RTE has rejected a complaint from the Catholic Church over a sketch by comedian Mario Rosenstock (below), but accepted it might have unintentionally caused offence.
The Catholic Communications Office (CCO) made a formal complaint to RTE over a skit – broadcast on November 26 – which depicted a man spitting into a bucket before receiving Holy Communion.
The CCO claimed it ridiculed "the reception of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, which is the Body of Christ".
However, in a letter written to the Catholic Bishops by RTE's head of broadcast compliance, Peter Feeney, and seen by the Irish Independent, the station rejects the complaint, stating the target of the sketch was not the church but "satirised popular enthusiasms, in this case enthusiasm for boxing following Katie Taylor's success in the summer Olympics".
"RTE's view is that the complaint is ultimately not valid. Insofar as the item was not directed against the sacramental moment depicted, but against general social behaviour using the Mass as an exaggerated setting," the letter says.
The spokesman added that "comedy and satire should by its nature startle and surprise, even at times shock and that RTE had an obligation to maintain and defend creative latitude in this regard". It added that in its view, "exclusion of such occasional treatment would be likely to have an unduly restrictive impact on comedy and social satire".
The decision to reject the complaint, it said, was made after consultation with RTE's Editorial Standards Board and with reference to the BAI's Code Of Programme Standards.
CCO spokesman Martin Long said the church would now consider RTE's reply before deciding if it would take the matter to the BAI.
Rosenstock described RTE's dismissal of the complaint as "common sense".
"I never set out to offend the Catholic Church, it was really a sketch about boxing mania taking over the country since Katie Taylor's win at the Olympics but I apologise if offence was taken. I'm just bemused the church should take such a hard line with me when Dave McSavage on his 'Savage Eye' programme depicted bishops kidnapping small children."