People Need a Short, Sharp Shock: SINEAD O'CONNOR

Watch out: an unrepentant Sinead O'Connor blasts the Catholic church, Bob Dylan and the treatment of women

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Q. You created an enormous controversy when you tore up a picture of the Pope on American TV a few weeks ago. Why did you do that?

A. It's not the man, obviously -- it's the office and the symbol of the organization that he represents. I consider them to be responsible for the destruction of entire races of people and the subsequent existence of domestic and child abuse in every country they went into.

Q. What connection do you see between the church and child abuse?

A. In Ireland we see our people are manifesting the highest incidence in Europe of child abuse. This is a direct result of the fact that they're not in contact with their history as Irish people and the fact that in the schools, the priests have been beating the s--- out of the children for years and sexually abusing them. This is the example that's been set for the people of Ireland. They have been controlled by the church, the very people who authorized what was done to them, who gave permission for what was done to them.

Q. But how does this relate to child abuse?

A. I'm talking about my own experience as an Irish woman. I grew up under extremely abusive circumstances.

Q. What kind of abuse?

A. Sexual and physical. Psychological. Spiritual. Emotional. Verbal. I went to school every day covered in bruises, boils, sties and face welts, you name it. Nobody ever said a bloody word or did a thing. Naturally I was very angered by the whole thing, and I had to find out why it had happened.

Q. What did you do?

A. I did all kinds of things. I read a lot of books, and I went to some shrinks. The thing that helped me most was the 12-step group, the Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families. My mother was a Valium addict. What happened to me is a direct result of what happened to my mother and what happened to her in her house and in school.

Q. Are you saying there was a history of abuse in your family?

A. I'm saying that even if they had never been physically abused, by virtue of the fact that their education was controlled, they'd been abused from the time they were children. This is also child abuse. The desperateness people feel because their lives have been controlled, that's what causes it.

Q. That's a very broad and vague definition. Are you being fair to the very real pain that is suffered by the child who is regularly slapped around?

A. I was one of them -- that's why I'm doing this. You see, all the other things are the cause of this. The rules under which we operate in this society have been handed down from the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church by virtue of the fact that they invaded our societies. And because of that, we're manifesting domestic abuse.

Q. Wasn't there some other way you could have made your point besides tearing up a picture of the Pope?

A. No, there wasn't. I did it as a symbol of my rejection of what they are teaching people and of my belief that their influence in the world must be torn apart. I accept that tearing the picture can be viewed as a negative attitude, but one has to do what one can do. If I hadn't torn the picture, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Now people will listen to what I'm saying and let me explain what I'm talking about.

Q. Did you think a lot about this act before you did it?

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