The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The Catholic struggles of Ronnie James Dio

The legendary rock star who made his name in the group Black Sabbath died over the weekend, after a battle with cancer. And it seems he also had a battle with faith.

Deacon Scott Dodge unearthed this interview, from Heavy Metal Magazine, from a few years back:

ronnie-james-dio.jpgHMM: “How has your Roman Catholic background inspired, affected or driven your lyrics writing.”


Dio: “It’s given me a lot of religious turmoil in some of the songs I’ve done. I never agreed with the message of the Catholic church, and still don’t to this day. There are some things that are fine, and what I think is very important is the moral upbringing of the young people. But I mean, you could send people to the church of silly walks, and they’re gonna get that. I just disagree so much with the way the Catholic church says things like if you’re not a good person you’ll die and go to Hell, there’s a purgatory there . . . if I was talking with a Holy Ghost, it would scare the living Hell out of me. God’s Son was nailed to a piece of wood up in the air . . . instead of really explaining it all, I think, at least from my perspective, they frightened us first, and then we’re supposed to just believe everything, and follow the rules or you’ll burn in hell or something. And I just totally disagree with that. I disagree completely with that idiom. The whole attitude about birth control — I mean we are a country that took about 10,000 generations to reach the population we have now, which is 4 billion, and it’ll only take a little over 1 generation to double it, but yet, you’re supposed to not use birth control — let’s have more children! So, the Catholic church, though I think it’s important that people grow up with moral values, I just always disagreed with their tactics, which I thought were fright tactics, as opposed to sitting down and explaining the situation.”


HMM: “What do you think of Jesus Christ?”

Dio: “I think that He was a prophet. I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He was a great man for the time… The thing that bothers me about taking that conclusion is that most of the general statements that Christ made, you can look at the dead language of Greek at the time it was used, and the writing styles that shifted around 50 A.D., you can pretty much date parts of the New Testament. Then His whole claim to be the only way wouldn’t make Him a good prophet, because like a lot of Muslims believe that Jesus was a great prophet in the lineage of prophets. But a good prophet is not gonna stand up there and say, “I’m the only way to the Father.” He’s either a liar or He’s a crazy man.”

Check out the link for more — including Deacon Scott’s canny insight that Dio may have something in common with C.S. Lewis.   

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posted May 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Whatever his faith struggles, the man created some of the finest music of its kind. I had the great fortune to see him recently, well, about two years ago this summer I think it was. It says something about the staying power of the music that a guy pushing 70 could still deliver it credibly, and that a couple of aging Gen Xers like my friend and I could still feel at home with it. As to his not accepting the church, well, that’s a big club. Yet it’s clear he gave more thought to themes of good and evil than many people. I was never a hardcore fan, although I would have loved to see him again. I consider myself poorer for his passing…

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posted May 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I wonder if the still thinks Jesus was just a prophet?

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posted May 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I offered up mass last night for Dio. He was confused about the Church (vincibly or invincibly, I wouldn’t know), but I think that heavy metal’s nicest guy would appreciate a heartfelt prayer all the same. May one of the greatest singers ever rest in peace.

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posted May 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm

The society:Church@her pastors, University failed to teach him about the divsion of sciences of St.Thomas Aquinas in Trinitate (13th century), then the differences between the strict philosophical@logical language (the name “God”, “creation”etc)and methaphorical(of Bible).
Jesus from Nazareth considerd himslef just as a The Son of Man and never God (Mk10:18) or The son of God or Messiah (later interpretation of writers@Church
Who cares?

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posted May 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm

It is interesting, though, that heavy metal musicians kind of used that same moral fear to sell records–they lyrics, the album cover art, and even the stage antics–all had a somewhat foreboding and fearful tone. And it was because of a large youthful population (i.e. the lack of birth control), that heavy metal shows were able to fill huge stadiums back in the 1980’s. It is the rare performer today that can sell out a 50,000 seat stadium.
I wish the interviewer had delved into Dio’s Catholic roots more. Was he baptized, but not really brought up in the faith? Did he attend a Catholic grade school or high school? To what level was he taught the faith? Was he raised by two Catholic parents? There’s more to this story! I think it is also interesting that many pop and rock artists who had some Catholicism in their roots (Springsteen, Madonna, Dion (not Dio)…), seem to have produced some music that was very popular and, perhaps, cutting edge. I think there is something about being brought up Catholic that brings out one’s gifts and influences one’s artistic development and world view to the better. That doesn’t mean I agree with all the art they produced, but I do think they would be lesser artists, and their art would be much more dull if not for the influence of their faith.
I grew up during the 80’s. I liked some of the heavy metal music, though I didn’t agree with all they lyrical content. I think if your life were totally immersed in metal at the time, it may have ended up subtracting from your life to an extent–diverting you from a better path.
As these rockers age, they take on less the appearance of fearful metal gods, and appearance of the human mortal whose time is limited. The lines on the face, the dyed hair, and the weary look in the eyes. Even if one didn’t like metal, you start to sympathize more with the aging performer, and wish to see them in the next life!

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Matthew Milhon

posted May 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

He was either a liar or a crazy man….or the Son of God.

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Mike Ragon

posted May 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm

He knows now if the teachings of the Church are “silly walks” or not.

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posted May 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Just an FYI on the interview, HM Magazine is a Christian music magazine. It originally was called Heaven’s Music but the name was changed in 1995 to HM Magazine since it specifically covered Hard Music like heavy metal, etc. It mostly covers Christian bands but has a feature called “So and So Says” where Doug van Pelt, the founder and editor, interviews a “secular” rock artist. The interview covers music, touring, etc but always gets around to Jesus and Christianity. A collection of the interviews has been published as “Rock Stars on God”
The Ronnie James Dio article was certainly and old “So and So Says” which is why it covered his faith and thoughts on Jesus and religion.

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jennifer du chesne

posted May 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm

well whatever he believes his is his opinion, but I do agree cathlolic churches did say you were going to hell if you even had bad thoughts, I grew up with a conscience so embedded with the thoughts and preachings of the catholic church that I rebelled. I am older an wiser now,but those scars stay with me for the rest of my life. And dare to say I am not a catholic anymore but I am a very spiritual person so it must of instilled something in me.

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Mr Flapatap

posted May 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I found interesting that, despite all his Heavy Metal roots and “connections to the other side” in 1980 he recorded a song with Kerry Livgren (founder of the group Kansas) called Mask of the Great Deceiver with a strong anti-Satan bend.

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jamie brunette

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Roonie’s band was called DIO, he and OZZY of Black Sabbeth never really got along to well

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Your Name

posted June 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm

This is what we all have to come to terms with, to say Christ was a liar OR a crazy man is the wrong statement to be made by Ronnie or anyone. Jesus was who He said He was OR he was a liar AND a crazy man no middle ground here! Another problem we have to come to grips with is does it really matter what the Catholic Church says? I say it is of the utmost importance to read God’s Word “The Bible” what does It say? we get instruction from it we are responsible for letting someone decieve us or not, we can’t blame others, God’s judgement is individual we all have to give an account for our lives for what we do with Jesus Christ do we believe or not that He is the Son of God “God in the flesh” God’s word “the Bible” is The Absolute in a world that does not adhere to absolutes. The Absolute Truth is Jesus IS the only way to the Father. Please everyone reading this, read and study the bible fervently and make the choice to accept Christ into your heart! If you don’t you WILL go to HELL no sugar coating it! Not because I said so, but because GOD in His word says so! I sincerely hope Ronnie James Dio did this before he left this world he was an incredible vocalist and talent that God loved so much, but He gave Ronnie a choice like He gave you and I a choice I choose Christ hope you will to, for not to is to choose Hell and yes it is a real place the party is in Heaven not Hell!

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posted June 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm


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posted October 19, 2010 at 12:16 am

well ronnie james dio said his uneducated veiw about the catholics ity seems he took what he wanted to and left out what he wanted to i love his voice and music however he has such wrong idea of the catholics church WOW u think he would first induldge into the church and see all of its beauty and richness befoire you just make wrong staements i hope befor he died he said his prayers i still listen to his music but i dont pay attention to his false statements THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS MORE TO OFFER THAN WHAT PEOPLE THINK VERY DEEP CHURCH LETS SEE FOUR ABOUT 2000 years now still standing wow im sure theres more than people think

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Richard Sheen

posted November 5, 2010 at 1:44 am

Eternal Rest grant unto Ronnie, Oh Lord, and let pertetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

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joe jackson

posted August 19, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I bet Dio believes now! And he wishes he could change his belief in Jesus’s claim that he is the only way to the father.

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posted February 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm

im a little late with a comment, as this archive is probably lost to anyone’s eyes forever.
i do not agree with Dio’s perspectives. i think from the outside looking in, ANY church’s message can be misinterpreted.
but i loved the guy. his music w/ Dio (the band) got me through adolescence in a very unhappy home. my anger was channeled to the music. otherwise, i would have been listening to madonna and ended up in juvenile court. that would have been rather ironic.
anyway, i miss Dio just ‘being there’. he was so intelligent, strange, creative, and with an incredible voice that was inspiring. as far as rock vocalists, i would reserve “inspiring” only for him and sully erna.

God bless you all…and farewell to Ronnie James Dio.

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posted March 27, 2013 at 7:16 am

I liked dio as a singer. i don’t believe he was open minded and
willing to take a serious look at who Christ is and the love he offers everyone.

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posted June 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

I truly believe Ronnie was a prophet from Christ and Ronnie didn’t even know it . Ronnie was a great Catholic if you truly read lyrics from some of his songs . Sign of the Southern Cross stands out as if you read it he sounds like Jeremiah giving a warning about Lucifer . God throughout the bible used sinners and non believers to spread his message . I hope Ronnie found Christ before his passing . I prayed for him a lot . I met him once after a concert . What a beautiful gracious human being !!!!! I miss him and God Bless hi, and his family always !! :)

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Todd'mo P

posted July 11, 2014 at 12:04 am

I so hope Ronnie found true faith. His music touches me like no other.

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tim davis

posted August 17, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Ronnie….was a wise man… would venture a guess…..he very well….received……..Christ at his end….he had the love of our world….his wife…family……….and finally…God

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