A petition calling for the removal of the Angelus from RTÉ has attracted over 4,000 signatures.
The call, which forms part of a wider and ongoing conversation on the separation of church and state, comes in the wake of a recent report on mother and baby homes.
Signatories to the petition argue that Ireland must move past it’s “dark past of Church and State being so intrinsically linked”, and that the Angelus has “no place on our public broadcaster.”
The call has also been backed by Louise O’Reilly, a Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Fingal, who said that she thinks “we’re ready to have the 6 o’clock news at 6pm”,referencing the fact that the Angelus takes up a one-minute slot before the 6.01pm news bulletin.
The Irish attitude towards religion has liberalised in recent years, cultivating in the marriage equality and abortion referendums of 2015 and 2019 respectively, both of which were passed by upwards of 60% of voters. Compare this to the 1995 referendum on divorce, which passed by a margin of under 1%. The change in attitude becomes obvious.
This change might give the impression that the public are also in favour of scrapping the Angelus, however, despite the obvious parallels, this does not appear to be the case.
A RedC poll from 2018, around the time of the presidential election, showed that 68% of voters would like to keep the Angelus on television.
A more recent poll on TheJournal.ie showed similar figures, with 70% of people backing the Angelus while 27% opposed it. The remaining percentage were unsure.
In a statement to TheJournal.ie, RTÉ revealed that they have no plan to scrap the Angelus, citing efforts undertaken to make it more accessible “to people of all faiths and none.”
Indeed, religious imagery is no longer shown during the Angelus as it once was. RTÉ has said that the footage accompanying it is made up of “short films made by members of the public.”
The broadcaster also said that they aim “to strike a balance in considering the diversity of views” while “reflecting the rich and diverse religious culture of Ireland.”
Though RTÉ are backing the Angelus at the moment, the statement does not allude to doing so out of a sense of any religious or moral obligations.
What does the future hold?
The RTÉ statement, coupled with decisions made in relation to the Angelus over the past 10 years, reflects a considerable change in attitude for the national broadcaster.
As recently as the 90s, as it challenged aspects religious domination over Irish society (namely through Gay Byrne and The Late Late Show), RTÉ had to defend itself from (or at the very least deflect away from) accusations of being un-Christian in a conservative Ireland.
Indeed, one Catholic told the High Court in 1985 that an item on The Late Late Show covering lesbian nuns would “greatly undermine Christian moral values.”
However, the attitude in RTÉ appears to be one of slowly but surely moving in a progressive direction with regards to religion.
The Angelus may remain for the moment, but, depending on public perception and where the broader conversation on secularism takes us, this might not be the case for very long.