I couldn’t pronounce her name.
I didn’t know anything about her as an artist, and I still know very little.
I was just eight years old when Sinéad O’Connor performed “War” live on television, and tore up that photo of our beloved Pontiff. I certainly didn’t hear about it until much later. When I was a teenage homeschooler, kept carefully safe from the wrong kind of knowledge, I read about the stunt in a copy of the Catholic League’s Catalyst newsletter, and despised her for it. I thought John Paul the Second was a living saint. When he died, I was devastated. When the crowds chanted “Santo Subito,” I was pleased. When he was canonized, I was so glad.
Now, knowing what we know.
Knowing all the horrible things that we know.
All the truths that have come out one by one.
Knowing that our trust was violated again and again, both by the Church and by a man who was supposed to be the father of the whole Church.
Knowing how many abuses the Church has committed through the years, and how many people suffered from the arrogance and clericalism of John Paul the Second in particular, I am watching the video of O’Connor’s performance in its entirety for the very first time. And, as I was when John Paul the Second died, I am devastated.
This time I also feel guilty.
If the Church were honest, if she was really as sorry as she ought to be, she would look back at that performance as a work of mercy, calling the Church to repentance. But, of course, she isn’t.
I see it for what it is now.
“Until that day there is no continent that will know peace. Children, children, fight… we know we have confidence in the victory of good over evil.”
Thank you for everything, Sinéad O’Connor.
I am sorry for what you suffered, and you were right.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.