‘I lost Rubberbandits battle but I won the war with RTE’
"I lost the case, but I won the war."
That was the view of Moyvane Parish Priest Fr Kevin McNamara this week after his complaint against a Late Late Show discussion - in which the Eucharist was described as 'haunted bread' by Blindboy Boatclub of The Rubberbandits - was rejected by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
Despite rejecting Fr McNamara's complaint, the BAI said that presenter Ryan Tubridy misjudged the phrase's potential to offend audience members. Tubridy described 'haunted bread' as "a great term", and Fr McNamara explained to Mass-goers in Moyvane this week that he hopes the BAI's view on Tubridy's presenting will lead to a change in RTÉ's handling of faith-related items in future.
All 11 complaints assessed and rejected at the BAI Compliance Committee's most recent meeting related to the January 6 broadcast, in which Ryan Tubridy chaired a discussion with Blindboy Boatclub, Stefanie Preissner, and Michael Harding.
In lodging his complaint, the Moyvane-based Priest described the decline of religious practice as a serious and good subject for discussion, but claimed the treatment of the topic on the January 6 broadcast was "blasphemous and exceptionally anti-Catholic as the Eucharist and real presence of Jesus Christ is central to Catholic belief".
He also said the item was in very bad taste and made fun of the Catholic faith.
During the discussion, Blindboy Boatclub - real name David Chambers - described Holy Communion as the ghost of a 2,000-year-old carpenter, while Ms Preissner explained that, during her youth, she felt as though she was committing cannibalism by eating the Body of Christ.
Fr McNamara, who has previously described The Rubberbandits comedy duo as gifted and articulate performers, said he was most upset that Tubridy said the phrase 'haunted bread' was "great".
The BAI this week said it disagreed with Fr McNamara that Blindboy Boatclub's comments were intended to mock the faith of others.
During the broadcast, the Rubberbandits member defended people's right to belief and said he had no problem with religion except where it was in the education system. The state broadcaster did, however, apologise for any offence caused by the segment.
The BAI Committee was of the view that the programme, while causing offence, was editorially justified and did not infringe the BAI standards.
It also noted, however, that the focus of many of the complaints was on Ryan Tubridy's handling of the 'haunted bread' comment, and the Authority said that the presenter misjudged the offence likely to have been caused by the use of the term,
"I am delighted that the BAI made that observation on the presenter's handling of the item," Fr McNamara said this week.
"It was the Committee's view that the presenter's comments compounded the offence caused and they said that the degree of offence may have been minimised if he had demonstrated greater sensitivity.
"I am delighted now that the case is closed and I am looking forward to RTÉ and in particular its presenters to take on board what the BAI has suggested," Fr McNamara added.
"I feel as a result of this deliberation the Catholic faith and indeed all faiths will be more respected in RTÉ programmes from here on."
"I'm glad I raised the issue as it means that presenters for the moment will have a think twice attitude in not mocking the core values in any way and in this respect it may help other religions too.
"Of course the decision took a long time but it would be nice to know if it was unanimous and also just who was deliberating on the board."
Fr McNamara said there had been support and a little confusion too from his parishioners.
"They accept the decision. It really never was a question of winning a case, the whole idea was respect. They realise that it has put a marker down but there is confusion too over the language used in the ruling, it's not straightforward. Indeed, some people may be baffled and will still ask is it offensive or not.
"I suppose there is a legalistic side and that's why there were so many words and various phrases in the ruling.
"As for the Rubber bandits, I have no problem with their humour. I wish them well and RTÉ too," he added.
The Kerryman contacted The Rubberbandits for a response to the BAI decision but had not received a reply at the time of going to print.