Beliefs Culture

No joke: Dolan-Colbert âÂ?Â?Catholic comedy slamâÂ?Â? gets media blackout

RNS photo courtesy Scott Gries/Comedy Central

(RNS) News that Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan would appear together on a panel on faith and humor next month was greeted with widespread anticipation: Both men are devout Catholics and pretty darned funny.

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert has used his “Colbert Report” to gently make fun of religion and religious institutions, even as he remains a man of deep and devout Catholic faith.

But now this tale has a surprising punch line that will surely make a lot of people unhappy: Organizers of the Catholic comedy slam, set for Sept. 14 at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York, have announced a total media blackout of the event.

“After extended conversations with the program participants, the university will be closing the event to the media,” the university’s communications office wrote Thursday (Aug. 9) in an email to reporters. The event is titled “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”

“The evening has evolved from a public event to a more intimate conversation in front of members of the Fordham community,” the statement said. “We will not be videotaping the event for distribution, nor streaming it on the web or elsewhere.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said talks with the White House over a proposed contraception mandate are “going nowhere.”

That’s an abrupt change from initial plans to broadcast the event as widely as possible, maybe even on cable television. It may also rob the Catholic Church of a valuable opportunity to show the faith in a positive light and to an audience – Colbert’s, mainly – that might otherwise tune out churchmen like Dolan.

As of now it appears that the audience for the event will be limited to several hundred Fordham students. But given the ubiquity of hand-held digital devices – and the demand for at least snippets of the cardinal and the comedian interacting – it is likely that at least some of the program will make it onto YouTube or Twitter.

Dolan’s spokesman referred all inquiries about the switch to Fordham, and officials there said they could not elaborate. A spokeswoman for Colbert, who portrays a right-wing blowhard on his popular cable show, “The Colbert Report,” did not respond to requests for comment.

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • Let’s hope Mr. Colbert remembers that Timothy Cardinal Dolan is the Bishop of N.Y; and as such Colbert keeps his comments in line, remembering that Saint Ignatius, the second Bishop of Antioch admonished us: “Where the Bishop is, there is the Catholic Church.” I don’t envy Colbert not only because of the supernatural power which Christ, through Peter, gave Bishops; but also because of Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s winning wit.

  • I am greatyl disappointed that Cardinal Dolan, whom I greatly admire, has allowed his vanity to grow to this level.
    This and the invitation of President Obama to the Al Smith dinner are removing him from our ability to point to him as a role model for our children to uphold. I did not realize the need for approval outside the words of scripture that provide for our consolation could get ever get such a grip on him. It is no wonder the battle for the HHS mandate is fizzling out.
    Now more than ever he is in our prayers; we are loosing a great and noble warrior.,


  • If Jesus said that the loss of “each” soul plunges Him into mortal sadness, then why are we not praying always? Do we think that Jesus is laughing right now? If we truly love Him, we will share His sorrow and be in constant prayer for souls, not cracking jokes!

  • Stephen Colbert is a devout Catholic? Just about as much as Biden or Pelosi are. Has anyone watched his show? He is a far left liberal mocking all Conservative values of the Church. Many times he does monologue’s about God and Jesus Christ that are blasphemous. Surprised that Cardinal Dolan would lend him any credibility at all.

  • By appearing with Steve Colbert and inviting Obama to the Al Smith dinner, it’s quite apparent that Cardinal Dolan is more interested in the man’s approval than God’s approval. It is truly pathetic that the Catholic community has no leader with moral fortitude to counter the abysmal cesspool we exist in.

  • Stephen Colbert is a “devout Catholic.” Is that a joke? Mr. Gibson you don’t know much about the Catholic faith if that’s what you believe. The Colbert Report subverts the Catholic faith at every opportunity. The fact that so many “catholics” in America don’t even recognize that shows to what extent our nation has degenerated into a spiritual wasteland.

  • The Catholic community should understand that Cardinal Dolan is just a man at the end of the day. We all need to cultivate a strong relationship with Jesus and not look to the Cardinals, Bishops and priests to do the spirtual heavy lifting for us. As we all know with the recent scandals, this has been an abject failure. Read God’s word daily,pray, and watch because there are signs we are living in end times.

  • We don’t need any glib,shallow anecdotal Catholic witticisms exchanged between Cardinal Dolan the left wing Catholic Colbert. What Catholics are hungry for most is the truth. The truth is not a something but a somebody named Jesus Christ. Let Cardinal Dolan elaborate on Him in the erudite, sincere manner of Arch Bishop Fulton Sheen-sans Stephen Colbert.

  • How do you know that God is not using Bishop Dolan for a greater good? How do you know it is not Gods approval? How many times did a bishop engaged in a comedy?

  • I trust Cardinal Dolan complerely. He would never do or say anything that would belittle or endanger his position in representing the Catholic faith. I’m sure that he knows Colbert would do the same or he would not participate in anything like this.

  • At a time when the world is filled with terrorism, war, famine disease and most people are extrememly anxious about what tomorrow will bring, it is disingenuous if not insulting to have the “self-proclaimed American pope” continue to make light of the serious issues of life and humiliate our Church with his being an overblown, ideosyncratic, self indulging bafoon!

  • Go Cardinal Dolan Go! It is “devout”,catholics like pelosi, Biden and Colbert that give incorrect and damaging views on Catholicism.

    I’m proud that Our Cardinal is in their face.

    It’s about time..Go get them with the Truth.

  • In every shape and form Colbert is a devout Catholic! There is more truth-telling in his program than on any new program, especially Fox News.

  • Colbert is a very offensive comedian because he twists scripture and mocks the average person with his angry, sarcastic humor. He isn’t a comedian in the truest sense of the word. His position is that Scripture supports modern socialism. Not so. Before the last 7 Commandments(relationship with others) are the first 3(relationship and duties toward God). Modern society , especially socialism, tries to bypass the first 3. God didn’t make a mistake when He put them in the order they are in. Dolan could perhaps use some humor to bring home the message that we are commanded by God to worship Him, not just talk about Him, His ways or Scripture and certainly not just focus on the last 7.

  • I have to say, I’m incredibly disappointed this won’t be airing on cable or online. I was really looking forward to seeing the two talk, and I think the church is missing out on a real opportunity to reach out to young people and inspire them to learn more by not doing this. As to the comments about how devout Colbert is, it’s my understanding that he is a practicing Catholic; and having watched his show I can’t say that I’ve seen anything particularly offensive about his jokes. He’s well educated on the matters he chooses to joke about, and I think a lot of the people commenting are missing the point. As a young Catholic, I think it’s great when people are able to poke fun, even at the sacred. It makes the discussion more approachable for people who aren’t already in the club.

  • Oh Canada!
    Poking fun at the Sacred to invite possible “club” members…hummm.

    Saints lived Heroic Virtue. Some we’re very joyous. I have read the lives of many Saints, however I do not recall any making fun of the Holy Blessed Sacrament or the Holy Sacrament of confession. Please enlighten me how you have stumbled upon this NEW form of positive blasphemy.