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Obscene TikTok video shot in a church in Paris: parish priest reacts

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L'église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, à Paris.

Fr. Pierre Vivarès - published on 02/23/22

Fr. Pierre Vivarès, a pastor in Paris, reacts to a provocative TikTok video that was filmed without authorization at his parish.

Many people were rightly shocked by a TikTok video shot on February 16 in the Parisian church, Saint Paul-Saint Louis, where I am the parish priest. The video was published on social networks (Tik-Tok, Instagram, Twitter …). Let me tell you the story.

On the morning of February 17, I woke up to find my phone saturated with messages informing me that an unnecessarily crude and ridiculous TikTok video had been shot the day before in the Calvary Chapel of our parish church. It shows two young people, barely adults I think, in crop-tops twerking and miming suggestive scenes.

The childish video had reached 1 million views at noon, so the communication office of the diocese called me at the end of the morning to help us coordinate our response. I informed them of the e-mail that I had sent to the young man in the morning and the diocese published the following press release in the afternoon.

Reaction of the Diocese of Paris following the posting of a video filmed without authorization in the Church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis (4th district):

“The Diocese of Paris regrets the useless vulgarity of the video shot in the Church of Saint Paul-Saint Louis, a place of prayer and peace, and broadcast on the social network TikTok.

The parish priest of Saint Paul-Saint Louis has contacted the author of the video, filmed without authorization, asking him to remove it from his account within 24 hours.

The parish priest of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis will explore all legal possibilities to stop the infringement of his rights that constitute the capture and distribution of this video without prior express authorization.

We remind you that the parish priest in charge of each parish must give his express prior authorization for any photographic or audiovisual recording or broadcasting and can refuse his authorization for photo sessions or filming that he deems incompatible with the church’s mission (law of 1905).

The Diocese of Paris reminds us that churches are buildings permanently assigned to Catholic worship: no video or film can be shot in these buildings without the express authorization of the parish priest.

Indignation, compassion among reactions

This young man published another video, in the course of the afternoon, in which he proclaimed that he does not apologize and does not see what he did wrong; however, he contacted lawyers because of the hate messages he received, especially on Twitter. Indeed, there are some particularly hateful posts, and this is deeply regrettable. But there are also more than 60,000 comments on his video, published mainly by young people (Christians, atheists, Muslims, Jews…) who reproach him for being disrespectful, that it is a scandal to do this in a church, to shock a community, to use the Church to create a buzz by asking him to remove his post. It is rather reassuring to see all these messages, often well written and thoughtful, testifying to the faith that animates these young people and/or their desire not to hurt anyone.

It is encouraging to see the overwhelming majority of reactions from these same young people, who are hypersensitive to what can be done to them and to what can be done to others.

The parish also received many messages during the day to warn us about the post: at midnight, TikTok banned his account and consequently this video which had reached 6 million views. However, the young man created several new accounts on the evening of February 17 and posted it again. Here we are on February 18: a bailiff has noted the facts and we will study the legal procedure to follow on this case with the lawyers of the Diocese of Paris, the original deadline of 24 hours having expired.

Respect for places of worship

In this instance, the question is not what this young man is doing but where he is doing it. Many people believe that a place of worship, because it is open to the public during the day, is a public place where one can do whatever one wants. However, no place in France is a space of absolute freedom, without any restraint: you can’t walk naked in the street for example, because it would be an attack on modesty, you can’t sell what you want where you want because there are laws about commerce, you can’t say whatever you want about whomever you want because your reputation must be protected and respected. All these laws exist to bolster respect for one another and life in a community. The reactions of young people were not about the fact that he was dressed in a crop-top while twerking but about the place where he was doing it.

It is regrettable that some young people choose to live so caught up on social media networks and want to make a buzz at any cost. It is encouraging to see the overwhelming majority of reactions from these same young people, who are hypersensitive to what can be done to them and to what can be done to others. This story gives us the opportunity to say again in the public square that in a place of worship in France, no matter what religion, nothing can take place without the agreement of the person in charge of this place of worship.

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