Today in Catholic History – Sinéad O’Connor tears up picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live

On 3 October 1992, while appearing on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest and singing a version of Bob Marley’s “War”, Sinéad O’Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while saying “Fight the real enemy” and threw the pieces of the picture toward the camera. She intended her action as a sign of protest against the problem of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Saturday Night Live was not aware of O’Connor’s plan and continues to decline to rebroadcast the O’Connor’s protest with a few exceptions.

The audience reacted with amazement and NBC received 4,484 angry complaints. Frank Sinatra said he wanted to punch O’Connor “right in the mouth”. NBC was fined $2.5 million by the FCC. When O’Connor returned to the US to perform a concert for Bob Dylan, she was greeted with boos and would later permanently retire from the “pop” entertainment industry.

On 22 September 1997, in an interview with the Italian weekly newspaper Vita, O’Connor asked Pope John Paul II to forgive her, claiming that what she had done was “a ridiculous act, the gesture of a girl rebel.” However in 2002, Sinéad said that she wouldn’t have changed anything about what she had done. She has left the Catholic Church to join the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.


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