BY Amanda Connelly | April 26 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

2-BISHOP-KEENAN

Bishop requests BBC meeting over ‘prejudicial’ portrayal of Catholics

Archbishop Leo Cushley is to meet the BBC over an online video which 'mocked' the Eucharist - but the Church is calling for a more immediate meeting after a letter from the Bishop of Paisley slammed a 'prejudicial’ portrayal of Catholics.

In a letter dated April 23, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley Diocese asked to meet with the director of BBC Scotland, Donalda McKinnon, and urged the broadcaster to ‘guard against adding fuel to the fire’ in the ‘current climate of growing hostility to Catholics.’

The letter follows outcry over a video posted to BBC Scotland’s digital content stream, The Social, titled ‘Homophobia in 2018, Time for Love.’ The video depicts a priest holding aloft a Mini Cheddar to parody the Blessed Sacrament, while the narrator said that it ‘tastes like cardboard and smells like hate.’

A spokesperson for the BBC said the corporation regrets that ‘some Church members found [the video] to be offensive’ and said that it has agreed to meet with Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese. However, a spokesperson for the archdiocese said that Archbishop Cushley’s visit to the BBC wasn’t due to take place until later in the year and that that discussions would ‘focus on more general issues aimed at fostering a good working relationship between BBC Scotland and the Catholic Church.’

“This would not preclude BBC Scotland from having a more immediate, more detailed discussion with Bishop Keenan on the specific issue of the recent BBC Scotland Social video which mocked the Holy Eucharist,” he said.

In his letter, Bishop Keenan said he believed the video ‘did somehow cross the Rubicon in the BBC’s portrayal of Catholics,’ and is now seeking his own meeting with the director of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon.

“As part of its portrayal of the hatred gay people experience in daily life it pointed to Catholics inter alia as the root of the problem,” the bishop’s letter explained. “It went on to aver that Jesus would have wasted His time on these same Catholics who are too ‘small-minded’ to accept that same-sex ‘love is no sin.’

The bishop noted that St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese were worried that the BBC had ‘sanctioned the idea that Catholics engender public hatred of homosexuals’ and he pointed to research released by the Scottish Government which showed that ‘religiously aggravated crime made against Catholics has jumped 14 per cent to 57 per cent.’

“In the current climate of growing hostility to Catholics I would appeal that the BBC guard against adding fuel to the fire,” he wrote. “In that regard I would ask that the corporation now reach out to Catholics to understand their concerns, that they are being portrayed in a prejudicial way.”

The bishop added: “When it comes to important public debates about the wellbeing of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality Catholics feel their views are becoming increasingly marginalised, almost criminalised by a narrative in BBC news, comment, arts and elsewhere that amounts to ‘LGBT views good, Catholic views bad’, an assumption which you must know is simplistic and imposed, and which is not strengthened by longitudinal research.”

“Catholics ask nothing more from the media than equity of treatment alongside their peers,” he said, adding that ‘the Catholic community is now concerned that ‘some elements in the corporation have adopted an agenda that is overtaking the BBC’s unique position as a globally respected public service broadcaster in order to substitute it with something more akin to a mouthpiece for particular agendas on sexuality and gender, not uncommonly directed against Christians in general, and Catholics specifically.’

Director of the Scottish Catholic media office, Peter Kearney, also sent a formal complaint to Ian Small, head of public policy and corporate affairs at BBC Scotland. In the letter, Mr Kearney said the Church’s teaching and liturgy are ‘represented in a grossly insulting and demeaning way,’ in the video, which ‘appears to go against the BBC producer’s guidelines.’

Mr Kearney went on to ask ‘with this in mind’ whether the video was approved or assessed before being published by head of editorial standards and compliance, Alasdair MacLeod.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “BBC The Social exists uniquely to give young content creators from across the country a platform on which they can give expression to subjects which directly impact on them and about which they feel passionate. The ‘Time for Love’ piece is a personal polemic about being gay in 2018 and the experiences outlined in the film are intended to reflect those of the filmmaker. As a young gay man, raised in the Catholic faith, it is seen though his eyes and told in his voice, and is intended to reflect the challenges and opinions he personally faced while growing up in Scotland.

“The BBC appreciates that some of our audiences will find it challenging in its approach to tackling some very difficult themes but we do believe it important that we should provide platforms such as The Social to allow appropriate space for artistic freedom of speech.

“We do however regret that some Church members found it to be offensive.”

The full letters are published below:

Letter from Bishop John Keenan to BBC Scotland director, Donalda MacKinnon

Dear Director,

I am writing to draw your attention to an edition of The Social on BBC Scotland’s digital content stream entitled Homophobia in 2018, Time for Love.

As part of its portrayal of the hatred gay people experience in daily life it pointed to Catholics inter alia as at the root of the problem. It went on to aver that Jesus would have wasted His time on these same Catholics who are too ‘small-minded’ to accept that same-sex ‘love is no sin’. While making its case it opined that the Catholic Sacrament of Holy Communion ‘tastes like cardboard and smells like hate’ and depicted a priest holding up a Mini-Cheddar in parody of the Host, received by an ordinary Catholic woman attending Mass.

I was contacted by two young media producers who were upset by content that they considered to have ‘mocked’ their Catholic faith. They appealed to me to raise the issue urgently as a matter of public debate. In the event my Facebook page was inundated with ordinary Catholics expressing hurt and outrage at the content. Unfortunately they had to face counter comments from opponents, whose response seemed to amount to a ‘serves Catholics right’ line of argumentation.

Following the broadcast the archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh worried that the BBC had sanctioned the idea that Catholics engender public hated of homosexuals. The sense of shock has not been limited to Scotland. Catholic media outlets have taken up the story across the English speaking world. All have reached the same conclusion: that this content is really quite beyond the pale, and unworthy of the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

I should let you know that a Catholic woman complained and found her correspondence received a ‘completely inadequate’ reply that ‘did not even refer to the correct video’, but talked about ‘giving artists a chance’. To her it just implied ‘contempt for those who complained’ and led her to conclude that the ‘BBC refuses to see … falsehood … and violence in their treatment of our Faith, and the repercussions this has for ordinary Catholics.’

You may be aware of disappointing Scottish Government research released this month, showing fifty-seven percent of religiously aggravated crime in Scotland is now committed against Catholics, a rise of fourteen percent, even though Catholics make up only sixteen percent of the population. It was followed by Sunday Times findings that twenty percent of Catholics in Scotland have personally experienced abuse or prejudice on account of their faith.

As a Catholic bishop in Scotland I feel unable to distance myself from the above complaints. I believe this piece did somehow cross the Rubicon in the BBC’s portrayal of Catholics.

In the current climate of growing hostility to Catholics I would appeal that the BBC guard against adding fuel to the fire. In that regard I would ask that the Corporation now reach out to Catholics to understand their concerns, that they are being portrayed in a prejudicial way. When it comes to important public debates about the wellbeing of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality Catholics feel their views are becoming increasingly marginalised, almost criminalised’ by a narrative in BBC news, comment, arts and elsewhere that amounts to ‘LGBT views good, Catholic views bad’, an assumption which you must know is simplistic and imposed, and which is not strengthened by longitudinal research.

In this context I would like to request a meeting with you, simply to express the concerns of alienation Catholics in Scotland increasingly feel in regard to the BBC’s broadcasting values, and to see if some way cannot be found of reflecting upon editorial policy in the Corporation with a view to restoring some breadth and fairness of critique. My hope is that it might encourage the BBC to examine how it assigns balance to different though reasonably and decently held views as to the common good of society. Catholics ask nothing more from the media than equity of treatment alongside their peers.

The Catholic community has typically trusted, treasured and supported the BBC. Even while the BBC has provided thorough analysis of the admitted failures of the Catholic Church in Scotland in the matter of the abuse of minors in its care, Catholics have generally continued to regard with respect the many BBC journalists and producers et al who work with integrity and balance.

At the same time the Catholic community is now worried that some elements in the Corporation have adopted an agenda that is overtaking the BBC’s unique position as a globally respected public service broadcaster in order to substitute it with something more akin to a mouthpiece for particular agendas on sexuality and gender, not uncommonly directed against Christians in general, and Catholics specifically.

It is not only the just sensibilities of Catholics that are at stake. The high reputation of the BBC itself, among a significant constituency of its licence payers, and more broadly, is being put into question, and can now only benefit from concerted efforts to restate its erstwhile respected and treasured place, not least in Scottish society.

Yours sincerely,

Bishop John Keenan

Letter from Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office to Ian Small, head of public policy and corporate affairs BBC Scotland

Dear Ian

I’m writing to raise a serious concern held by many within the church about the content of the video produced for the BBC’s digital content stream “The Social” https://www.facebook.com/bbcthesocial/videos/1450722328371519/

While the film deals with attitudes towards homosexuality, it does so with reference, in parts, to the teachings and liturgy of the Catholic Church. Both are represented in a grossly insulting and demeaning way. The depictions appear to contravene the BBC “Producer’s Guidelines” as set out in Section 6 “Taste and Decency”, Part 9 “Religious Sensibilities”.

The Guidelines make it clear that “Programme makers dealing with religious themes should be aware of what may cause offence.” While also stating “Deep offence will also be caused by profane references or disrespect whether verbal or visual, directed at deities, scriptures, holy days and rituals”.

The gratuitously disrespectful representation of the Mass at 2m 40s and 2m 54s constitute exactly the type of disrespect which the Guidelines seek to avoid. With this in mind I am writing to ask if the video concerned was approved or assessed by Alasdair MacLeod as Head of Editorial Standards and Compliance prior to publication?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Peter Kearney

Leave a Reply

latest news

Chilean bishops offer resignation to Pope Francis

May 18th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

All of Chile’s Catholic bishops have offered their resignation to...


Deputy First Minister says Scotland’s education system can learn from the values of Catholic schools

May 18th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

John Swinney: Catholic education provides young people with resilience...


Research reveals Celtic and the SCO share founding fathers

May 18th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

In November 1887, a group of men came together in...


Scotland must confront its anti-Irish, anti-Catholic history, academic says

May 18th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Scotland must confront its history of anti-Irish Catholic racism, according...




Social media

Latest edition

P1-MAY-18-2018

exclusively in the paper

  • Glasgow considers pro-life ban
  • 2018 St Margaret pilgrimage launched
  • Scottish bishop prays for the ‘soul of Ireland’
  • Pacey padre praises the social benefits of running
  • Catholics across Scotland celebrate the month of Mary

Previous editions

Previous editions of the Scottish Catholic Observer newspaper are only available to subscribed Members. To download previous editions of the paper, please subscribe.

note: registered members only.

Read the SCO