Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Angelus bell on RTÉ

Another post for the benefit of overseas readers.

RTÉ (which stands for Radio Teilifís Éireann in Irish, meaning ‘Radio & Television of Ireland’) is Ireland’s national broadcasting company. Their website may be viewed here.

RTÉ began broadcasting in 1961. The first televised programme on RTÉ 1 was a Mass celebrated by the then archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, CSSp.

In those far-off days Irish people were generally devout and God-fearing, and the bishops could afford to throw their weight around, since the flock was invariably so docile and pliable. RTÉ also was prepared to acquiesce to the will of the bishops regarding the sort of programming which was considered acceptable viewing for the Irish public.

In the early days, certain things could not be shown on Irish television. These included programmes hostile to the Catholic religion as well as programmes featuring (among other things) nudity, sexual activity, unacceptably coarse language, an unreasonable level of violence, or anything that might be construed as promoting immorality.

One of the unique features of RTÉ radio and television at that time was that the sound of the Angelus bell was broadcast at noon and again at 6pm just before the evening news, chiming for one minute—about the time it takes to recite the Angelus if one is quick about it—before the beginning of the scheduled news bulletins. On the television the sound of the bell would be accompanied by an image of the Virgin and Child. Melancholicus is not aware of any other Catholic country in which this was done, although he is open to correction on this matter.

Today, most constraints on RTÉ programming have been removed. RTÉ television does not yet transmit hardcore pornography, but that’s about the only depth to which they have not yet stooped. RTÉ is today a fiercely anti-Catholic company, which has no problem broadcasting items which are offensive to Catholics, or items which promote foreign religions or ‘alternative’ spiritualities. The tone of religious programming on both radio and television is exceedingly slack, mostly of the interfaith mish-mash variety, and regularly features contributions from dissenters, scoffers, and nay-sayers. RTÉ has by now wholeheartedly embraced the New IrelandTM of materialism, anti-clericalism, free love and gay rights.

In the midst of this sea-change, however, what is most remarkable is that the Angelus bell has survived. It still sounds on RTÉ radio 1 every day at noon and again at 6pm, and also on television on RTÉ 1 every evening before the six o’clock news. In a concession to the ‘ecumenical’ spirit of the times, the traditional Catholic image of the Virgin and Child has been replaced on television by a montage of images of persons engaged in various activities, none of which might have anything to do with the Catholic religion, but the Angelus is the Angelus nonetheless.

Given the exceedingly strong and visceral reaction by the bright young things of the New IrelandTM against all things Catholic, the survival of the Angelus bell on RTÉ is a miracle in itself, for Melancholicus cannot account for it otherwise.

It is hard to imagine that it will not at a future date finally be withdrawn on the initiative of some secularising zealot or some self-appointed PC watchdog worried that the Angelus bell might be ‘offensive’ to religious minorities, but at present it remains, a nugget of spiritual tradition in the midst of an ocean of frenetic change.

No comments: