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Catholic Communications Office complaint to RTE

May 22nd, 2010 · 4 Comments · Irish Media, Religion

There was a bit of toing and froing between RTE and the Catholic Communications Office this week over a report on PrimeTime last Tuesday on the problems facing the Catholic Church and on the decision by Cardinal Sean Brady to stay in office.

The report featured a number of inaccuracies that I spotted myself on the night, however the Catholic Communications Office were not just angry about the inaccuracies but the tone and attitude of the piece.  In homage to the Archbishop McQuaid school of complaints there were mentions of ‘excessive darkness’ in the imagery.

Thanks to my friends in the church (!) for a copy of the correspondence between the Communication Office and Ken O’Shea, RTE’s Current Affairs Editor,  which was sent out to the Cardinal, Bishops and priests throughout the country.

RTE did make a clarification on their show on Thursday night regarding Bishop Willie Walsh’s resignation and the incorrect picture of Bishop Drennan being shown – nothing else was mentioned though.   (Anyone else think that Bishop Willie Walsh is very happy to be retiring all the same?)

Dear Ken,

I am writing to you in relation to mistakes which were made in the broadcast of Tuesday’s (18 May) ‘Primetime’ concerning the Catholic Church.  I ask that tonight’s programme correct these mistakes (see points below) please.

In advance of your programme, the Catholic Communications Office sent in a reply at 13.22 on Tuesday 18 May to a media request from Rita O’Reilly of Primetime which sought to determine how many bishops had resigned since the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports and on what grounds.

While the CCO press release announcing Bishop Willie Walsh’s resignation did not specify the reason for his resignation, our email response to the Primetime query for information did explicitly state “age? as the reason for Bishop Walsh’s resignation as it said “… below is the list of resignations as discussed (I have listed the official announcements in date order).  The first two relate to those granted on grounds of age, Bishops Willie Walsh and Joseph Duffy.?

This is at variance to your reply to a complaint by Fr Seamus Gardiner concerning the same broadcast where you stated that “the [Primetime] reporter asked the Catholic Communications Office to supply us with a list and we told them we would be relying on the factual position as put to us by them. The script was based on what they emailed us and told us and it is as follows: …?

Thus Primetime has made a number of serious mistakes and partial editorial decisions in its broadcast and in your email to Fr Gardiner:

  • The programme script clearly infers that Bishop Willie Walsh had to resign due to a failure of accountability, in other words for reasons not related to age grounds.  This is both factually incorrect and grossly misleading.  Quote from the programme:

“Heads have rolled since the publication of the Ryan and then the Murphy Reports.  Eight Irish bishops have offered to resign. So far the Pope has accepted six: the resignations of the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray; the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee; the Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin, James Moriarty; today Willie Walsh, the Bishop of Killaloe.  Pope Benedict has also accepted that two other Bishops have resigned on age grounds: Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher and Francis Lagan, Auxiliary Bishop of Derry.?

  • Whilst Primetime has since corrected – in text form on its website – that Bishop Willie Walsh resigned due to age grounds, there remains a much more serious correction to be made, based on the context of the programme, namely to vindicate Bishop Willie Walsh’s good name in relation to safeguarding children.   Primetime should broadcast this clarification this evening concerning the false impression given by the programme for Bishop Walsh’s resignation, and not in the form of a text correction on its website.
  • Your point in your email to Fr Gardiner that “It can’t be said that Willie Walsh’s resignation was accepted on age grounds because it’s simply not the case? – and which you support by an “example? – is based on an incorrect mathematical calculation.  Completing one’s 75th year and reaching 75 years of age are actually two ways of describing the same age.  Bishop Walsh, as with Bishops Duffy and Lagan, has completed his 75th year.  It is wrong to assert that “In fact, although Willie Walsh reached 75 in January, the relevant Canon Law, Canon 401.1 states that a Bishop “who has completed his 75th year of age? has to offer his resignation to the Pope, not a bishop who has just started his 75th year of age.?  Bishop Walsh started his 76th year of age from January 2010!
  • The programme named Bishop Raymond Field who has tendered his resignation but pictured Bishop Martin Drennan instead who has not tendered his resignation.
  • The video film introduction was excessively dark in imagery.
  • The animated and exaggerated ‘mitres’ superimposed on the head and shoulder photographs of bishops were clearly meant to ridicule and were offensive to Catholics.

I look forward to you correcting these serious mistakes and impressions in tonight’s programme.




Catholic Communications Office

Irish Bishops’ Conference

Columba Centre

St Patrick’s College


Co Kildare

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