Down with this sort of thing..

RTÉ were in trouble with the Vatican back in May this year when a camera crew breached Italian law by filming an Italian actress dressed as a cleric in “a religiously sensitive area”. Now, as reported by IOL News, and here at the Irish Times[subs req], they’ve fallen foul of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission in Ireland who, following a complaint by a Fr. Desmond – that it was a “tasteless and vulgar display, a mockery of the Blessed Eucharist, the central tenet of the Catholic faith” and that “no reputable broadcasting body would insult the religion held by the majority of the people” – have ruled that a scene in the satirical RTÉ 2 programme The Unbelievable Truth – Colin Farrell’s darkest secrets “was likely to be offensive to people of particular religious beliefs.” – Full ruling here [Word doc] [You know, there is an off-button – Ed]From the BCC ruling

Decision of the Commission

The Commission has considered the broadcast, the submissions made by the complainant and the broadcaster. This programme was a satirical take on the character and lifestyle of the actor Colin Farrell. The Commission notes that the content was somewhat irreverent from the outset. It was also evident to the viewer that the humour was edgy and flippant. The Commission would also acknowledge that humour often walks a tightrope in regard to taste and decency. However, due care needs to be taken with religious beliefs. In this particular broadcast, a scene included an actor (supposedly Colin Farrell) as a priest performing the sacrament of Holy Communion. The setting is in a church, with four men in attendance and the background music was of a religious nature. In the course of the scene, the actor priest from the altar states ‘Look, I knows youse are horny and I feel your frustration. I’m here to give of my body so that you can eh commit sins. Now who’s first, lets go? The four men approach the altar and the actor priest states: ‘Body of Colin Farrell’. At the end of the scene the camera zooms in on the ‘chalice’, which is shown to contain ‘viagra’. The Eucharist is central to the Catholic Faith, a sacrament. In common with all religious beliefs, sacraments should be treated with respect. However, in this particular scene, the Eucharist was treated in a totally disrespectful manner. The Commission was of the view that the scene was likely to be offensive to people of particular religious beliefs. Such treatment of any religious belief is inappropriate. The manner in which a sacrament was used for a laugh in this section of the programme went beyond acceptable standards. The Commission was of the opinion that it was offensive. The complaint was upheld with reference to Section 24(2)(b)(taste & decency, pursuant to RTÉ’s ‘Programme-Makers’ Guidelines’).

The Irish Times report quotes a RTÉ spokeswoman:

However, a spokeswoman for the station said yesterday that the station now accepted the view of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission that the scene was offensive to people of particular religious beliefs. She added that the station would issue an apology in a matter of weeks.

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  • Hurler on the Ditch

    Groan…..

    Most depressed by RTE saying they will issue an apology in a matter of weeks… FOR WHAT????

    Apart from Fr Desmond who else was traumatised by this. And the sheer duplicity of apologising for this while still allowing Pat Kenny on the telly……

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all, Yea for Fr. Des! He did a good thing to stand up and say it was wrong…and he got results! I always find it amazing how people react if a Catholic says they are offended by someone’s speech or actions. Even the report on this says…”You know there is an off button.” Like Catholics are suppose to shut up and take it or…pretend it isn’t there. I’m really glad that Fr. Des did what he did!

  • smcgiff

    Bah! Religionists!!!

  • Colm

    Kathy

    What about those who are offended by the RC church’s teachings. Should the Church be censored ?

  • Pete Baker

    Kathy

    Try to lift your focus from the specific to the general.

    From the BCC ruling

    The Commission was of the view that the scene was likely to be offensive to people of particular religious beliefs. Such treatment of any religious belief is inappropriate.

    Is that really a precedent the BCC should set for satirical treatment of any religious belief?

  • The People’s Front of Judea

    Careful Now!

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,
    Colm, If what the Catholic Church offends you…then don’t be a member…don’t go to that church…. But there is a huge difference between putting on something over the airwaves into everyone’s home with material that is offensive to someone’s religious beliefs and stepping inside a church to hear that religious belief.
    Pete, there is a difference in satirical treatment and down right offensive.

  • Rory

    Is that really a precedent the BCC should set for satirical treatment of any religious belief?

    Perhaps not, Pete. But if for all relgious beliefs then there is no good reason why Catholic belief should be excluded.

    In any case although the line between offence taken and the grossness of offence intended may be obscure and difficult to define, there are occassions on which it can be seen, even by the disinterested observer, that the clear intention was to insult and humiliate those who hold the belief sytem and while I would not legislate against that freedom to be insensitively bad mannered I think that our public institutions do well to have an advisory body to issue admonitory slaps when needed.

    After all we have such a system even on Slugger do we not?

  • TL

    “Such treatment of any religious belief is inappropriate.”
    Really seems a step against the winds of time doesn’t it?

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    In case you didn’t understand the point I was making, which I doubt, let me expand on my view.

    No religious belief should be so protected from satire.. and certainly not on the basis that a cleric of that belief has complained of being offended by the satire.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Pete Baker: “No religious belief should be so protected from satire.. and certainly not on the basis that a cleric of that belief has complained of being offended by the satire. ”

    Really? Then why the kid gloves treatment of Islam by the BBC as opposed to the promotion of “The Springer Opera?”

    You say none should be safe and that is all well and good and legal. But the BBC is already treating the religions differently, seemingly favoring some and disparaging others. Odd behavior for a supposedly independent and neutral organization, wouldn’t you say?

    I don’t disagree with your ideal, Pete, but its not the current reality.

  • Pete Baker

    Dread

    Do you see me defending the BBC’s hypocrisy on that issue?

    *sheesh*

  • Hurler on the Ditch

    Kathy.
    Kathy,

    Just out of interest if you found this so offensive I presume you wrote a letter yourself? Or perhaps you didn’t see it and instead wrote a few letters to complain about “Father Ted”?????

    Personally I agree with Pete in that once you go down the road of saying you can’t show anything that could be deemed offensive to a religious grouping then you are faced with more extremely difficult questions.

    What constitutes a religion grouping? And what happens when two religions are offended by each other?

  • joeCanuck

    Pete

    “No religious belief should be so protected from satire.. and certainly not on the basis that a cleric of that belief has complained of being offended by the satire.”

    Totally agree but the original “sin/crime” of filming it in a place holy to some showed utter disrespect

  • Pete Baker

    joe

    the setting was in a church.. it doesn’t say it was filmed in a church.

  • Pete Baker

    And, in any event, that wasn’t the basis of the complaint.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Until all religions are treated the same, then these sort of complaints are legitimate.

    Simply pointing out your idealism is misplaced, at least at the moment. The disparagement by some of Fr. Desmond for pointing out this obvious hypocrisy is equally misplaced.

    Did not mean to imply you were defending the BBC; Simply pointing out we’re not in a place your ideal is particularly applicable.

  • Cynic

    So that’s any chance of repeats of Father Ted buggered then! They must breach this ‘guidline’ around 3 tiems every episode.

  • Hurler on the Ditch

    Where did Fr Desmond point this out?

    All I have from him is:

    “The complainant submits that this tasteless and vulgar display was a mockery of the Blessed Eucharist, the central tenet of the Catholic faith. No reputable broadcasting body would insult the religion held by the majority of the people.”

    So basically he has a problem with it as it is insulting to Catholicism… no mention of double standards…

  • Pete Baker

    Just to reiterate what the Hurler has indicated earlier in-thread.

    “..once you go down the road of saying you can’t show anything that could be deemed offensive to a religious grouping then you are faced with more extremely difficult questions.

    Here’s a recent example I noted of just such a self-styled religious group complaining of being offended by satire –

    Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu

  • joeCanuck

    Pete

    I understand that.
    But wasn’t the film crew arrested in Rome a few months ago for filming it in a church setting or am I mixing things up?
    Two seperate things I know so that’s why I said “original”.
    The ruling itself is quite ridiculous.

  • Pete Baker

    joe

    That case is indeed different as Italian law forbids the wearing of clerical outfits by non-clerics. But the circumstances of that particular case may call into question the way that law was applied.

  • TAFKABO

    I guess it makes sense that since we have had Vatican II, we ought to have Dark Ages II as well.
    I just hope I’m not around for Spanish Inquisition II.

    (Anyone makes a Monty Python joke and they get kicked in the teeth)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I was just pleased that Podge and Rodge got away with it again… Feckin class!

  • Rory

    Pete,

    No religious belief should be so protected from satire

    I am in total agreement. I even would go further and indeed have, defending such as has been considered blasphemous (of my own childhood’s religion’s sensibilities). But only if those works (e.g. Kazantzakis’s novels, Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ and Martin Scorcese’s film adaption thereof and Jerry Springer – The Opera and Life of Brian and, of course, Marx’s infamous “opium of the people”) had a deep spiritual content themselves that had a purpose of appealing to a deeper level within the adherents of the belief systems they critiqued.

    I would not dream of mocking those who hold to the doctrine of predestination for example, precisely because I do not hold to that view nor have any roots in religious or cultural exposure to it. I would debate with another who does as I would with a Muslim or a Jew but I would not take mocking, sniggering, “Oh aren’t I so smart” postures before them.

    I find that Catholics best criticise and gently mock the shortcomings and contradictions of their own faith among themselves as do Jews of theirs and likewise Muslims among their own (and trusted infidels) of theirs. Funny enough for all my much longer exposure and adherence to Marxist philosophy I find great reluctance among the brethren for any similar sort of self critical mockery. But then the same is true of the more ardent of freedom loving social democrats.

    For all that, public broadcasting has a greater responsibility not to grossly offend or incite anger without good purpose other than to satisfy the needs of smugness in the chattering classes.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Hurler: His complaint, in light of other events, highlights this hypocrisy. The BBC, both as a state-supported entity AND as a supposedly independent news organization, should not be in the business of playing favorites amoungst the various religions.

  • hurler on the Ditch

    “I just hope I’m not around for Spanish Inquisition II.”

    NOBODY EXPECTS THE….

    “(Anyone makes a Monty Python joke and they get kicked in the teeth)”

    aw drat…

  • TL

    Thanks hurler, the pressure was backing up from the Monty joke not being told…I feel better now.

  • Pete Baker

    Ah, “the needs of smugness in the chattering classes.”

    You know, Rory, I was just about to agree with you.. and then you slipped into the class war rhetoric.. ;o)

    You do realise that your own argument suggests you should only be debating with those of the Marxist philosophy?

  • hurler on the Ditch

    Dread.

    I agree totally but this was not the point of his complaint. We will never know how supportive he would be of somebody complaining about a film portraying the immaculate conception from a religious group who saw this as a blasphemy of sorts.

    Personally I would be against any censorship of “offensive” material against religions (for previously outlined reasons among others) but if there is a policy it should apply to all equally as you say.

  • joeCanuck

    rory

    We need more rather than less critical self examination, and satire is a time honoured way of doing it.

    “A life unexamined is not worth living” – Socrates or Plato?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    hurler: “Personally I would be against any censorship of “offensive” material against religions (for previously outlined reasons among others) but if there is a policy it should apply to all equally as you say. ”

    Ideally, the BBC should favor NO religious perspective, not should it favor an atheistic perspective…

    That said, and I acknowledge the impossibility of an absolute absence of bias , I would not countenance your suggestion until some sort of parity was achieved.

    Hurler: “Personally I would be against any censorship of “offensive” material against religions (for previously outlined reasons among others) but if there is a policy it should apply to all equally as you say. ”

    There is, at least allegedly a policy (you might not know it by some of the things the BBC does) and it should be enforced.

    Likewise, I would say that anything factually accurate and not shown in a time-inappropriate slot and not generally obscene (i.e. it is not osbcene on its face, regardless of religious content or lack thereof) should be given a bye.

  • TL

    Joe,
    It was Socrates.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Sorry folks but exactly how far do you go with this? If myself and a dozen ‘converts’ decide to worship the God of Cheddar Cheese and then kick up a stink because our beliefs are being trampled on by the behaviour of Tescos towards our holy object, does this mean it has to be taken off the shelves? Where do you stop? Santa worshippers vetting Christmas cards? Star Trek religionists taking out injunctions to stop William Shatner’s house being bulldozed?
    Face it, if you’re daft enough to believe in this sort of nonsensical delusion (and yes I’m including trans-substantiation and papal infallability here), you fully deserve people to have a pop at you, just as atheists are widely ridiculed by religious ‘believers’ for being ‘non-believers.’ This sort of nonsense needs to have it’s pomposity well and truly pricked.
    If you let religionists away with this sort of self-reverential twaddle, next thing they’ll be telling you contraceptives are wrong, stem call research is ‘playing God’ and women shouldn’t be equal to men. Er….

  • Rory

    We only know of Socrates via the writings of Plato, Joe. As with Jesus, the Christ and the Gospel chroniclers, he left no written record.

    Sometimes I think it might not be a bad idea meself. The image we hold of both these men rather conflicts with Shakespeare’s Mark Antony in his funeral speech in Julius Caesar “The evil that men do lives after them/the good is oft interred with their bones”.

    But Socrates is good for me and I try to live his advice every hour, often finding less but sometimes more than I might have thought.

    At this very moment though I am examining Pete’s last response and trying to find if he has exposed some hitherto unknown truth in me which needs revising.

  • TL

    Excuse me Rory for not making my distinction finer.

  • Rory

    Not at all, TL. It was your response to Joe that prompted me to elaborate (and of course gave me opportunity to go on at another tangent).

  • TL

    Of course Rory we do know of Socrates through Aristophanes as well. Which actually furthers your point and directly speaks to the issue at hand…making fun of very serious issues and being castigated by those who take themselves all too seriously.

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    The BBC operates under a Royal Charter. A Royal Charter is given by the monarch to give added legitimicy to an incorportated body. The begining of the royal charter for the bbc (you can find it on the web by doing a search) states:

    “Elizabeth the second by the grace of God of the united kingdom of great britain and northern Ireland and of our other realms and territories queen, head of the commonwealth, defender of the faith……”

    again I state, by the law of the united kingdom, the sovereign can not be a Catholic…

    Now here’s the problem, the head of the anglican church…the queen gives the bbc a royal charter to produce and air television programs. She gives the charter as the defender of the faith…the anglican faith. When the bbc airs a program that mocks the basic centered belief of the Catholics (the Eucharist)…the motives can be questioned.

    The queen gives the nod of approval to the bbc and the bbc by airing the programs gives it’s nod of approval to a program that mocks what Catholics believe. Now as a Catholic I believe it is the true Faith…and the queen of england is not the defender of the faith as her title states because her faith is anglican. She can feel her faith is the faith…just as I can feel my faith is the faith…but for a television company to take her charter as her being the defender of the faith…elevates the anglican church above mine…and when the television company mocks my beliefs….yes, it can be questioned.
    Hurler, you asked if I wrote a letter to the BBC? What I did several years ago was to have my PBS station stop saying that the BBC was the best news organization in the world…becaue the PBS stations get US federal funding…I didn’t want US federal tax dollars being used to promote a british news organzition…I didn’t mind watching the BBC…I do nearly every night…I did mind it being said it was the best…Fortunately, it is no longer promoted as the best news organziation on a federally funded station.

  • harpo

    ‘Hi all, Yea for Fr. Des! He did a good thing to stand up and say it was wrong…and he got results! I always find it amazing how people react if a Catholic says they are offended by someone’s speech or actions. Even the report on this says…”You know there is an off button.” Like Catholics are suppose to shut up and take it or…pretend it isn’t there. I’m really glad that Fr. Des did what he did!’

    Kathy:

    I hope that you are consistent and support those Muslims who were offended by those cartoons. This is just the same thing, and presumably you don’t agree with unrestricted free speech.

  • harpo

    Rory post #1:

    ‘there are occassions on which it can be seen, even by the disinterested observer, that the clear intention was to insult and humiliate those who hold the belief sytem and while I would not legislate against that freedom to be insensitively bad mannered I think that our public institutions do well to have an advisory body to issue admonitory slaps when needed.’

    Rory post #2:

    ‘No religious belief should be so protected from satire

    I am in total agreement.’

    Rory:

    Could you explain the contradiction here? First you want public bodies to be in place to stop/punish behaviour that is deemed offensive, but then you say no religion should be protected from satire.

    Is your point that while people should be free to carry out such activities, they may end up getting punished for it? If so, what exactly is the difference between legislating against it (which implies punishment for the offence) and being punished for it by some other means? Neither means that someone is free to do something. Freedom implies that one will not be punished for carrying out an activity.

  • harpo

    ‘The BBC, both as a state-supported entity AND as a supposedly independent news organization, should not be in the business of playing favorites amoungst the various religions.’

    Dread:

    Great work. You went from a complaint against RTE to ‘whatabout the Brits?’ in one post.

  • harpo

    ‘but for a television company to take her charter as her being the defender of the faith…elevates the anglican church above mine…and when the television company mocks my beliefs….yes, it can be questioned.’

    Kathy:

    I understand that you are from the US, but come on. Are you really claiming that the BBC exists to promote the Anglican faith, and in turn put down Catholicism?

    I thought I had seen it all with respect to whataboutery, but this obsession of yours (expressed here as ‘again I state, by the law of the united kingdom, the sovereign can not be a Catholic’) has got the better of you.

    Is there no subject that can’t be turned around to a discussion of the supposed British plot to do away with Catholicism?

    [edited]

    And I don’t care if I get red-carded for that.

    [a reminder of the Commenting policy will do.. this time – edited Moderator]

  • harpo

    ‘Hurler, you asked if I wrote a letter to the BBC?’

    Kathy:

    No hurler didn’t. He was referring to the BCC – the Irish body that is dealing with this complaint.

    I wonder now if instead of being mad you are both mad and confused.

    This thread was about a programme that RTE showed. You may not know this, but it is the Irish state broadcaster, and has nothing to do with the BBC, the British state braodcaster. The BBC is not being held accountable for broadcasting this show, but RTE is.

    So why are you having a go at the BBC for something that RTE did?

    The Irish state broadcaster (RTE) broadcast this show, and as far as I know, they are not controlled by the BBC, nor are they subject to any Royal Charter which in your universe is how the Queen controls those whose mission is to carry out her evil plan to eliminate the Catholic church.

    Are you getting the point yet? This is solely an Irish issue. No British involvement. No need for ‘whatabout the Queen and her mission to put down Catholics?’.

  • Rory

    You know, Rory, I was just about to agree with you.. and then you slipped into the class war rhetoric

    Damn, Pete, I nearly had you reeled in and lost you. I was often told I would be useless as a salesman – just couldn’t land that closing killer blow.

    That old class war you just mentioned – it just will not go away will it? Not anyway until, as darling Danton said (recalling Voltaire) “the last princeling is hanged by the bowels of the last bishop”. (Substitute the modern equivalents as necessary).

  • Rory

    Harpo,

    Thanks for drawing attention to what I see could readily be construed as apparent contradictions in my first two posts.

    It really boils down to the apparent dichotomy between freedom and responsibility and is maybe best exemplified in the old example, relating to freedom of speech, of shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. There is no law that prohibits it, nor one that could be framed easily that did not impinge on other non-threatening freedoms, but it would be a dereliction of adult duty not to warn our children of the dangers of exercising that freedom.

    Does that do it for you, or do you need me to elaborate?

    TL,

    Thank you for reminding us all of Aristaphones who makes the message of Socrates more available, via theatre, to a wider public – or at least did once. But in any case his influence and the Socratic wisdom yet lingers strong in modern theatre and I suppose that is the true test of the value of Socrateic thought.

  • harpo

    ‘There is no law that prohibits it, nor one that could be framed easily that did not impinge on other non-threatening freedoms, but it would be a dereliction of adult duty not to warn our children of the dangers of exercising that freedom.

    Does that do it for you, or do you need me to elaborate?’

    Rory:

    No that doesn’t do. Lots of fine words there, but no answer. No elaboration is needed, just a short answer.

    I’m not asking if our children should be warned, I want to know which of the 2 things you have said is the one that you stand behind.

    You first said that there should be some public body to slap people if they engage in such activity – punishment presumably – then you said you were against legislation. You didn’t originally mention this third point, adults warning chldren about such activity, and it doesn’t address the original question since you don’t mention the adults slapping anyone if there is such activity.

    So which is it? Unrestricted freedom, with people warning others about the consequences, or monitoring and punishment in some form, whether legislated or via a public body?

  • Rory

    Oh dear! you do make things difficult, Harpo. I had not realised that you were such a literalist and I suppose that is my fault for not having picked up on it.

    When I used the fire/theatre example I was using an analogy which I thought was readily understandable as when I used ‘slap’ earlier. I am sorry that you don’t understand this method of discourse but you may often find very good examples of it in an everyday adventure of The Simpsons, indeed the whole bloody concept is analogical.

    “Unrestricted freedom” – or…? Are you kidding? There cannot be unrestricted freedom – man is a social animal (altthough I can understand some people’s reluctance to enter into it at times, like right at this bloody moment for example) and freedom of speech and action is necessarily self-curtailed for reasons of peace, co-operation and simple survival.

    If you doubt me then please feel free to walk up the Shankill Road on Saturday night exercising your perfect freedom to sing “The Boys of the Old Brigade”.

    Admiring of examples of conspicuous courage and the sacrifice of life and limb in the pursuit of objective philosophical truth, I shall be among the first to pitch in for the funeral dues.

  • sb

    “What was the name of that film we seen last week?… Ah yes, the crying game”

  • Pete Baker

    Actually Rory, the fire/theatre example is useful in this case.

    It provides an insight into a central point on this issue – that of context.

    But that’s where the BCC ruling fails to convince as well.

    Look at the ruling again –

    The Commission notes that the content was somewhat irreverent from the outset. It was also evident to the viewer that the humour was edgy and flippant.

    That’s the context for the scene Fr Desmond objected to.

    And what of Fr Desmond? Given the clearly irrevent, edgy and flippant humour of the programme, was he sitting there happily chortling away at others.. until the humour hit a little too close to home? That’s what satire does best.

    Dave Allen must be turning in his grave.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am an adherent of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Having been touched by His noodly appendage, I see all other religions as an insult. Down with the infidel Fr Desmond!

  • harpo

    ‘Oh dear! you do make things difficult, Harpo. I had not realised that you were such a literalist and I suppose that is my fault for not having picked up on it.’

    Rory:

    Literalist? Sorry if trying to work out which of your contradictory statements are your true belief makes me a literalist, but when someone presents two statements that contradict each other it pays to be a literalist.

    Is your intention to not be taken literally, so that you can express both sides of an argument and then claim later to have been on whichever side suits you? Or do you just ramble on about a subject with no consistency of thought?

    In this case when challenged you even added in a third argument, just to muddy the waters even more.

    ‘I am sorry that you don’t understand this method of discourse’

    Oh but I do understand this method of discourse – it’s called ‘avoiding the issue’. So that when you are asked a straight question, you avoid answering it.

    Just as you have done in this latest post. In fact you introduce a 4th issue:

    ‘and freedom of speech and action is necessarily self-curtailed’

    Now you have moved on to self-restraint when it comes to freedom of speech and actions.

    That still doesn’t answer the original question, which was of the 2 concepts that you stated, which do you actually believe in? Do you believe in some form of punishment for those who engage in free speech and it offends someone else, or do you not?

    Never mind if they chose not to exercise self-restraint and never mind if adults warn the young about the behaviour. Just answer the question.

    You said you were against leglislating against free speech but then you said you were for some public body slapping (punishing) people who engage in free speech but it offends others. You can’t believe both, so which is it?

    Personally I don’t think you have a clear view on the subject, so you just type a lot of fancy words to try to impress others that you have thought deeply about the issue. All this dodging is just you spinning to try to avoid making a stand one way or the other.