Irish Broadcaster Says It Wasn’t “Sacrilegious” for a Comedian to Call Communion “Haunted Bread”

Hallelujah! An Irish comedian who poked fun at the Catholic concept of communion — in which worshipers believe they are eating the actual body of Christ — by calling the wafer “haunted bread” won’t be in any trouble. RTÉ television says the joke was not sacrilegious and therefore not a violation of the nation’s archaic-but-still-on-the-books blasphemy laws.

The situation involved a recent episode of the Late Late Show on RTÉ television.

The “offensive” comments were made by David Chambers, a man who goes by the name “Blindboy Boatclub” and is in a comedy group called The Rubberbandits. (He’s the guy in the mask.)

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CHAMBERS: … I don’t know a lot of young people who are into the Church… anyone who I know who goes to midnight Mass, they’re not going there for haunted bread. They’re going because their grandmother’s making ’em go or their whole family is there, you know what I mean? Everyone who goes to midnight Mass is half-cut [drunk] anyway

[HOST] RYAN TUBRIDY: The “haunted bread” is a great expression.

CHAMBERS: Well, that’s what it is!

They soon discussed why the bread might be considered “haunted”:

TUBRIDY: I never thought of it as cannibalism, but when you think it through… maybe that’s what was happening.

CHAMBERS: The language doesn’t want us to use critical thinking about it, but I mean they’re asking us to eat the ghost of a 2,000-year-old carpenter, you know? And then, at the same time, He’s not only a ghost, but He’s actually real. So it’s a ghost, and it’s human flesh at the same time, and He’s 2,000 years old.

TUBRIDY: I cannot tell you how melted my head is…

With that, parish priest Father Kevin McNamara filed a formal complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

“We live in an age where there is great emphasis on the need for clean air, clean water and a healthy environment, but how much attention do we give to fostering a clean soul, heart and mind?,” began the priest’s address in this morning’s newsletter to parishioners, in the large farmland parish.

“Isn’t it time we paid attention to creating a clean environment for soul, heart and mind?” Fr McNamara asked parishioners, adding: “It hurt me beyond words to see the Eucharist ridiculed on RTÉ’s so called flagship chat show.”

“I have made a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority,” the priest informed his parishioners at the Church of the Assumption.

As I said last month, it wasn’t even clear what he was complaining about. Mockery? Disagreement? At no point did Chambers say Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to have communion; he just echoed what so many non-believers think the first time they learn what Catholics actually believe about communion: You can’t be serious.

People deserve respect. Their absurd beliefs do not. And the Catholic belief that they’re literally eating the body of Christ via a consecrated communion wafer is ridiculous.

Thankfully, the government won’t be doing anything at all in response to the situation:

RTÉ has told a Co Kerry priest who complained about the description of the Eucharist as “haunted bread” on The Late Late Show that while the phrase was provocative, it was not sacrilegious.

Fr Kevin McNamara, parish priest of Moyvane, on Sunday morning rejected RTÉ’s explanation from the show’s producer and has said what occurred was “blasphemous”.

The priest has also told his congregation the core values of another faith would not have been so attacked.

All the more reason to criticize the core values of other faiths, too. Just to prove the priest wrong.

Here’s specifically what RTÉ told the priest, according to his own newsletter:

Blindboy Boatclub was first to reply, and he did so in the language of his generation and his satirical character. The point he was making, to put the language to one side for a moment, was that in his view, people of his generation are not returning to the Church and that attendance at Christmas Eve midnight Mass is not an accurate barometer of religious conviction, as there are many other reasons to attend that particular ceremony. Reasons such as family pressure, tradition and community as well as Catholicism. This seems to me to be a rational and fair assessment of his views.

The phrase “haunted bread” was certainly provocative. He used it to get a reaction, and indeed it did. I do not believe however that it was sacrilegious. It was, in my view, a linguistic phrase that encapsulates “The Holy Ghost” and Holy Communion………….”

In conclusion he said “In attempting to hear new voices on the Late Late Show, it is inevitable that some will not like what they hear. Uncomfortable or unpopular opinions are part of debate as are views that clash or disagree with mainstream consensus. Nonetheless, 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. Thank you once again for taking the time to send your views they are appreciated.

There was nothing to apologize for, but if that’s the price to pay for dismissing the priest’s whining, I’ll take it. I’m glad to see this controversy come to an end. I’ll be happier, though, when Ireland repeals its blasphemy laws so that shit like this never becomes a news story. The fact that RTÉ had to get involved in this issue at all is ridiculous.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.