Catholic at Heart: Pierce Brosnan’s Imperfect Yet Saving Faith

Pierce-Brosnan

It would be a beautiful world if cradle Catholics remained faithful all their lives, and if converts (because, in this scenario, there wouldn’t be any reverts, like me) came to the Faith all unspotted and pure, with no nagging personal issues mucking up the place.

A beautiful world, yes, but not this world.

Let’s take the case of “Remington Steele” and James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, 61, who plays a depressed, suicidal TV personality who finds an unexpected surrogate family, in the new movie “A Long Way Down.”

In his early 20s, the Irish-born Brosnan married Cassandra Harris, who died in 1991 of ovarian cancer. In 2013, he lost Cassandra’s daughter Charlotte (Brosnan adopted her and brother Christopher after the death of their father, Harris’ second husband, in 1986) to the same disease.

With Harris, he has a son, actor Sean Brosnan, who was eight when his mother died.

As widely reported, Brosnan answered the New York Daily News’ question about how he survived these tragic losses by saying, “I would say faith, being Irish, being Catholic. It’s ingrained in my DNA.”

In 2001, Brosnan married “Entertainment Tonight” correspondent Keely Shaye Smith at Ballintubber Abbey Catholic Church in Ireland, the first marriage for her. But at the time, they had two children, one apparently born before their engagement and one born after.

It’s not the first time that Brosnan has discussed the role of faith in his life. He spent his early years in in Navan, County Meath, being raised by his mother, with the help of others, after his father’s departure when he was two. Then, at the age of 10 (or 12, depending on the source you read), he joined his mother in London.

In 2011, as reported by IrishCentral,com, he told RTE.ie, “God has been good to me. My faith has been good to me in the moments of deepest suffering, doubt and fear. It is a constant, the language of prayer … I might not have got my sums right from the Christian Brothers, or might not have got the greatest learning of literature from them, but I certainly got a strapping amount of faith.”

In a FoxNews.com story in 2013, in response to a question about how he handled being a widower with three children to raise, he said, “Grace under pressure, faith, Catholic faith, work and work and more work.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “The Church has, I suppose, kept me in good stead through life. I was brought up a Catholic in Ireland; I was brought up in the Church. Faith has kept me going.”

On the other hand, in speaking about his mother to the the U.K. Telegraph in April, Brosnan said, “It was extremely courageous of her to get out of the mangled lifestyle of Catholicism and shaming and find a life for herself and myself. I wouldn’t have had my career if she’d stayed in Ireland and been persecuted for being a single mother in the ’50s, by the Church and the gossip of the town.”

But a few paragraphs later, he surprises the reporter by crediting his faith again in helping him deal with personal and professional challenges, saying, “I have a strong faith, being Catholic Irish, that has been maintained throughout my life. I enjoy the ritual of church, prayer. I’m not consistent in it, but it’s within me.

“The dark times and the troubles, they’ll come regardless. You just hope you have the strength and the courage to address them and endure. You want to live as many lives as possible in one; you want to do as much as you can.”

Now, there’s plenty an orthodox Catholic might wonder about in Brosnan’s story. Was his first marriage valid, since he married a two-time divorcee? How did he get married in the Church if he was cohabiting with Smith and already had children with her out of wedlock?

These are all legitimate questions from the perspective of Church doctrine and canon law, but it was ultimately between Brosnan and his priest or priests, and frankly, it’s none of our business. Ultimately, we have a man apparently still in the Faith and happy to talk positively about its influence in public, and, even more important, possibly raising his children in it.

As we approach the October Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” it’s worth noting — even for an orthodox revert like myself — that it’s better to have people in the Church than outside it, however imperfectly they practice the Faith.

It’s better to open doors to sinners than to slam them in their faces. And once a way has been found to bring someone back into the Church, bringing up past irregularities as if they were disqualifiers for future involvement in Catholic life is not only useless but damaging and deeply uncharitable.

So let’s pray for Brosnan and his family, that everything was or will be sorted out in the proper way, according to the spirit and letter of Church law, and that the children involved will be raised in the Truth and love of the Faith.

And while we’re at it, let’s be grateful to have voices in the entertainment industry speaking out in the mass media in favor of Catholicism. There’s no telling what fertile ground the seed of that witness may fall upon.

And if that voice once belonged to Bond, James, Bond, even better.

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33 thoughts on “Catholic at Heart: Pierce Brosnan’s Imperfect Yet Saving Faith

  1. Father Bob says:

    Why wouldn’t a priest preside at the marriage of Pierce and Keely? There were no canonical impediments to them celebrating the sacrament of matrimony. Pierce’s first beloved wife was deceased so he was free to remarry. And any sexual activity before Pierce and Keely’s marriage could be addressed in the sacrament of reconciliation. Any priest worth his soul would have been more than happy to witness their marriage and to regularize their situation with the Church. By the way, my mother and I attended Mass in Ballintubber Abbey. Very beautiful! It’s called “the abbey that wouldn’t die.” Even though the abbey was suppressed and damaged during the Protestant Reformation, the celebration of Mass has always been celebrated there to this day. God bless!

  2. John says:

    Warren,

    As Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone…”

    You seem to be the one rewriting the Catholic faith since your comment leaves no room for forgiveness!

    Remember that we pray “forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us…”. This means, quite simply, that we are praying that God treat us as we treat others… so if we refuse to forgive others, we tell God not to forgive us!

  3. Harry Smith says:

    Harry, feel free to contact Pierce and give him an earful. Personally, he seems like one great guy doing his best. Loved him in the movie “Mama Mia.”

  4. Constance says:

    It would do good for all of you to listen to this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGGSxxuBtMk

  5. Andrew Wolfe says:

    I think Brosnan is an excellent example of the mess of irregular marriages all around. How do you save someone who’s got much of his heart in the right place, cares for his late first wife’s prior children, but is out of control on the sixth commandment?

    1. Harry Smith says:

      Andrew, inflexible rules cause rigidity of thought, an absence of empathy and compassion, hardening of the arteries and heart attacks. Loosen up for heaven’s sake.

  6. Warren says:

    Where do people get off rewriting the Catholic Faith? There is no such thing as ‘private sin’. All sin affects the Body of Christ. Sins can be committed in private and confessed in private. The effects of sin, however, are hardly private. Bad behaviour and malicious intent infect the People of God with a desensitization of the moral sense, no less.

    The “it’s none of our business” line would ring hollow to Thomas Aquinas and a host of other theologian saints who must roll in their graves when Catholics buy into the sort of nonsense which has us ignoring our responsibility to offer fraternal correction to obstinate sinners so that their souls may be saved. “None of our business”?!—that is indifference and cowardice masquerading as virtue. We all share a responsibility for each other. We are saved as members of a people. The notion of a highly individualistic salvation commonly understood by protestants, for example, is certainly not the Catholic (nor eastern orthodox) understanding of salvation. CCC1872: Sin is an act contrary to reason. It wounds man’s nature and injures human solidarity. Again, we are the People of God, not the private citizens of God.

    The fact that people in this forum are talking about a person’s “private” sins means that those sins are known to some degree, i.e., are publicly manifest and thus carry the potential for scandal… or present an opportunity for reconciliation.

    The Public Effects of Private Sin
    http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=1863

    http://www.catholicherald.com/stories/A-Christian-Has-No-Private-Sins,6674

    1. Barry A Tomsky says:

      I would agree on the comments made by both Warren and Andrew W. so eloquently and righteous put; my comment would be ‘what would Jesus do’ here? I say that true Christian Charity must take the prominent role and not put us in a ‘judge not less thee be judged’ role. Please let us not Blog (read flog) each other to death., for we have all sinned (and continue to) and fall short etc. etc. So unless we can each take our brother Pierce to our heart and counsel him directly;
      are our views what God asks us to do; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? God bless us all!

    2. Harry Smith says:

      Warren, feel free to contact Pierce and hold him accountable. Personally, I think Pierce is doing just fine and is moving in a positive direction. Also, he seems like a caring and likable guy. I loved him in the movie “Mama Mia.”

    3. Mike M says:

      I don’t think that the author meant that it’s irrelevant to us, but that it’s not our role to handle that. Different people have different responsibilities. Where his priest or bishop handled a situation that was his to handle, our role is to respect their authority. If the proper authorities in the Church gave the OK for Brosnan’s marriage, I’m not entitled to an explanation for that.

      Fraternal correction is good and critical to living a Christian life. But, second guessing priests and bishops for their handling of a situation involving people whom we don’t know… I think that we could do with less of that.

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