The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Stephen Colbert: “I love my church”

The good people at the Religion News Service have discovered something a lot of us have known for a while: MCPF (My Close Personal Friend) Stephen Colbert is, indeed, a good Catholic boy:

Colbert has said that he attends church, observes Lent and teaches Sunday school. “I love my church, and I’m a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout,” he told Time Out magazine. “I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic.”


His on-air persona is a bloviating holier-than-thou conservative whose orthodox Catholicism is part of what makes him funny. On air, Colbert has chided the pope as an “ecu-menace” for his outreach to other faiths, referred to non-Catholics as “heathens and the excommunicated” and calls those who believe in evolution “monkey men.”

Diane Houdek has tracked Colbert’s on-air references to Catholicism on her blog, Catholic Colbert. When he recites the Nicene Creed or Bible verses from memory, as he did in 2006, it shows how foundational his faith is, she said.

“He is moving in an extremely secular world–it is hard to get a lot more secular than Comedy Central,” Houdek said. “Yet I feel he is able to witness to his faith in a very subtle way, a very quiet way to an audience that has maybe never encountered this before.”


It’s particularly powerful to Catholics, Houdek said, when the lines blur between Colbert’s personal faith and that of his on-air alter ego. She pointed to a 2007 segment in which his character reveled in Pope Benedict XVI’s statement that non-Catholic faiths were “defective.”

“Catholicism is clearly superior,” Colbert crowed beside a picture of the pope. “Don’t believe me? Name one Protestant denomination that can afford a $660 million sexual abuse settlement.”

It wasn’t just funny, Houdek said, but “powerful.”

“He really made a strong criticism of the church.”

Colbert’s personal opinions about Catholicism are not usually so clearly displayed, and his range of guests offers little clues. His Catholic guests have ranged from the theological left–openly gay Catholic writer Andrew Sullivan–to the far right–Catholic League president William Donohue.


Houdek said she regularly fields comments from readers who believe they’ve found a fellow traveler in Colbert. “You can’t pin him down,” Houdek said. “He becomes kind of a Rorschach test for what the viewer’s beliefs are.”

You can read more here.


Comments read comments(25)
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Dana MacKenzie

posted October 14, 2010 at 9:47 am

I love the subtle prejudice Colbert displays: if you don’t question the church, you’re NOT an intellectual.
The many great intellectuals of the church past and present might disagree.
There is a smugness to “modern intellectual Catholicism” that is starting to lose its charm for me.

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posted October 14, 2010 at 10:14 am

Instead of criticizing the man, we all should be grateful for a celebrity in today’s culture who openly embraces and practices his faith.

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posted October 14, 2010 at 10:21 am

Goes to show you that Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice.

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Dana MacKenzie

posted October 14, 2010 at 11:54 am

“instead of criticizing the man, we should all be grateful…”
How grateful? When I read Colbert getting his big laffs and applause for “Don’t believe me? Name one Protestant denomination that can afford a $660 million sexual abuse settlement,” what I saw and heard was a guy working furiously to distance himself from the church by giving fodder to those who hate it. Of course the church should be criticized for its handling of the sex abuse crisis in past decades, but Colbert’s “work” does nothing to correct the perception that things are still not being done, which is wholly inaccurate. Colbert is quick to say, defensively, that “intellectuals” can be Catholics but he does not allow his giant intellect to be terribly brave in countering the ongoing “Benedict hasn’t done anything” falsehoods of, for instance, the NY Times.
Grateful? No. I’m glad to see him be publicly Catholic, but that’s since Colbert is beloved of the self-professed “tolerant” types, that’s a safe bravery. Let him dare to suggest that Benedict has done more than anyone to make things right, and to admit that the safety measures that the Catholic church has installed since 2002 should actually be the MODEL for (as an example) the public schools which are rife with sexual abuse. Then, I’ll applaud the hell out of him, and be grateful, too.
But be ‘grateful’ because a Catholic proclaims it while hiding safely behind PC Shibboleths? No. I’m tired of that. I’m tired of being told I must be “grateful” that the left is tolerating a public Catholic because he sings and dances for them, which is what this comes down to.

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posted October 14, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Chill out Dana, you are too angry.
Find time to read the Gospels and pray.

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posted October 14, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Amen Dana!
I’ve already made my views known on “celebrity Catholics.” To whom much is given, much is required, starting with being a REAL defender of the faith (at least if you are going to tout it).
I can only imagine how many poorly catechized Catholics are lead astray by “Catechist Colbert.”
Some may argue that we are all works in progress. Maybe so, but Colbert is one of a select few who can greatly influence, perhaps even more so than all the US Bishops combined.
If only he would have the courage and humility to get it right! His “missed opportunity” is massive.

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posted October 14, 2010 at 4:33 pm

I can’t admit to lying awake at night worrying about Catholics being “led astray” by “Catechist Colbert”, and I think discerning fake news & commentary from real news & commentary might come in a bit handy here.
On the other hand, I never found him all that funny, but perhaps his subtle humor shrouded in intellect is wasted on hapless Neanderthals like myself…and so I’m off to go club some supper.

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Johannes Quaerens

posted October 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Deacon Kandra,
I cannot understand why you seem so intent on promoting Mr. Colbert. As he himself says, “I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic.” If by questioning the church he means disagreeing with the prudential judgments of the hierarchy, that is indeed fine. God has endowed us all with reason and it is our duty to exercise it. On the other hand, if by questioning the church he means disagreeing with any of the church’s teachings on faith and morals, then the man is not really a Catholic at all, but a Protestant masquerading as a Catholic.

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posted October 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

Colbert will be doing his best to support democrats get elected with his rally. I wouldn’t be proud to identify him with my church. The very people he seeks to empower are anti-scripture with many of their political views.

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Pantheism Bro's

posted March 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

get a life catholics, and priests stop raping boys.

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The pope

posted March 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm


posted March 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Wow, I never thought about it like that before.

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posted March 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm

good ol’ Colberto

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posted July 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm

A questioning Catholic does not a Protestant make.

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