Blindboy Boatclub: 1,352 formal complaints over Late Late comments
RTE has received 1,352 formal complaints after one of the Rubberbandits referred to the Eucharist as “haunted bread” during an episode of The Late Late Show.
During the show on January 6 last, Blindboy Boatclub of the Limerick comic duo the Rubberbandits said that young people attending Midnight Mass at Christmas were “not going there for haunted bread”, adding that “everyone at Midnight Mass is half-cut anyway”.
In addition, he said that the Church was “asking us to eat the ghost of a 2,000-year-old carpenter”.
A spokesperson for RTE said that a number of those complaints had been referred to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) under the statutory complaints process.
“RTE will now respond as requested by the BAI and in that context it would not be appropriate to comment further,” said the spokesperson.
The majority of the complaints in relation to the show on January 6 last included “bulk deliveries of individually signed copies of a form letter,” an RTE spokesperson confirmed.
The national broadcaster would not comment on whether the number of complaints in this case was the highest it had ever received.
RTE also received close to 450 complaints after The Late Late Show’s Valentine’s Day special, where audience members were given hampers full of condoms.
A spokesperson for the BAI confirmed to the Limerick Leader that five complaint referrals regarding the “haunted bread” remarks had been registered with them.
Fr Kevin McNamara, parish priest in Moyvane, north Kerry, was among those to file a complaint with the BAI in relation to the comments, which he described as “blasphemous”, and “downright shameful and hurtful”.
He said that no standard letter was circulated in Moyvane for people to sign, saying he wouldn't want to coerce people into sending a complaint, but he was aware that tranches of letters had been sent from other parishes outside Kerry.
The outspoken cleric said he was “disappointed” with the response he received from Larry Masterson, executive producer of The Late Late Show, which he circulated in the Moyvane parish newsletter at the weekend.
Mr Masterson said that while the phrase was “certainly provocative”, he does not believe that it was “sacrilegious”, but “a linguistic phrase”.
“I accept that the phrase ‘haunted bread’ has caused offence to some viewers and has been seen by some as disrespectful or mocking and for that I apologise,” wrote Mr Masterson in an email to Fr McNamara, thanking him for sending his views.
He said Blindboy’s concept was further supported by Stefanie Preissner’s assertion that growing up she was conflicted about eating the literal “Body of Christ”.
“In neither case did the guests deride or criticise the views of others, or their faith, but rather expressed their own difficulty with a core tenet of Roman Catholicism,” said Mr Masterson.
Fr McNamara said that he did not feel that the show had adequately dealt with his concerns, and he will now take his complaint to the BAI.
In Mr Masterson’s response, he clarified that as part of the conversation, Ryan Tubridy brought up a theory advanced on his radio show earlier that week that some people in their 30s are returning to the Catholic Church after a period of difficulty and scandal for the church.
“In attempting to hear new voices on the Late Late Show, it is inevitable that some will not like what they hear. Uncomfortable or unpopular opinions are part of debate as are views that clash or disagree with mainstream consensus,” wrote Mr Masterson.
Among those who support Fr McNamara is Fr Joe Young, formerly parish priest in Limerick's estate of Southill, who described the comments as “totally offensive”.
“Everybody should respect everybody's faith, regardless of what it is. When I give Communion to anyone who comes up in front of me, I believe I am giving the food of Christ, and that's what I have given my life to,” said the chaplain with the Brothers of Charity in Bawnmore, Limerick.
Fr McNamara said that while he is not a fan in general of the Rubberbandits' work, he believes them to be “gifted and talented”, and admired the song which shot them to stardom – Horse Outside.
“I was annoyed and hurt. I have given 35 years to the priesthood that I firmly believe in. I don't think the national broadcasting station is the place to ridicule it and make little of it.”
He said Holy Communion is “the bread of life, and a contact with Jesus Christ” – not “haunted bread”.
“We have feelings as well, and we're being continually beaten down due to past failings and faults. There isn't one organisation in the whole world that hasn't made mistakes, and we're trying to rectify them as best we can.”