The death of Sinéad O’Connor has brought attention back to her most controversial moment and her reflections on how it shaped her career. Back in 1992, O’Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live and tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse allegations.
During the dress rehearsal, she had actually held up a photo of a Brazilian street kid who was killed by police, so no one was prepared for what she did during the live show. The moment was met with silence from the studio audience.
Afterwards, O’Connor faced significant backlash and became a pariah in the music industry. She received death threats, and her records were bulldozed in Times Square. Despite this, she believed that the incident defined her career in a “beautiful fucking way.”
In a 2021 interview, O’Connor expressed that people may say she messed up her career, but she believes she actually disrupted the plans the record company had for her. She embraced the fact that she had to rely on live performances to make a living, as she felt she was born for the stage.
It is worth noting that the timing of O’Connor’s protest was well before the widespread reporting of sexual abuse allegations within the Catholic Church, which re-entered the national spotlight about 10 years later.
In the aftermath of her death at the age of 56, social media users have been sharing her statement and revisiting her SNL appearance to shed light on the church’s child sex abuse scandals.
Overall, Sinéad O’Connor’s protest remains a powerful moment that continues to resonate years later.