RTÉ to say sorry as priest scene offends

RTÉ is to apologise for a scene in the series The Unbelievable Truth, which depicted the religious celebration of Communion in…

RTÉ is to apologise for a scene in the series The Unbelievable Truth, which depicted the religious celebration of Communion in a parody of the sex life of actor Colin Farrell.

The apology comes after a complaint against the scene was upheld by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. The commission also upheld complaints against TV3 for advertisements for Irish Psychics Live and 7th Sense, both premium rate telephone services.

The complaint against The Unbelievable Truth referred to a scene in which a man dressed in a priest's vestments and holding a ciborium pretended to distribute Holy Communion to a group of men. Instead of saying "Body of Christ", he said "Body of Colin Farrell", to which the men replied "Amen". A close-up showed that the vessel contained Viagra pills.

The complainant, identified only as "Fr Desmond", submitted that this was a "tasteless and vulgar display, a mockery of the Blessed Eucharist, the central tenet of the Catholic faith". He said "no reputable broadcasting body would insult the religion held by the majority of the people".


RTÉ submitted that the broadcast complained of was one of a series of "mocumentaries", a genre of programme which sends up documentaries with make-believe "facts" about "celebrities".

It told the commission the scene followed "a surreal suggestion" made in the preceding scenes that Mr Farrell was physically diminishing in stature because his sexual capacities were being drained by drug manufacturers. The drug manufacturers were depicted as attempting to produce medication that would benefit men suffering from sexual dysfunction.

The commission found the setting of the scene was in a church, with four men in attendance and the background music was of a religious nature. It noted that the actor priest on the altar stated: "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, let's go?" The four men approached the altar and the actor priest said: "Body of Colin Farrell".

RTÉ said the objective of the sequence was to satirise the much-publicised sexual prowess of Farrell, and was not intended to mock the institution of the Eucharist.

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.

The commission also upheld a complaint against an advertisement for Irish Psychics Live. The complainant, identified only as Mr R Di Mascio, argued that advertising "fortune tellers and the like" was banned under Appendix 2 (prohibited advertisements) of the 1995 Ministerial Advertising Codes. A similar complaint by Mr Di Mascio against 7th Sense was also upheld.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist