Roman Catholic groups nationwide are demanding a formal apology from NBC-TV for Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's "surprise attack" on Pope John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live." Additionally, many are calling on the network to ban the controversial singer from future appearances.
On Saturday's show, O'Connor--who was raised Catholic--finished an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War" by saying, "Fight the real enemy," as she tore up a photo of the Pope.
"Millions of Catholics in California are incensed at this blatant defamation of the leader of the Catholic Church," said a statement issued Monday by the Pasadena-based California Chapter of the Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights. "(We) are outraged at this blatant hatred shown toward the Catholic religion."
At the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., student leaders threatened to stage a protest against NBC and the singer during NBC's telecast of the Notre Dame-Brigham Young University football game Oct. 17. NBC broadcasts all Notre Dame home games.
"Notre Dame enjoys a very special relationship with NBC," said student union board manager Pat McCarthy. "I think it's incumbent on NBC to apologize."
While stopping short of a formal apology or ban of O'Connor, an NBC spokesman said the network had no knowledge of the singer's plans. During the show's rehearsal, O'Connor, who altered the Marley song to include lyrics about child abuse, tore up a photo of a child.
"It goes without saying that NBC does not condone what Ms. O'Connor did," Curtis Block, NBC network vice president, told the Associated Press in New York. "We would never authorize something like that. . . . I was offended; the executive producer, Lorne Michaels, likewise was offended and surprised."
Block said the network received an estimated 900 telephone complaints about O'Connor's actions--and only seven calls in support.
Elaine Shock, the singer's publicist, said O'Connor does not plan to explain her reasons for substituting a photo of the Pope in the live broadcast. "The performance makes its own statement," she added. "She relates a lot of the ills of the world to the church."
In a Sept. 6 interview with The Times, O'Connor expressed strong criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. "Even if you don't practice Catholicism, all the rules by which we live have been passed down for centuries by them," she said.
"They've been telling us God is outside of us, that we are powerless. That's why so many people feel lost, why they get so frustrated that they feel there is nothing to live for and they abuse their children."
In Los Angeles, Father Gregory Coiro, a spokesman for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, said he does not expect an official statement from Mahony, who has been outspoken in calling for more responsibility in the entertainment world's treatment of social values.
"This is just another example of anti-Catholicism, and one would hope that Sinead O'Connor speaks for no one but herself," Coiro said.