Byrne describes Catholic Church as ‘force for evil’

Irish actor launches stinging on attack on church, calling it a corrupt and nefarious institution

Actor Gabriel Byrne says he remains unrepetentant on his views of organised religion  Photograph:  Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Actor Gabriel Byrne says he remains unrepetentant on his views of organised religion Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Actor Gabriel Byrne has launched a stinging attack on the Catholic Church and described it as a “force for evil”.

The veteran Hollywood star had a strict Catholic upbringing in Dublin and spent five years in a seminary training to be a priest.

But he said it was his own unhappy memories of the seminary, where he says he was sexually abused by a priest, that made him decide not to raise his two children as Catholics.

And in an interview, the 62-year-old says he remains unrepetentant on his views of organised religion and even claimed the Catholic Church once drew inspiration from Hitler’s Nazis.

Recalling the the time he was sent away to an English seminary at just 11 to study for the priesthood, he said: “It was part of the culture. It was a very religious, oppressive society, though we didn’t see it as oppression at the time.

“I remember walking with my mother along a narrow pathway and she was holding onto a pram and two priests came along the footpath and she had to wheel the pram into the road to allow them to walk by, these mysterious men in black. I think the religion I had — and I don’t have any now — was rooted in a kind of childish fantasy.”

He continued: “The Jesuits have that expression, ‘give us a child until he is seven and he will be ours for life’. That was why the Catholic Church and the Nazi party fed off each other. “

After the rally at Nuremberg, the then pope said: “We need to be doing something similar and we have the theatre for it with St Peter’s, so that was when he started coming out on the balcony to address the crowds.

“And the Nazis meanwhile were learning from the Jesuits and making sure they got the child by seven in order to have them for life. The Hitler Youth. “De Valera signed the book of condolence when Hitler died. There was a sneaking regard among many Irish people for Germany and Hitler. England’s pain was Ireland’s gain.”

The New York-based actor, who recently triggered a storm when he described The Gathering as a “scam”, said in the interview with the Sunday Telegraph’s Seven magazine that he feels fortunate to have escaped from the clutches of the Catholic Church.

“They have way too much hold on this country. It’s a very corrupt and nefarious institution. The nuns were vicious because you have all these women living together in denial of love.

“They turned inward on themselves, became twisted creatures. I saw nuns being awfully cruel to me and to my sister. Horrific. Horrific.”

He went on: “I think if you are lucky you eventually come to a place where you are able to question these things, and I did. I read a lot on the subject and had many conversations and I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is a force for evil.

“How can you enslave women? How can you deny men who are supposed to be serving you the comfort of marriage and children? How can they deny sending condoms to Africa? How can they deny women becoming priests? It’s an anti-woman and anti-love church.”

Referring to his decision not to raise his two grown-up children [he had with ex-wife, actress Ellen Barkin] as Catholics, he added: “I never discussed religion with them. As far as I’m concerned, it didn’t do me any good.

“And it’s interesting to watch two people grow up without it and find their own kindness and conscience.”

Byrne’s latest move, All Things To All Men, is out next Friday.

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