Vatican forgives John Lennon for “more popular than Jesus” quip

November 23, 2008

When John Lennon said in 1966 that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus,” there was a furious reaction in the United States. Dozens of radio stations in the South and Midwest banned Beatles music and some concert venues cancelled scheduled appearances by the band. Their manager Brian Epstein quickly flew to the U.S. to try to quell the storm. Soon afterward, Lennon told a news conference in Chicago that he was sorry for making the comparison, although he added he still thought it was true. The Vatican, as far as I can see from online archives, stayed silent and aloof even thought it could hardly agree with or approve Lennon’s message.

(Photo: Japanese band performs in Lennon’s memory, 8 Dec 2005/Toshiyuki Aizawa)

When the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano came out with a nostalgic look back at the Beatles on the 40th anniversary of their 1968 White Album on Saturday, it lead off the article with Lennon’s famous quote and promptly shrugged it off. “The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a ‘boast’ by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up with the legend of Elvis and rock and roll,” it wrote. The Beatles’ music was creative and original, even more so than their haircuts and clothes, and has stood the test of time, it said. The Italian-language original has now been overtaken on the OR website by the latest edition, but an English translation will certainly pop up somewhere (on Zenit?).

At the risk of possibly over-interpreting an arts page story, I wonder what all this says about the ridiculing of religious leaders. The uproar back in 1966 was mostly from the U.S. “Bible Belt” and the Vatican seems to have been quiet. Would it be the same today? At the Catholic-Muslim Forum in Rome three weeks ago, the two sides agreed in a statement about religious minorities that “their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule.” Muslim countries, which were not very vocal on the international scene back in the 1960s, are now working hard at the United Nations to push through a global blasphemy law.

What do you think would happen today if a rock band claimed to be more popular than Jesus? Or Mohammad?


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The Vatican has no power to forgive anyone; only God can forgive sins, and the Vatican’s claim that it can is nothing short of blasphemy!

Posted by Sturdy Oak | Report as abusive

As per 1966 I would yawn and fall asleep. Wake me up when it’s tea time.

Posted by IAN CAMERON | Report as abusive

Since there is so little Faith News, I should steal some of your readers. They were here looking for something anyway. I wanna hold your hand.

Posted by M. J. Broffey | Report as abusive

I’m pretty sure this is just an attempt to make people like the Vatican more. I’m not against them–they can believe what they want to believe–but it reeks of post-election nastiness.

Posted by Tara | Report as abusive

What I will say is the Vatican must have a great PR department looking for great opportunities for good PR because this is all this is

Posted by diane | Report as abusive

What would happen? Probably we would see the usual bully-pulpet tirades from the christian fundamentalist pinheads. The islamic towelheads would issue their usual intefadahs (sp?) calling for a grisly death to the
person(s) who so foully besmirched their prophet. It is all so silly…When it is our turn to die, God will deal with us based upon how we lived our lives, not because of an off-hand comment of the sort made by John Lennon.

As for a global blasphemy law, whose standard of morality will be used? The architects of such a law do not have the common weal in mind when they trumpet this nonsense. They seek only a legitimization of the rabid froth of hatred that spews from their mouths with depressing regularity. A morality based upon hatred? Now that is blasphemy.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Well, I agree that VATICAN has no right to give forgivenss to anybody but If Lennon tried to compare himself with CHRIST, I can simply feel sorry for him and his mental approach.
It shows that he has no respect for anybody other than himself. It clearly prsents the grounds he was brought on.

Posted by Bobby Victor Thomas | Report as abusive

Obviously no-one has read John 20:23 “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. 23 Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”

or, if so, perhaps it has been rationalised away lik John Ch 6.

Posted by To Forgive, Divine | Report as abusive

Granted that the Vatican can’t give forgiveness – getting PR stunt press out of somebody else’s PR stunt (some payback?) – I can see it now…. ‘Been a bit quiet for us of late. What can we do to show we’re still around and doing something?’….. Can’t respect it though, they should have left it as they had originally. Plus it’s so long after it occurred. Are they hoping John’s listening?

Posted by Owen Cattigan | Report as abusive

In the case of Jesus, you’d get the predictable reaction from mincing bishops over here, and more of the burning cross type fundamentalist ravings from the southern US. In the case of “that other bloke” (I’m not sure how secure your blog system is) you’d get mass rioting worldwide and probably dozens of deaths, followed by hand-wringing from the west and calls to criminalise such statements on the grounds that they are such an outrageous abuse of free speech. Forget tea time: wake me up in a thousand years when all this religion nonsense is a thing of the past.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Men can forgive one another and this does include The Vatican also!! Protestants, OFF our website! As for the Lennon statement, nothing really there too forgive. Just a little ole statement, I don’t think Jesus has taken offense to it. There are greater tragidies in the world.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

i think it shouldn’t be a big deal because people have the right to freedom of speech. people need to learn to get over themselves and that not everyone has the same beliefs they do. If you want to say something… say it. who is to take that away from you? one persons comment shouldn’t have any affect on anybody. His opinion has nothing to do with respect i’ve heard a lot worse things than that the Beatles are better than christ.. i mean look at society its not perfect and it never will be. There are greater things to worry about that what one person has to say. I mean for instance there is a war going on and people are angry about Christ? Please… get a hold of yourself…

Posted by leylakins | Report as abusive

The debate between people who think the Catholic Church an or cannot forgive sins, central to the whole Prostestant vs. Catholic split, is entirely out of place here. Ignore the stupid headline, read the story. The Vatican per se has done or said nothing about John Lennons remark. An article by some editor in L’Observatore Romano said in passing that the remark was “a boast”, in a article looking back on the Beatles’ career. The article doesn’t condemn or forgive, it’s an editor not the Vatican, and all the comments here not to mention the Reuters article and inane headline is quite pointless.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Because of the anti-Christian bias of the Western world, it would be perfectly acceptable to state that your rock band is more popular thatn Jesus; it would, however, be most inadvisable to announce that your rock band is more popular than Mohammad.

Posted by Linda MacDonald | Report as abusive

it was my understanding, that the context in which John Lennon made his remark was based on the fact that beetlesmania was boasting more attendees to their concerts. Then Churches were boasting attendees for church services.

It probably still holds true today if you account for the overall number of American Idol viewers verses church enrollments of the same respected years.

Granted I do agree John Lennon should have picked his words better. But Lennon’s comments aren’t exactly the most blasphemous ever made by an entertainer.

Posted by john | Report as abusive

Jesus Christ came on Earth to forgive sins and he formed a Church, the Universal, Apostolic and Holy Church of which He is the Head. By His own sanction, therefore, as the Son of the Living God, as God made man, He through His Church still forgives sins today and The Holy Catholic Church – the only Church whose apostolic tradition goes back to Peter the Apostle – has EVERY right to claim, in Christ’s name, to forgive sins.

The only problem with this so-called Lennon article is I believe it is being misinterpreted and overblown since the poor man is dead and the Holy Church knows this man has already faced God’s judgment at the time of his earthly death. Had he been a catholic and sought the Sacrament of Confession before he was tragically killed, he would have been forgiven of all of his sins. This is the Church’s right and privilege given to it by our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Word Made Flesh.

Posted by Francis | Report as abusive

I remember hearing Lennon’s statement at the time he made it. Then, and now, I don’t understand the fuss. Lennon merely stated his opinion which might well have been true. In ’66, people were fanatical beyond description for the Beatles. This was about the same time, if I recall, that Time Magazine published its infamous “God is Dead” cover. It’s sad that the world seemed to have more love for the Beatles than for Christ, but Lennon was really only an astute observer.

Posted by John T. | Report as abusive

Awwww :):):) — Now let’s move on.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

You Catholics do talk a load od twaddle!

How dare the Pope act as if he is God!

The Catholic Church has been preaching anti-Christian doctrinal claptrap for ages: and now it shows us thinking folk WHY the Pope is a fake. And I mean a fake.

It is a fake stance to pretend you undertstand the concept of Christian forgiveness, and also pretend you are the only true representative of God on earth. This being the exact claim that was trumpeted when there was once TWO popes. Both sending troops to the battle field to make their point, and both claiming to be the one true Pope. History does not lie – there is more evidence of abject corruption and skullduggery.

The Pope is a law unto himself and his church is peopled by extortionists, secret service personal and some appalling anti-Christian bigotry. Some of the most unpleasant, offensive, and downright nasty people I have ever had the displeasure to meet have been rligious and Catholic. They preach condemnation, pain ansd suffering and it is an aappalling indictment of a church that is really all about power, money and domination.

Not only does the Pope encourage the persecution of people they consider as ‘non persona gratis’ (alien foe), but also indirectly encourages workplace discrimination, hate campaigns and the wicked victimisation of their NPG foes, including gays, etc.

In a world where pain and suffering are still rife, it beggars belief that the Pope (an ex Hitler youth member) has such an appalling lack of Christian love and tenderness.

Jesus must be weeping at how the Catholic Church, an empire borne out of the mafia-type organisations/families of ancient Rome, could so cynically turn His doctrine on it’s head and abuse its position in such a morally reprehensible way.

This church has been, for example, covertly encouraging immigrants from the south of America, via strict anti-contraception campaigns, to invade the US in order to drastically increase the numbers of Catholic members, and so as to increase the influence of the Catholic church on the US government. They plan to hijack the US and make it part of the Roman Catholic empire.

I kid you not – the truth is hard but it is out there.

Posted by AwfulTruth | Report as abusive

One other thing about John Lennon? He was a homophobe

Posted by Dale Andersen | Report as abusive

[…] all been waiting for: Hannah Montana versus Jesus. You’d think that if The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, well Hannah Montana was a shoe-in. As it turns out, God’s kid is still more popular than […]

Posted by Hannah Montana Not As Popular As Jesus | Involuntary Fury | Report as abusive

See what happened to John Lennon, then be careful of what you think, do or how you live…….

http://www (remove extra spaces)

Revelations of
Heaven & Hell
by 7 Columbian Youths

Posted by Jacquie | Report as abusive