Catholic San Francisco


(CNS artwork/courtesy Tim Luecke)

Fordham University student Tim Luecke’s artwork showing Stephen Colbert, Cardinal Dolan and Jesuit Father James Martin, “Cardinal and Colbert” event moderator

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Cardinal, comedian trade jokes but get serious about faith
September 19th, 2012
By Angelo Stagnaro

NEW YORK – In Fordham University’s Rose Hill Gymnasium, television comedian Stephen Colbert joined forces with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York Sept. 14 to discuss faith, humor and spirituality before an audience of 3,000, mostly made up of cheering students.

The session was moderated by Jesuit Father James Martin, the official chaplain of Colbert’s show as well as culture editor at the Jesuits’ America magazine.

Colbert is host of “The Colbert Report,” a pseudo-archconservative, faux news show. An active Catholic who teaches religious instruction to children in his parish, he said comedians often don’t understand how he could remain Catholic.

Instead, Colbert explained that he sees the Catholic Church as teaching joy, which he called the “infallible sign of the presence of God.”

Though the comedian maintains his television persona nearly all the time in front of the camera and in public interviews away from the show, in a rare moment, he slipped out of character, admitting that “I love my church – warts and all.”

Cardinal Dolan jokingly bowed and kissed the comedian’s ring as he took the stage. But striking a serious note, he told Colbert, “Part of my admiration for you is that, while you often tease and joke about your faith, and the church, there’s no denying that you take your faith seriously, and look to the church as your spiritual family.”

Cardinal Dolan said his assignment was to share “what you might call the theological reasons for laughter. Why would a person of faith be cheerful? Why is a crabby believer a contradiction?”

“Here’s my reason for joy: the cross. You heard me right: the cross of Christ!” he said.

When Jesus was crucified “on that Friday strangely called ‘Good,’ literally the ‘lights went out’ as even the sun hid in shame. ... Jesus, pure goodness, seemed bullied to death by undiluted evil; love, jackbooted by hate; ... life itself, crushed by death. It seemed we could never smile again.”

But then came “the Sunday called Easter,” the Son “rose from the dead” and God had the last word, Cardinal Dolan said. “Hope, not despair; faith, not doubt; love, not spite; light, not an eclipse of the sun; life, not the abyss of death.”

“’He who laughs last, laughs best,’” he added. “And we believers have never stopped smiling since that resurrection of Jesus from the dead!”

“Lord knows there are plenty of Good Fridays in our lives ... but they will not prevail,” he said. “Easter will. As we Irish claim, “Life is all about loving, living, and laughing, not about hating, dying, and moaning.”

In his remarks Colbert said, “If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I’m in huge trouble.”


From September 21, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.



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