Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Stephen Colbert to star in Catholic comedy slam

NEW YORK — So who is the funniest Catholic in the Western world: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Comedy … Continued

NEW YORK — So who is the funniest Catholic in the Western world: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert?

It’s a tough call for anyone who has followed either man’s impressive record of rim shots, but we may finally get an answer to that urgent question when the cardinal and the comedian team up for a panel on faith and humor this September at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.

“I’m looking forward to a great conversation with a terrific theologian and a gifted comedian. They are both,” quipped the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular author. Martin will be moderating the Sept. 14 event, titled “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”

Martin’s recent book, “Between Heaven and Mirth,” explores the relationship between humor and faith, and the priest said that the panel wouldn’t be just a couple of Catholic tummlers yukking it up for the audience — or distracting the public from the many controversial stories about the church.

“This is just what the Catholic Church needs,” said Martin, who has been on “The Colbert Report” so many times that he is called the official chaplain of the Emmy-winning news parody program. “Being joyful does not mean that you overlook suffering or pain or even scandal.”

Martin noted that the Book of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to mourn and a time to laugh. “In the Catholic Church we tend to mourn more than we tend to laugh. This panel is trying to help restore the balance.”

Colbert is a lifelong Catholic whose spirituality was shaped in part by the loss of his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash when he was 10. The comedian credits his mother with imbuing him with a deep faith through all the trials.

“She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us,” Colbert told The New York Times earlier this year.

“What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

Today, Colbert is a married father of three, a churchgoing Catholic who sometimes teaches Sunday school at his New Jersey parish — a far cry from the right-wing blunderbuss he portrays on his popular cable show.

But even his bloviating on-screen persona manages to work Catholic riffs into the program on a regular basis. In one episode after Easter Sunday, Colbert came on looking hungover and confessed to having just ended a “Catholic bender.”

Dolan is certainly no slouch when it comes to faith, and he’s also pretty good in the humor department — especially when he is joking at his own expense, usually about his ample girth.

“As we pass Radio City and pass the Ed Sullivan Theater and pass Times Square, the greatest challenge is to pass the hot dog carts and not stop,” Dolan said after his appointment to New York.

In a similar vein, he once said: “My first pastoral letter’s gonna be a condemnation of light beer and instant mashed potatoes — I hate those two things.”

And to “60 Minutes” there was this one: “They asked me when I got here, ‘Are you Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, or Yankees?’ And I said, ‘When it comes to baseball, I think I can be pro-choice.’?”

Dolan, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has also made it clear that he thinks humor is integral to the church’s future.

“What weighs on me the most, is the caricature of the Catholic Church as crabby, nay-saying, down in the dumps, discouraging, on the run,” he told The New York Times in January. “And I’m thinking if there is anything that should be upbeat, affirming, positive, joyful, it should be people of faith.”

If there was a potential pitfall for the Dolan-Colbert panel, it might have been that Dolan’s ally, William Donohue of the Catholic League, has for months been campaigning to force Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” star, Jon Stewart, to apologize for a satiric segment last April on the contraception mandate controversy that featured a photo of a manger over a woman’s crotch.

But Donohue, head of the New York-based league, said Stewart “is a different kettle of fish” from Colbert. He said he has been on Colbert’s show twice “and both times we had some fun” — and he told Dolan as much.

“So … no, I don’t see a problem. If anything, given the dust-up between Stewart and me, Colbert is not likely to cross the line.”

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  • PaulB7777

    This should be a hell of a lot of fun. The caricature bit is spot on too. Most of the catholics I know are awful funny and can laugh at themselves. My face really helps. :-) We do engage on the big issues of course, but not to be against people, but always for them; everyone. For instance, I don’t know any catholics who ‘hate’ homosexually attracted persons as I regulary hear from the media, but we will point out nearly a million dead young men and ask who really cares about them honestly. The show with Colbert and the Cardinal should be a laugh; thanks for telling us about it.

  • NeilAllen1

    Dolan has 1 joke, which is “I’m fat and I’m rich”, while 2,000 people starve to death everyday. Catholics could literally cure hunger for 50 cents per Catholic per day, but Dolan doesn’t care about that. He’s curing his own hunger, and laughing about it, and he makes his followers feel just as comfortable doing the same thing.

    He probably won’t make jokes about his payments to known pedophiles, and the fact that he lied about that. Not quite as funny.

  • Therese Z

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. How many tens of thousands of people does the Church feed every day, in this country and through the world?

    Cite the source for your “2000 die per day” figure, please. Worldwide? That’s certainly possible. But how many more would die if not fed by the Catholic Church and the Baptist Church and the other Christian missionaries and soup kitchens and shelters?

    And, on the payments to pedophiles, Dolan saved the Archdiocese a fortune by settling quickly to get those guys the hell out of ministry. Otherwise, it could have taken up to two years to move them completely out of any proximity to the Church’s ministries and people. “Take $20K and get out NOW” was a wise, wise move, saving not only more potential victims, but a fortune in legal costs. I wish more dioceses had done the same thing, instead of paying six figures per offender.

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