As a younger man, Frank Sinatra held a bit of disdain for religion. He made comments about organized religion that he acknowledged could damage his career. As the celebrity grew older, though, he turned back to his Catholic roots. According to some sources, he even offered to pay the pope a large sum of money to hear his confession. The offer was refused, but Sinatra had other run-ins with Church leaders.
A young Frank Sinatra made polarizing comments about religion
In 1963, Sinatra made a very honest statement about his religious beliefs.
“I believe in you and me,” he told Playboy in 1963, per Billboard. “I’m like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life — in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don’t believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice.”
He shared that his real problem was with organized religion. Though he was raised Catholic, he had turned away from the Church.
“There are things about organized religion which I resent,” he explained. “Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I’ll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. Over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well.”
He acknowledged that he risked major backlash for these remarks.
He reportedly offered the pope money to hear his confession
Years before he made these comments, in 1945, Sinatra met with Pope Pius XII. According to the singer, the pope asked if he was a tenor or a baritone. Regardless of his feelings about religion, he was excited by the meeting.
“I was amazed the Pope had heard of me,” he said, per Time,” adding, “I was speechless. I am enthralled by all the grandeur.”
Much later in his life, Sinatra turned back to the Catholicism of his youth. While recovering from stomach surgery in 1986, Sinatra reportedly asked for a private audience with Pope John Paul II. For a confession and absolution, Sinatra allegedly offered over $150,000, per a 1989 article in the South China Morning Post. The pope declined.
That same year, though, rumors swirled that Sinatra was planning a concert for Pope John Paul II. While the Vatican said this was not true, UPI reported that sources said the pope would be happy to attend a Sinatra concert.
Frank Sinatra turned back to religion when he met his fourth wife
Sinatra’s religious revival occurred when he met his fourth wife, Barbara Sinatra. Because he married Barbara in the Catholic Church, he got his first marriage annulled. His children were troubled by this.
“I found the concept of annulment shocking,” his daughter Nancy wrote in the book Frank Sinatra: An American Legend, “and my brother [the late Frank Jr.], sister, and I were concerned about how it would affect our mother.”
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