addresses.
• Parents and children should consent to the use of an image, and this should be recorded.
• One-to-one photo sessions with children should always be supervised.