On live U.S. television in 1992, Sinéad O’Connor desecrated a picture of Pope John Paul II. The late Irish singer-songwriter’s protest of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church received fast opposition, which led to a flashpoint that changed the course of his career.
Some people recall her “Saturday Night Live” performance from more than 30 years ago as an insulting desecration due to the sharp confluence of popular culture and religious statement. However, for some, like as the survivors of clerical sexual abuse, O’Connor’s protest was prophetic, foreshadowing the global denomination’s upcoming public crisis. O’Connor, 56, passed away on Wednesday.
David Clohessy, a crucial early member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was completely taken aback by the SNL moment. He had just recently remembered the suppressed memories of the trauma he had endured while he was in his 30s. He was profoundly moved by O’Connor’s deed. He and the other survivors had never imagined it to be feasible.
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That evening, O’Connor stood by himself and sung “War” by Bob Marley a cappella while shaving his head and staring directly into the camera. “We know we will win/ We have confidence in the victory/of good over evil,” she concluded, before bringing a photo of Pope John Paul II from off-screen in front of the camera.
“We were all just deeply convinced that we would go to our graves without ever seeing any public acknowledgment of the horror and without any kind of validation whatsoever,” Clohessy said. “That’s what made her words so very powerful.”
Back then, there was a lot of vehement opposition. She received jeers at an all-star tribute to Bob Dylan held at Madison Square Garden later that month. More than 200 of her CDs, cassettes, and albums were destroyed by one group while they were rolling a steamroller down Sixth Avenue in New York.
Thomas Plante, a Catholic psychology professor at Santa Clara University in California, as well as his Jewish wife were horrified by the SNL performance. Since he was studying, assessing, and treating clerical sex offenders at the time, Plante was well aware of the problem.