In his Colbert Report character, Stephen Colbert has deemed himself to be “America’s most famous Catholic.”
Now that Colbert has been slated to succeed David Letterman as Late Show host, that might actually be no joke.
In fact, Colbert takes his Catholicism quite seriously. In a 2012 appearance at Fordham University, Colbert spoke fondly of his faith
The host of “The Colbert Report” talked about his faith in a discussion on humor and spirituality with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Rev. James Martin, author of “Between Heaven and Mirth” and the official chaplain of Colbert’s show.
Colbert, who has taught Sunday school classes to school-age children, said people in comedy often don’t understand how he could remain Catholic. But he said he views the church as teaching joy, which he called the “infallible sign of the presence of God.”
“I love my church — warts and all,” he said, before an audience of about 3,000 cheering students, who posted his quotes on Twitter using the organizers’ #dolancolbert hashtag.
Colbert said people in comedy often make jokes at the expense of religion, but he makes jokes about what he called people’s misuse of religion in politics and other arenas. Still, he said, “If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble.”
In character, Colbert mockingly portrayed a conservative serial misuser of religion. Out of character, the possibilities are more expansive.
As my colleague Patti Miller pointed out this week, the prospective GOP presidential field is predominantly Catholic, save Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul. In his uber-conservative character, Colbert repeatedly skewered the free-market-Ayn-Randian-who-cares-about-the-poor Catholicism embodied by Republicans like Paul Ryan:
But if we’re just concentrating on the poor, helping the poor, that leaves the rich out — guys like me! … We need more help. The poor shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. A camel can get through the eye of a needle more than a rich man can get into heaven. I need help more than a poor person does.
The 2016 GOP presidential primary just might provide the real Catholic Colbert, the real Catholic comic, an endless source of material.