Je suis Waterford Whispers News!

In response to a recently televised clip by Irish satirist website Waterford Whispers, Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin published a tweet saying:

“I am shocked that producer/editor of ‘NYE Countdown Show’ @RTE @RTEOne didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking ‘news report’ accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.”

He goes on to say that:

“To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God & Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season on ‘NYE Countdown Show’ on @RTE, @RTEOne & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians.”

The clip was a mock year-in-review news bulletin, portrayed as a broadcast from satirical website Waterford Whispers News, where former RTÉ newsreader Aengus MacGrianna reads a report over video footage of a man dressed in white robes being led by gardaí from a court.

“A shocking revelation this year,” MacGrianna’s says, “God became the latest figure to be implicated in the ongoing sexual harassment scandal.

The five-billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young Middle Eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will before being sentenced to two years in prison, with the last 24 months suspended. Following the news, movie producer Harvey Weinstein requested a retrial in Ireland.”

The Archbishop’s reaction and subsequent opinions are his own. He is entitled to them and I have no objection to his public expression of same – although Twitter seems to me to be an ever-so-slightly-less-than-appropriate forum for such a ‘weighty’ initiation of religious debate by such an esteemed authority as an Archbishop. Does the Pope have a Twitter account?

I have both a minor and a major issue with the Archbishop’s statement.

Minor is his amateur attempt to augment his argument by stating that his shock was all the more severe given that the clip was broadcast during the ‘Christmas season… & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God.’ There is an obvious inference here and it is this. The timing of the broadcast appears to insult the Archbishop all the more to the extent that we can safely assume his shock would have been less severe if the clip had been published at some other time of the year.

The national broadcaster, to its credit, appears to defend the clip while simultaneously apologising for any offence caused.

“RTE recognises that matters which can cause offence naturally differ from person to person, within comedy and satire in particular.”

The major problem I have with the Archbishop’s statement is that once again we have a case of the Catholic Church (albeit it an Archbishop – middle management) maintaining the position that everything it stands for is inviolate and must not be questioned (whether in seriousness or satirically) despite the countless examples of dogmas that have been discarded over the centuries of its existence.

The institution of the Church will always and stubbornly remain steadfast in its beliefs until overwhelming evidence to the contrary is presented authoritatively – and even then may resist. What the Archbishop fails to recognise publicly on this occasion, although I suspect privately he is well aware of, is the obvious satire contained within the clip.

The sheer hypocrisy (and subsequent atrocities – although not in this instance) demonstrated by Islamic fundamentalists when Charlie Hebdo published a satirical cartoon of Muhammad has once again been displayed by a religious leader, only this time that leader is not an Islamic fundamentalist but rather a conservative Catholic Archbishop appointed by Rome.

Whether Rome agrees with Eamon Martin remains to be seen but is largely inconsequential in my estimation.

Je suis Waterford!

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