Exclusive: Sinead O'Connor on the Catholic Church and Why She Stepped Back From Being a Priest

Nicole Nodland
Sinead O'Connor photographed by Nicole Nodland on July 17, 2014 at Brunswick Studios in London. 

Pope Francis bores Sinead O’Connor, but that doesn’t mean she’s let him off the hook.   

While talking to the unflinchingly honest singer/songwriter about her new album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss, Billboard asked O’Connor, 47, what she makes of Pope Francis, who succeeded Pope Benedict XVI after his surprise resignation on Feb. 28, 2013.  “I’m so bored by it that I don’t get involved,’ the singer responds, before explaining that whenever she has spoken out against the Catholic church, “my main issue has been child abuse." Referring to Pope Francis, she observes, “he’s not a guy that I would associate with either the abuse or the cover-ups, so I lost interest.”

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But after considering the topic a bit longer, O’Connor -- who's the cover story of Billboard's Aug. 16 issue -- indicates that she hasn't really lost interest. 

“Let me rephrase that," she says. “I find it quite laughable that they’re talking about revolutionizing the church when, in fact, they’re equating female ordination and pedophilia.“ For those who don’t stay abreast of papal news, in July 2010, the Vatican, under Benedict, revised its in-house rules to deal with sex-abuse cases within the church. In the process, it inexplicably labeled the ordaining of women priests a “grave crime” that was subject to the same punishment as clerics who commit pedophilia.

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“When you consider that, it shows you how little they think of children and the rape of children,” says O’Connor, who was ordained a priest in 1999 by a splinter faction of the church. “So, while I don’t think [Pope Francis] is an asshole, I have to laugh at people’s attempts to say that he’s bringing reform to the church as long as female ordination and the sexual abuse of children are equated."

In April 1999, Bishop Michael Cox, the leader of the dissident Catholic Latin Tridentine Church ordained O’Connor Mother Bernadette Mary in Lourdes, Ireland. The ordination caused strife within the church because O’Connor had donated $200,000 to Cox, drawing fire from another bishop who complained that the transaction left the perception that the artist had purchased her priesthood. O'Connor later withdrew the contribution.

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She is still ordained but tells Billboard that she has stepped back from her role as a priest because “I’m not interested in causing more trouble than I already am, and neither am I interested in making a circus of the sacraments.”

Besides, she explains, she's found her true calling. “I’m a singer,” says O’Connor. “Music is my thing.”