Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Sinead Ripped the Pope


     In 1992, I remember watching Sinead O'Connor tear up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.  Eighteen at the time and mad at the world, I thought it was a brilliant act of protest.  Shocked, I watched as she was decried as "the devil" in the press and from pulpits.  People bulldozed her CDs and cassette tapes swearing to never listen again, which I found ridiculous (an act that would be repeated by we self-righteous Americans when the Dixie Chicks protested the invasion of Iraq).   For years, NBC hid away the footage of O'Connor's SNL performance refusing to let it be shown again on television.  Her career in the United States was over.  What I don't remember from that time in my life is why she actually did it.

     I was shocked to read in today's news that O'Connor tore up the picture of the pope, (while singing Bob Marley's "War") in protest of the child sexual abuse and cover up that was going on in the Irish Catholic Church at the time.  She was a prophet ahead of her time, and like most true prophets, who cry out in the face of vast social injustice, she was rejected, chastized, and destroyed (professionally).  A few hundred years earlier she probably would have lost her life burned as a witch, and a few hundred years before that, burnt at the stake as a heretic.

     An adult survivor of child sexual abuse, Sinead O'Connor risked her reputation and lost her career to stand up and challenge the Vatican about the child sexual abuse and cover up going on in the Catholic church.  Of course, instead of listening to her challenge, O'Connor was discarded as another crazy star.  No one listened to her point.  And the self-righteous Americans, Catholics, and Christians around the world that condemned her seventeen years ago have been proven hypocrites, because they gave pedophile priests and their protector bishops another decade to deflower children around the world.

     In a December 9th interview with Mark Dagostino at Tonic, O'Connor was asked to comment on the current sexual abuse scandal in Ireland and on her career ending act of prophetic defiance in 1992. Dagostino reports:
     What went completely over the heads of the American audience at the time is that O'Connor's defiant act was in protest of the Catholic Church's cover-up of child sexual abuse at the hands of its priests in Ireland — an issue that would take years to surface in the U.S., but which had been bubbling over in her homeland at the time of her SNL performance.
     "It had hit the public arena in Ireland that there was sexual abuse among the clergy, but it had not hit the public arena in America," O'Connor explains. "It was to be another 10 years before it became reality in America that these things had happened. So it's kind of understandable that everyone reacted the way they did, because no one could possibly believe — how could they? — that priests would be involved in the sexual abuse of children."
     "I mean, we talk about the sexual abuse, but we neglect to talk about the battery and assault and psychological abuse that went on," she adds. "But basically, in America in 1992, nobody believed for a moment that priests could be involved in these kind of things. But in Ireland it was very well known, and we were all pretty pissed off."
     Anger at the Catholic Church's handling of the child sex abuse situation continues to bubble over in Ireland to this day. Just last week, an independent commission released a report documenting years of systematic church cover-up when it came to issues of child abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
     So when O'Connor is asked if she regrets tearing up a picture of the Pope on live TV, her answer is clear: "Absolutely not!" she says.
     "People say, 'Why did she do what she did?' I did what I did because I actually do believe in God, and I love God, and I don't like to see God being libeled. If God were here now today he, she or it would be suing a whole lot of f**kers for libel," O'Connor says. "I'm not a rampaging Christian, but I know there's a God and I love that God and I don't like what these people have done with the name of God. It's disgusting. And they should be very, very afraid of the day they meet their maker."
     O'Connor steps back for a moment, and even apologizes for "ranting." But as an abused child herself, the issue hits close to home. And reading the Murphy Report on the church's long-established knowledge of child sex abuse brought tears to her eyes — and moved her countrymen to finally call for the resignation of the remaining clergy who were involved.
     "The Ireland that I grew up in was a very different place than what it is now," O'Connor says. "I saw my parents and grandparents give up anything that would have given them a moment's joy, because the Catholic Church told them that it was a sin to love yourself, or a sin to love sex, or a sin to feel good about yourself. Self-esteem was a sin, basically — to be a good Catholic you had to think you were a piece of sh*t, you know? When you think of the joy that people did not allow themselves to have because of what these people taught them they should be, it makes you very bloody angry when you think about it.
     "Everyone in the whole country is furious about it at the moment. And even this week, there's no response from the Vatican. The Papal Nuncio, all he has said is that the Pope doesn't comment on such matters. Yet they're happy to comment on 'Harry Potter is evil.' They're happy to comment when we wanted contraception and divorce. They have plenty to say about Naomi Campbell wearing jeweled crucifixes. They have plenty to say about The Da Vinci Code. But they have nothing to say about their priests having sex with their children. It's really sick.
     Sinead O'Connor is a true hero, tragically misunderstood.   After all these years of being ostracized as a punchline, I hope that people will finally realize that what she did was a courageous matter of conscience and prophetic genius.  Thank you Sinead for standing up for our abused children when nobody else would.  Thank you for being a true hero.