Gregory Peck, one of Hollywood’s legendary actors, not only captivated audiences with his immense talent but also left an indelible mark through his deep and abiding connection with Catholicism.
While most remember him for his show-stopping portrayal of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, Peck also played heroic priests who embody the models of being that Catholics worldwide are called to emulate.
Peck was raised Catholic. After his mother married his father, she converted to the faith, and together the Peck parents raised their son in the Catholic religion. When his parents divorced, Peck was sent to live with his grandmother. He was later sent to a Catholic boarding school at age 10.
The first movie Peck portrayed a priest in was the 1994 film “Keys to the Kingdom” which depicts a Roman Catholic priest, Father Francis Chisholm, who goes to China in order to evangelize. The film ended up getting high praise for Peck’s work which was reflected in his Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Lead Role.
A 1944 Variety article said, “A cavalcade of a priest’s life, played excellently by Gregory Peck, what transcends all the cinemaction is the impact of tolerance, service, faith and godliness.”
Peck would then go on to play the role of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish minister who saved over 6,000 Allied troops and Jews during the Second World War. Monsignor O’Flaherty actively worked against the Nazis while the Pope at the time, Pope Pious XII, stayed silent about the atrocities occurring across Europe.
Later in life, St. Pope John Paul II would meet with Gregory Peck at the White House where the Pope said, “God bless you, Gregory. God bless you in your mission.” Peck would go on to describe the Pope as one of the finest men he’s ever met, but Peck did not blindly follow the Pope like so many Catholics are taught to.
He didn’t always agree with him on issues like abortion, contraception, and the ordination of women. “I am a Roman Catholic,” he said, practicing the faith not fanatically but “enough to keep the franchise.”