Milestones, Video — October 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

Milestones: Sinead O’Connor tore up pope’s photo on ‘SNL’ 18 years ago today

Sinead O'Connor on 'SNL' 10/3/92

Eighteen years ago tonight, confrontational Irish star Sinead O’Connor largely derailed what had been a promising career when she appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and, in the most infamous of her many controversial acts, tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while urging viewers to “fight the real enemy.”

Having risen to prominence on college radio in the late ’80s before scoring a worldwide smash with the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1990, O’Connor never really recovered, professionally, from the incident. She was roundly slammed for the act, and was even booed off stage two weeks later at a Bob Dylan tribute concert.

O’Connor’s act is all the more timely today, given the controversy surrounding current Pope Benedict XVI’s role, prior to succeeding John Paul II, in the Vatican’s investigations into child sex-abuse allegations against Catholic priests.

Lost in the furor 18 years ago, however, was the performance that preceded the act: For her second slot on the Oct. 3, 1992, episode (her first song that night was her cover of “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home”), O’Connor delivered a haunting a cappella rendition of Bob Marley’s “War,” which she tweaked slightly to address child abuse. You can watch that stirring performance, capped off by the infamous pope attack, below.

See Sinead O’Connor’s perform ‘War’ on ‘SNL’ after the jump…


  1. she’s also completely destroyed her voice by singing wrong all those years.

  2. Big respect for writing about this. She was just ahead of the curve, that’s all.

    • She may be rather strident….but it turns out she was correct about Child Abuse. Maybe she used an incorrect approach, but she obviously intended to help the fight against a terrible crime.

    • gerry d welder

      Sinead O’Connor was right in tearing up the pope’s portrait.

      Absolutely right. Irish Catholics need to do a little research (like, for maybe 2 minutes!)

      Here’s just one quick reason:

      The Roman Catholic “Church” is Not Christian

      The Roman Catholic Church is not Christian; her precepts contradict the Bible repeatedly.

      Watch the pope start merging Christianity with Islam, it’s already coming and it was written.

  3. Fuck that. Sinead was Brilliant. I loved her before and after the “scandal”. And guess what fuckers (Religious assholes) she was RIGHT!

  4. Absolutely stunning and powerful. She was soooooo ahead of her time.

    • she had quite a presense. Obviously she has strong opinions & wants to remedy serious problems. One can’t be faulted for that.

  5. lee mcfadden

    Slight error here. The video here was filmed after the “scandal” – the tearing up happened on SNL, but the video was for a tribute night to Bib Dylan recorded a matter of days later. She was supposed to sing a Dylan song, but at the beginning you can hear a chorus of boos from people offended by her SNL performance. This is why she broke into Bob Marley’s “War”.

  6. lee mcfadden

    Ooer – correction to my comment – when I first received this through email the Bob Dylan performance introduced by Kris Kristofferson was posted – now I see the SNL performance has taken it’s place.

  7. The e-mail newsletter picked up the link to the Bob Dylan tribute that’s in the post and pulled in the YouTube clip. Because the video of the actual SNL performance posted here isn’t YouTube, it didn’t get picked up in the e-mail.

  8. What a stupid cow. The Pope did not rape and abuse the children, some priests did and not all priests but some. She could do a little more thinking about her Godess religion that she hints at with her white dress or how a male child could be raped by a male priest if there were no homosexuality and people would not view it as normal to put a penis into another person’s arse or mouth. If nobody would do that, the children would not be abused sexually, because the act would never be performed.

    • WOW. I know this is over a yr old but I gotta respond. Let me preface with, I am catholic. But I also have the ability to think logically and realize that RELIGION, a man-made institution, is NOT PERFECT. Even if the Pope JPII never touched a little boy inappropriately, he is still guilty. He knew very well what was going on and covered it up, because to him and so many others, the church is so precious and they know they have to give the facade that they are so righteous in order to control and oppress people. Further, child rape and homosexuality are completely different and unrelated things. The guilty priests did not rape boys because they were gay- they themselves were likely the victims of sexual abuse as children. A rapist has serious psychological issues, a gay person is just someone born with a specific sexual preference, just like everyone else- has nothing to do with preying on innocent children.

    • What are you saying? Don’t understand post…come in, come in…

    • unAphrodite

      You couldn’t be any more wrong and time has proven so! In fact more so every single day!

    • No Aphrodite the pope did not rape these boys (that we know of)but it happened under his leadership a fact that makes him complicit in the abuse. And homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophilia they are two completely separate things. Homosexuality is the sharing of sexual experiences between two consenting people of the same sex, and pedophilia is the molestation of underage children without their consent. You are so confused about the rest of your rant that it will take a team of specialists about 10 years to get you straitened out. If God created us all in his own image then he also created homosexuals and they are as worthy of being here on this planet as the rest of us. Good luck

    • Yep because someone doesnt love her or his view means he is the enemy

  9. Aphrodite-Nice. You seem like a very grounded, loving human being. Keep thinking that way. It serves you well. The sarcasm abounds.

  10. This is just another example of complete predjudice and stereotype, all shes doing is insulting a religion that disagrees with her religion. she thinks she is protected by freedom of speech (well technically it isnt freedom of speech is you act like a complete moron)however she needs to understand that not all people who are roman catholic are child molesting monsters like she is presenting. I hope you are happy Sinead because you acted like a complete dumbass on National television and thank you for proving that there are still mindless jerks who think they are revolutionizing the world by increasing protest’s and insulting other religions. In my own view YOU DISGUST ME!

  11. Here is a very good series with some background:

    It contains the SNL clip in number 34 of the series. Watch the first 33 short videos before making a decision.

    It is folly to him who judges a matter before he hears the facts.

  12. I don’t get why bigotry against a religious group is called a “milestone”, personally. Attacking a symbol loved by 2 Billion people is just a great thing to do apparently.

    • Pope is the antichrist. All prohecies in Revelation and even in Daniel are correctly fulfilled by that ‘man of sin’. Just look up the history on the ‘holy’ church.

      • Oh My…..It seems to me that IF there were such a thing as the “Anti-Christ”, virtually EVERY HUMAN BEING would share the attribute. We live in some very appalling times – I doubt the Pope is worse than anyone else….Jeez, no one really pays much attention to the Pope…

  13. Stravaganti

    @C The Facts- Really, NWO… REALLY? I dont believe in Christianity so I find this to be utterly stupid… I have many friends who areSatanists and you are only proving my point further…

  14. This was one of the best things that has ever been done on American television and absolutely disgusting that NBC later digitally altered the performance to show the ending bit from the rehearsal. What ever happened to free speech. It was disturbing the way celebrities bashed her and people booed her and she hit the nail on the head. She was 100% accurate and people practically hung her for it.

    The worst part about this whole thing was the way she cowardly succumbed to the pressure several years later and “apologized” to the pope. That was a truly disgusting moment and made her look worse.

    I no longer respect her for backing down to this corrupt organization but I respected her for what she did.

    Priests rape children – it’s common knowledge now. Shame on your Sinead for apologizing.

    • The problem with yours and Sinead’s blanket hate approach to a problem is you are obviously pushing your own agenda. You say it’s “common knowledge “that priests rape children. Not true. Sad. People who were priests have raped children. That is true and horrific I agree. But to lable the whole priesthood for activities of less than 1% worldwide reeks of your own ignorance or the very least pure hatred. The FACT is that more children get abuse physically from teachers than by priests, But I’m sure you’re not on the “burn the educational system to the ground because all teachers are pedaphiles” bandwagon. You’re an idiot.

    • NBC didn’t digitally alter the performance, they just show the dress rehearsal performance on reruns. And she was protected by free speech, that’s why she didn’t ever face any legal troubles. Also, you have to understand that at the time what she was talking about was not common knowledge, and anytime a scandal breaks you are going to have people divided, so really it’s no surprise the reaction was as such. If someone did this today, it would not be nearly as much of a scandal. Also, not that I care what you think of Sinead, but WHEN did she ever apologize to the pope??? I never recall that happening and even 20 yrs after the incident she still says she wouldn’t change what she did and still criticizes the vatican.

    • Little penpusher. Take your anger to a mirror.

  15. @johnson – she never apologized. she even mentioned on one of her interviews that her snl performace was the best day of her life.

  16. Church is corrupt, Religion is stupid

  17. anniefree

    What a beautiful, bold and courageous statement. I applaud Sinead O’Conner for standing up against the monolithic oppression of the organized religion that has systematically allowed – yes allowed – children to be repeatedly sexually abused over the decades and probably centenaries. The Catholic church turned a blind eye to the perpetrators of the abuse and their condoning behavior went all the up way to the high priest of Catholicism – the Pope. It is quite appropriate that their leader should be held countable, this one was lucky to get away with only having his photo torn up.

  18. @Stravaganti – right on. Interesting how Sinead speaks out against prejudice and persecution, and then goes on to label an entire religion as evil. Abusers come from all religions, races and genders. Don’t pretend to spread peace and love and then go on to commit acts of hate. She’s a hypocrite.

  19. This brings a tear to my eye. Pope John Paul II is a lovely man and fought against any corruption in the church. All people make mistakes, even priest. The percentage of teachers who are molesters is much higher the percentage of priest. Should we all hate education? I like you’re statement KG

    • You raise a valid point – I don’t know who the Pope was at the time, but it must have been a difficult insult for [whomever]. It’s sad that the Catholic Faith, which does so much good, has this blight. Perhaps changes should be made to the way Catholisism ‘operates’. IMO, it’s not helpful to prevent [men & women of the church] from marrying or having relationships or children.

    • JP 2 was very conservative and has caused much suffering amongst followers in poor regions. He deserves blame as much as there is to go around.

  20. she is right!! the catholic religion has done nothing good…! they have hurt countless children by molestation and abuse…! the pope has been the head of the religion, and has covered everything his followers has done to the ppl of their church. there is truth behind everything she sang that night!! the war against the catholic religion began in 322 ad when the men of power bestowed the religion upon every one… if u didnt follow u were killed… they used that power to abuse their ppl… and still do to this day..! look at the history of the men of the catholic church… how many of them have been convicted of rapping children… that is the worse kind of abuse!!

    • @mama
      You should really get into history lessons… check many catholic charities throughout ages as well as now… lives of saints… and of course the TEACHING of church.. which is pure goodness…
      Catholic church spreads the word of Christ for more than 2000 years already… and its under attack, exactly because of it…
      We live in selfish society… and church is an obstatle in hedonistic, libertine, egocentric ways of modern society..
      You should rethink, where actually is the source of EVIL… before you blame any religion for anything…
      Source of evil is in EACH OF US.. in every human soul..
      So its important to “clean up yourself” first before blaming others.
      Sexual abuse is statistically the same in every other organization, besides CC.. education system, police, sygangogues, protestant religions, jehowas witness, amishes……. Are you going to blame all those organization because some evil men did evil deeds in the mist of them??? It’s just ignorant to blame anybody else, besides people who actually DID that….
      Sined O’Connor had her personal issues, she should fix first… .. you cannot fight evil with your own aggression and hatred… that’s not the way to do it…
      She was very influential at the time.. she should do that different way.. and talk about REAL criminals who did it…
      If you would check catholic theology you would also learn, that there are “weeds” in the crop… and wolves between ships…
      Judas was among 12.. wasn’t he?….
      For everyone who wants to change world for better… the best way to start is to become good person yourself first…

  21. O’Connor was abused as a child. A native of Ireland, she grew up and was beaten on a regular basis in a Catholic Institution/boarding school. The issue of priests abusing children is an internationally systemic issue, with thousands od cases of rape/abuse present. She was simply trying to make a protest, nothing more. Watch the preformance, listen to her say “child abuse” load and clear. She was not bashing a religion, sorry for the folks who took it that way. The picture she tore belonged to her mother who put her in the Catholic Institution. It is symbolic. It amazes me how so many people will be quick to judge without doing any research in context.

    • Babylon The Great WILL FALL

      She was right all along and also believe she was ahead of her time, she wasn’t offending the religion, she was making a stand against a false organization, if u get offending by this then u should think twice even three times about who you are really worshiping, plus someone has to be really stupid to think religion doesn’t separate people from the truth of biblical teachings, people will kiss these people as if there a god send but don’t even know the history of its corrupt persecution of religion to get followers to believe in pagan idols, i am surprised people don’t bother to have the understanding and depth in her “protest performance” the roman catholic church is the “drunken whore” in the bible a universal religion “the forceful fornicator”.

      Revelation 17
      King James Version (KJV)

      Look up the 7 hills of Rome and connect the dots. Then read Revelation 18

  22. Is everyone on here completely motivated by their own interpitations of siniad? She is a cathholic priest! She does not condem the religion she only condemed the act that happened(s) under the popes watch and apparently knew about and perhaps covered up. She is a catholic priest and its not to mock she is in no way claiming the whole faith is bad!

  23. colleen pell

    what on earth was she thinking? ok, maybe she has issues with the Catholic Church, that’s her business. but saying, “fight the real enemy,” then tearing up the Pope’s picture? it ALMOST me ashamed of being an Irish [American born} catholic. she deserved to be booed off the stage!

  24. what on earth was she thinking? ok, maybe she does have issues with the Catholic Church, that’s her business, and she has the right to express her feeling through song or written work. but, saying, “fight the real enemy” then tearing up the pope’s picture? made me ALMOST ashamed to be of Irish catholic roots. no wonder she was booed off the stage!

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