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.