Irish Actor Gabriel Byrne Talks Pope Francis with Michael Des Barres

Irish Actor Gabriel Byrne Talks Pope Francis with Michael Des Barres

The celebrated Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, who was brought up a strict Catholic and trained for the priesthood, discusses Pope Francis in a thoughtful radio interview with Michael Des Barres airing today, describing the pontiff's recent acts of humility as empty gestures that won't fundamentally change the Catholic Church.

Byrne says Francis is showing signs of being just as disappointing to those hoping for radical reform as Tony Blair was in Britain when he became prime minister on a tide of popular optimism in 1997, and as Barack Obama has been in the United States since his insurgent presidential campaign in 2008.

"Like Barack Obama, a bit like Tony Blair, he's a figurehead, a CEO - a man who does the bidding of the masters who hide behind him," Byrne says of the new Pope in a frank hour-long conversation on the Michael Des Barres Show, which airs online on at 3 p.m. PST, today. He described the Church as an "innately conservative" institution, more like a corporation than a true fount of spiritual inspiration.

Byrne says Francis may have set a different tone by doing "Christ-like things" - bathing the feet of prisoners and embracing a severely deformed man. Those things are "nice", but not enough, because the church's attitude to fundamental questions like the bans on women priests and married priests shows no sign of shifting.

"Can one man change an institution? I feel the answer is no," Byrne says. "He can initiate certain reforms in the Vatican... but unless he radically alters the policies of the Catholic Church there won't be a change."

The Church, he says, remains "profoundly anti-women" and goes against the principle of being an institution founded on love by denying love to its own priests.

Other topics covered include:

- President Obama: Nobel Peace Prize winner, responsible for deaths of thousands
- Politics have become infotainment
- Whistle-blowers, the truth has become the enemy

Byrne has served as Ireland's first cultural ambassador.

He made a deep impression in such films as Miller's Crossing and The Usual Suspects and won a new generation of fans as the therapist of HBO's In Treatment.

Such public pronouncements are rare, however. He is fiercely protective of his privacy and often ducks red-carpet events and celebrity interviews.

Michael Des Barres, a fellow actor who is also a rock musician as well as a radio host, has been friends with him for two decades.

Michael describes his weekly syndicated radio show, The Michael Des Barres Show, as "rock debauchery with a social conscience... cerebral radio with no cheap shots, sound effects, or loony sidekicks, just shockingly intimate exchange between A-list guests and a silver-tongued host who knows where the bodies are buried".

Recent guests have included Julian Lennon, Bruce Dern, Don Johnson and Rosanna Arquette. All shows are archived for viewing at

Michael also hosts a second weekly show, Roots & Branches. The former front man for such seminal 1970s bands as Silverhead and Detective - and writer of the enduringly popular 1980s hit "Obsession" - has appeared in countless feature films and hit television shows such as NCIS, Nip/Tuck, The Finder, and as the infamous assassin Murdoc on MacGyver.

His 2012 album Carnaby Street garnered a first-round Grammy nomination and two SiriusXM Songs of the Week. He has just released a live follow-up album, Hot 'n Sticky.

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