Tom Hanks is a popular American actor and filmmaker best known for his role in movies including Toy Story, Forrest Gump, The Da Vinci Code, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Cast Away, Apollo 13, Sleepless In Seattle and more.
Born Thomas Jeffrey Hanks (July 9, 1956) to parents Amos Mefford Hanks and Janet Marylyn (Frager), his childhood was marked by constant upheaval. In addition to his parents’ multiple divorces, Hanks moved 10 times by the time he was 10 years old.
Throughout this time, Hanks was exposed to a number of religious viewpoints.
In an April 1998 interview with George magazine, Tom Hanks shared,
“The major religion I was exposed to in the first 10 years of my life was Catholicism. My stepmother became a Mormon. My aunt, whom I lived with for a long time, was a Nazarene, which is kind of ultra-super Methodist, and in high school, all my friends were Jews. For years I went to Wednesday-night Bible studies with my church group.
So I had this peripatetic overview of various faiths, and the one thing I got from that was the intellectual pursuit involved. There was a lot of great stuff to think about.”
From identifying as a Mormon to a Catholic to a “Bible-toting evangelical teenager” to a Greek Orthodox Christian, Hank’s religious identity has shifted greatly throughout the years.
Tom Hanks may not be one to evangelize loudly from his Hollywood platform, but he doesn’t shy away from speaking about his faith when asked, either. In order to answer the question, “Is Tom Hanks a Catholic?” we can trace his faith journey throughout the years by examining several interviews he’s given.
Is Tom Hanks Mormon?
Tom Hanks is not Mormon, though he did sometimes attend Mormon church meetings as a young boy with his stepmother Winifred.
According to an article on LDSLiving.com,
“While Tom Hanks attended LDS meetings with his stepmother—who also invited missionaries over to their home while he was a young boy—there’s no proof that Tom Hanks ever became a member of the Church or even seriously considered Mormonism.”
Amos Hank didn’t approve of his wife’s love of the Mormon church, however, and their marriage lasted less than two years. Tom would have been between the ages of five and seven at the time. Yet, his time in the Mormon church did leave an impression on him.
According to the same article, Tom Hank’s former stepmother, Winifred, later recalled seeing the young Tom at a wedding.
“It was funny because the kids enjoyed going to church. But after we had split up, Mr. Hanks and I were at a friend’s wedding and Tom ran up to me and said, ‘Mum, mum, guess what? I‘m not a Mormon anymore. Now I am a darned old Catholic!'”
While the word “anymore” could imply that the young Tom Hanks considered himself a Mormon at some point, it’s highly unlikely that he would have officially converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as his father did not approve.
Is Tom Hanks a Catholic?
Tom Hanks is not currently Catholic, though he may have briefly been raised Catholic as a child.
Hanks is quoted as saying, “The major religion I was exposed to in the first 10 years of my life was Catholicism,” but it is unknown whether he was officially baptized or confirmed in the Catholic church.
Either way, if Hanks considered himself Catholic as a boy, he doesn’t any longer.
Tom Hanks’ Catholic Movie Themes
Tom Hanks has acted in a number of well-known movies over the years, many of which have had religious themes. “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons” are two movies that portray the Catholic Church, though the Vatican was not happy with either.
According to ABC News, “Members of the Catholic Church denounced both “The Da Vinci Code” novel when it came out in 2004, and its film version in 2006.”
Similarly, the Vatican called on Catholic church members to boycott Hanks’ 2009 movie, “Angels and Demons,” while reviewers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called it “historical and religious poppycock.”
Tom Hanks never meant to insult the Catholic Church, however. He simply loves telling a good story.
“While these books and movies promote theological heresy and historical revisionism, Hanks has always promoted these movies as having no basis in fact and endorses them as a means to ponder the big questions of life,” one source states.
In an interview for “Angels and Demons,” Hanks shared this positive opinion about the church:
“The church does feed the poor. It does take care of the hungry. It heals the sick. I think that the grace of God seems to be not only in the eye of the believer, but also in the hands of the believer.”
Is Tom Hanks a Greek Orthodox Christian?
Tom Hanks converted to the Greek Orthodox Church around the time he married his second wife, Rita Wilson, in 1988, and he is still Greek Orthodox to this day.
Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson, is a long-time outspoken and devoted member of the Greek Orthodox Church.
In an interview alongside her husband, Wilson shared,
“I pray every day. I’m Greek Orthodox. I pray every day. My children pray. I pray with them. I pray for myself. We go to church. We try to live a good, clean, healthy life, and it helps… God is a part of my life. Every single day. I prayed to God every day for I don’t know how many years that He would bring me somebody that I loved, that loved me in the same way, and He brought me Tom, so I believe in that.”
Hanks and Wilson were married at Saint Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, the same Greek Orthodox church they still attend today, particularly during Holy Week.
An article published by GreekReporter.com reports, “According to people that work for Saint Sophia, Tom Hanks is very religious, and goes to church almost every day throughout the holy week.”
Hank has referred to himself as a “spiritual man” and says that he does attend church with his family as a way to get closer to God.
“‘I must say that when I go to church — and I do go to church — I ponder the mystery,’ he said. ‘I meditate on the, ‘why?’ of ‘Why people are as they are,’ and ‘Why bad things happen to good people,’ and ‘Why good things happen to bad people.’ … The mystery is what I think is, almost, the grand unifying theory of all mankind.'”
Hanks has shared that “he enjoys being Orthodox because the atmosphere helps him meditate and reflect on bigger life questions” and that the Greek Orthodox church is “where his faith really matured.”
Yet, while Tom Hanks is Greek Orthodox (not Catholic), he is happy to let others believe as they see fit.
In an interview with Parade, Hanks went on the record, stating,
“My parents divorced so often that I’ve seen a lot of different sort of religions down the line. My wife is Greek Orthodox and I’ve been converted. My kids have been baptized in the same font in which she was baptized at our cathedral in town. But I still believe in being able to leave the heavens to those who want to interpret the heavens as they see fit.”
Tom Hanks’ Religious Beliefs
Despite his Catholic upbringing and current Greek Orthodox affiliate, Hanks’ beliefs don’t always line up with traditional Christian teaching.
Tom Hanks made headlines for his stance against the 2008 Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution that would define marriage as a union between only one man and one woman. Hanks even went so far as to call Mormons who supported the proposition “un-American,” a statement he later apologized for.
Hanks also starred in the 1993 film “Philadelphia,” which dealt with issues including HIV/AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia, and which earned Hanks an Academy Award for Best Actor In A Leading Role. The role turned Hanks into a public advocate for gay rights, another role he readily accepted.
Traditionally, both Catholic and Orthodox churches teach that homosexuality is a sin, though not all of its adherents agree.
According to a survey conducted by Pew Research, “Fully half of Orthodox Christians in Greece say society should accept homosexuality, as do a clear majority (62%) of Orthodox Christians in the United States.” These two countries are the exception rather than the rule, however.
Is Tom Hanks a Catholic? No. And does he practice his faith perfectly? No. But neither do any of us.
Whether or not you agree with all of Tom Hanks’ religious beliefs, it’s clear that he’s a man of religious convictions just trying to do his best to love his family well, do right by his neighbor, and get to church when he can. And that’s certainly something to admire.