By Cian Molloy - 20 February, 2017
A row over a description of the Eucharist as ‘haunted bread’ on an edition of The Late Late Show television programme in January is being referred to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
During a discussion about whether Catholics in their ’30s were increasingly returning to practising their faith, one of the programme’s panellists, Dave Chambers, was disparaging towards the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation when he referred to the Eucharist as ‘haunted bread’.
Among those watching the programme was Fr Kevin McNamara, parish priest of Moyvane in north Kerry. He was disappointed with the reaction of the show’s presenter Ryan Tubridy, which he describes as being supportive of the description. “I would expect any presenter to display an unbiased view, and not to endorse any personal views expressed by guests on the show,” said Fr McNamara, who wrote to the programme to complain.
Responding, the Late Late’s producer Larry Masterson claimed that Mr Chambers was speaking “in the language of his generation and his satirical character”. Mr Chambers is a member of the Rubber Bandits, a Limerick-based hip-hop group, and he is better known by his stage name Blindboy Boathouse.
Mr Masterson’s response continued: “The phrase ‘haunted bread’ was certainly provocative. He used it to get a reaction and indeed it did. It was, in my view, a linguistic phrase that encapsulates ‘The Holy Ghost’ and Holy Communion.
“In attempting to hear new voices on the Late Late Show, it is inevitable that some will not like what they hear. Nevertheless, 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.”
Fr McNamara says he is disappointed by the response, particularly as it does not deal with how Ryan Tubridy, as presenter, handled the issue. Fr McNamara says the presenter, who earns €459,000 a year from RTÉ, “enthusiastically endorsed the term”.
In this week’s Moyvane Parish Newsletter, the PP wrote: “I wonder what the reaction would be had a guest insulted the core values of another faith? From my viewing of our national channels, the Catholic faith is not afforded sufficient respect or fair play. As I feel the Late Late Show has not dealt adequately with my concerns, I must now take my complaint to the Broadcasting Authority.”
The presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist has long been a part of Catholic Church teaching, but the doctrine of transubstantiation can provoke ecumenical sensitivities.
Transubstantiation was confirmed as part of Catholic dogma at the Council of Trent in 1551, where it was stated that by “the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood”.
In 1563 the Church of England declared the doctrine “repugnant to the plain words of Scripture” and consequently the celebration of Mass became illegal in these islands as part of the Penal Laws.
Conversely, the term ‘Holy Ghost’ is an Anglican coinage, first found in the King James Bible. The term is generally frowned upon among English-speaking Roman Catholics, who prefer the term ‘Holy Spirit’.
There is a possible exception to this: the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (CSSP) is known in the English-speaking world as the ‘Holy Ghost Fathers’. Elsewhere in the world, they are known as the ‘Spiritan Fathers’ or ‘Spiritans’.
However, it is likely that the nickname ‘Holy Ghost Fathers’ was imposed on them by the British rulers of these islands, just as Catholic priests on these islands do not call themselves ‘padre’, yet that is the title they are given when serving as curates in the British army.