Photo Credit: Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images; Stefano Dal Pozzolo-Vatican Pool via Getty Images
Susan Sarandon may need to go to confession. The actress, known for her political activism, casually referred to the current pope as a "Nazi" during a public interview with actor Bob Balaban on Saturday, according to Newsday. While discussing her Oscar-winning role in 1995's Dead Man Walking, which was based on the autobiography of nun and anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, Sarandon, 65, mentioned that she had sent a copy of Prejean's book to the pope.
"The last one," Sarandon clarified, "not this Nazi one we have now."
When Balaban made a joke of the remark, Sarandon reportedly repeated it.
So what prompted the comment? Reigning Pope Benedict XVI -- like Sarandon and the previous pope, John Paul II -- is a staunch opponent of the death penalty, even pleading for a halt to the controversial recent execution of Troy Davis. So the actress and the pope are certainly on the same page there.
Maybe Sarandon was just absently referring to the fact that 84-year-old Benedict was, in point of fact, a Nazi? As a teenager, German-born Pope Benedict XVI (then known by his given name Joseph Ratzinger) was conscripted into the Hitler Youth, as was required by law of all boys in Germany. However, he didn't subscribe to the group's ideology: He refused to attend meetings and deserted the German army at the first opportunity.
Certainly, "Nazi" is not a word to be thrown around lightly these days. Melancholia director Lars Von Trier is currently facing a police investigation for jokingly calling himself a Nazi, while Hank Williams Jr. was canned from ESPN and Monday Night Football this month for a joke comparing Barack Obama to Adolph Hitler.
Sarandon has never been one to keep her opinions quiet, though. The actress has always been active in efforts to end war, racism and human rights violations -- and last week, she joined the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.
"I'm here to understand what's going on and to lend my support," Sarandon told the press. "There's a lot of different kinds of people here who want to shift the paradigm to something that's addressing the huge gap between the rich and the poor."
Coincidentally, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI called the rich-poor divide "an offense against human dignity." Maybe Sarandon should take back that Nazi remark and get him to join forces!