A DISPUTE has broken out between RTÉ and the Catholic church over the "excessively dark" tone of a news report on RTÉ's Prime Time about the continuing child abuse controversy.

The Catholic Communications Office has expressed anger after Prime Time broadcast what it claimed were a number of "serious mistakes" in a report on last Tuesday's programme.

The introduction to the RTÉ report had wrongly said that Bishop Willie Walsh was one of eight bishops who had offered to resign since the publication of the Ryan and the Murphy reports.

Martin Long, director of the Catholic Communications Office, wrote to Prime Time asking that it correct the errors as soon as possible.

He said: "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."

The letter continued: "Whilst Prime Time 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… namely to vindicate Bishop Willie Walsh's good name in relation to safeguarding children."

The national broadcaster corrected the statement on air and stated that Bishop Walsh had in fact resigned on age grounds.

The Catholic church had also taken issue with another error in the broadcast when Bishop Raymond Field, who has resigned, was incorrectly labelled as Bishop Martin Drennan in a caption.

RTÉ Prime Time subsequently clarified the issue but would not apologise regarding two other less specific complaints made by the communications office.

In his letter to the broadcaster, Long said: "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," he said.

Long said he was happy that the substantial issues had been addressed and clarified, but that it was unfortunate RTÉ had not apologised.

He said: "The other matters I raised regarding the imagery are important to church people and also important for unbiased and balanced reporting.

"The issues addressed in the letter will now be looked at by the Bishop's Communication's Commission to see if anything further will happen."