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One Catholic to Another: Don’t Stoop, Stephen Colbert

May 20, AD2017

jesus, sad, perplexedFor many years, I enjoyed Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report. Colbert was funny in a positive way, never was vulgar, and was always respectful of his guests.

Stephen Colbert Before and After

Colbert made fun of himself, most of all, and that attribute of self-deprecating humor supported his open and frequent discussion of his own Catholicism.  He seemed very proud to be Catholic (even having a Catholic “show-down” with Patricia Heaton) and was very successful in proclaiming his faith in such a way that he attracted people to him and it. Colbert made his Catholicism cool.

After moving to late night television, however, it appears that Colbert has chosen to succumb to the lowest common denominator.

Colbert not only began to use vulgar language but also began to exhibit “hate” for certain individuals. Saddest of all, he seemed to show this disdain because it appeared to win him the most applause from the audience. He followed the crowd to win ratings and appeared to throw his faith life under the bus.

Commanded to Love

As Catholic Christians, we are never permitted to hate anyone, even if that person’s actions are not good. In fact, as Fr. Mike Schmitz so eloquently stated in this video, we are commanded by Jesus to love everyone, to wish them the best, to pray for them, and to hope for their well-being. While we can judge actions and choose wisely not to participate, we are never to judge people. Even if everyone else feels that a particular person is not worthy of love, we are to stand up and love them. We are to treat them as children of God. We are to love as Jesus loved.

This call is so radical and so counter-cultural that it is difficult to obey. It is so much easier to stoop to the level of the world’s expectations, and love only those people who are considered cool to love, and belittle the “other.”

Yet when the world wants us to be repulsed, Jesus calls us to welcome. When the world wants us to boo and heckle, Jesus calls us to listen respectfully. When the world wants us to call names, Jesus calls us to speak with kindness. When the world wants us to turn our backs, Jesus calls us to reach out our hands.

Follow Jesus’ Call

I’ll be praying for you, Stephen Colbert, as I pray for myself, from one sinful Catholic to another. With courage from the Holy Spirit, may we stand strong and follow Jesus’ call to love one another, just as He loved us.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Cindy and her husband Jim were blessed to have five kids in four years (2 sets of twins), and are looking forward to grandchild number 3. Her love for reading and writing grew into the publication of several children's books (under the name C. M. Millen), poems, short stories, and a short book about the Natural Law. She enjoys growing things in her garden, knitting, the teaching (and learning) from the students at Christ the King School in Toledo, Ohio, and attending Mass there with marvelous parishioners and priests. She also writes for Catholic Mom.

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  • Pueblo Southwest

    Colbert and his sister, who made an unsuccessful run for congress, are rather too full of themselves to appreciate that there are other views besides their own. One can not help but feel a bit sorry for such people with so myopic a view on life that they miss much worthwhile that surrounds them. While there are few that take the musings of late night comedians seriously, it is unfortunate that people look to them for even their distorted brand of humor.

  • Caine

    I can’t believe many of the comments on this thread. How could anyone claiming to be a Catholic, and of voting age, not have voted for Trump in the last election? The alternative was to vote for the devil herself. Trump has been the most pro-life, pro-Christian, pro-US president we’ve had in a long time. Additionally, it’s not “racist” for a country to protect its borders. Try going to another country sometime.

    • adam aquinas

      Read Matthew 25, The parable of the sheep and goats….the Man is not through his policies or budget proposals, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, caring for the imprisoned or comforting the afflicted. No Trump supporter can be a Christian, not when the poor are targeted and wealthy embraced.

    • Caine

      Where in the Bible does it say that it is the government’s responsibility to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, care for the imprisoned, or comfort the afflicted? It is the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens from being murdered, which is why you can’t hold a political position that is pro-abortion and be a practicing Catholic. The Bible asks us, as individuals, to care for those that can’t provide for themselves. Not the government. Why is our country 20 trillion in debt? The answer is that the last couple administrations created an unsustainable system that was aimed at keeping the poor dependent on government assistance. Ironically, this also allowed the wealthy to gain even more wealth.

    • adam aquinas

      We the people….that’s government

    • Caine

      Really? What position do you hold in government? Do you earn a paycheck? Do you get good work hours? The Bible doesn’t speak to “governments” as entities. It speaks to you and me as individuals. Forced altruism is not a virtue. What you’re calling for is akin to socialism. Socialistic governments always fail. Go ask Venezuela.

    • Howard

      You present a false dilemma, since their were other choices available. If 100 million other Americans settled for the two you mentioned, that is their fault, not mine. I may have to live with their choices, but the only choice for which I am responsible is my own.

  • Fr Eric

    Why is their fighting among Christians, save for a few interlocutors, about how to embrace a late night talk show host, (an aside: Are not all three Catholic)? Hillary and Trump are opposite sides of the same coin in a society which produced them. If I need inspiration or direction on how to live the Gospel, I am not going to go to Colbert, or his spiritual director Martin SJ. It is difficult to accept the call to help the poor from any person, entertainer or cleric, who were so distressed that Hillary lost. Entertainers, who are essentially the de facto mouthpieces of a political party, are sad substitutes for Sacred Scripture, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Mortal

    The unspoken word in this article is “Trump”. So let’s speak the word, and apply the author’s words to him:

    When the world wants us to boo and heckle, Jesus calls us to listen respectfully.

    Hmm… I guess like when Trump growled at his rallies, “Get him out of here” (concerning a protester), or even “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

    When the world wants us to call names, Jesus calls us to speak with kindness.

    Is that anything like calling people “Low Energy Jeb”, “Lyin’ Ted”, or “Crooked Hillary”? Perhaps you were referring to “Pocahontas,” or maybe it was when he mocked a disabled reporter?

    When the world wants us to turn our backs, Jesus calls us to reach out our hands.

    Really, now? Perhaps some good examples of such behavior would be when families are ripped apart, tearing mothers from their children? Or would it be calling for an end to health care for the poor, for cutting out assistance programs for the needy, or shutting down Meals on Wheels, for Heaven’s sake?

    Colbert not only began to use vulgar language but also began to exhibit “hate” for certain individuals.

    While Trump boasts about the size of his hands, says he’d like to have sex with his own daughter, laughs about sexually assaulting women because “when you’re a star, you can do anything!” Or when he calls the (former) FBI director a “nut job”, or even the former President a “bad, or sick, man.”

    So by all means, Cynthia, pray for Stephen Colbert. But while you do so, don’t forget to pray for the person who has most offended the standards you have (quite rightly) cited in your article.

    • Caine

      Mortal, so I guess YOU walk on water. You just cast the first stone hypocrite.

    • Mortal

      Caine, I don’t understand your comment. What is so hypocritical about holding Colbert and Trump to the same standard?

  • Sgt Carver

    In the “Colbert Report” Colbert played a character based on Bill O’Reilly. It was a fiction, an exaggeration of a right wing blowhard. Colbert the person retired that character when he took residence on the late night TV show. Why are people so dim-witted as to think the fake persona was the real Colbert when he openly admitted it was a caricature?

    • samton909

      Nobody said what you think they said. Nobody said anything about it at all.

    • Sgt Carver

      Except the author from the outset.

  • Howard

    As Catholic Christians, we are never permitted to hate anyone, even if that person’s actions are not good. In fact, as Fr. Mike Schmitz so eloquently stated in this video, we are commanded by Jesus to love everyone, to wish them the best, to pray for them, and to hope for their well-being. While we can judge actions and choose wisely not to participate, we are never to judge people.

    1. We are, I think, permitted to be profoundly frustrated with people, even angry at them. (Not all forms of anger are the same.) Frustration, distrust, and even anger are not really hatred, but they are often mistaken for them, especially today. (This may or may not be relevant to Colbert; I don’t watch TV.)

    2. Wishing the best for a person does not mean wishing that that person will succeed at “whatever he puts his hand to”. We tend to downplay the bit about where the easy path leads and about the Lord chastening whomever He loves, but what is in our best interest is often harder and more uncomfortable than what we really want.

    3. I really think the bit about “not judging people” is really mostly about not pretending that we know, let alone determine, their eternal fates.
    3.a. Often, when people discuss this, they talk about how we are to judge a person’s actions, not his motives, because they cannot be fully known to us. This is nonsense. If we really acted that way, no policeman who kills someone could ever get off because a jury considered him to be in reasonable fear of his life, and any surgeon who has a patient die under his knife would be headed for jail. We have always considered intent; it would be unjust, and shockingly stupid, not to consider it.
    3.b. Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour. Of course, knowing to whom honor is due, and to whom it is not due, is often called judging people, but for St. Paul’s admonition to be meaningful, it cannot be what is forbidden.
    3.c. We are told not to judge, not merely not to condemn. We need to be careful of exceeding our authority by “canonizing” people we like.

    • Howard

      By the way, I expect people to say that I am gutting the commandment not to judge. That’s not really the case, though. I’m making a distinction similar to what would have to be done if it were widely believed that “love your neighbor” involved erotic love.

      It’s worth noting that Scripture rarely pays much attention to emotions — at least not directly. When it talks about love, it has in mind love as a commitment that leads to self-sacrificial action, not emotion. When it talks about guilt, it means actual culpability, not guilty feelings. When God is described as being angry, it is describing how God is either acting or on the verge of acting, rather than attributing a human passion to an inpassible Spirit. Likewise, I would suggest that the problem with judging is ultimately not about how one feels, but about how one acts.

      This has practical consequences. If I consider Trump (or Obama, or Assad, Kim Jong-Un, or whomever) so far gone that it is a waste of time to pray for his repentance and/or conversion, and especially if this causes me to neglect prayers that I would otherwise have offered,
      that is surely the sort of judging we are told not to do. Sometimes this commandment can be very, very hard to obey. Maybe that is part of the reason we were given the prayer for “those most in need of Thy mercy” — just remember that that phrase probably includes you, certainly it includes me, and it may well involve any number of unpleasant people you would be inclined to give up on entirely.

  • Geoffe

    Good article… I should pray for Colbert too. I hope he does not let the left’s consuming hatred of Trump begin to seep into his heart. Trump is indeed an imperfect and flawed human being (as we all are). Half the country voted him in for very valid reasons that I wish Colbert would take the effort to understand.

  • Arandor Thinnorion

    I did not vote for Trump yet I find Colbert unwatchable. Regardless of *how* he attacks, the fact is he focuses on attacking Trump. Like I said, I did not vote for Trump, but come on. Give it a rest. It’s exhausting.

    However, part of the problem is the way he does it. It comes across as pretentious and self-righteous.

    I’m not saying to not do Trump jokes. I’m not saying he should praise Trump. I’m just saying it gets old. It plays to people who have a lot of anger in their heart and want some kind of retribution. They are the audience at the coliseum and they want to see blood.

    People who love it and want more really need to look into themselves and figure out why.

    • Cynthia Millen

      I agree. I think true comedy makes us laugh about the foibles we see in ourselves rather than at others in disdain or via a false sense of superiority. The latter is not comedy; it is cheap insult.

  • adam aquinas

    I personally see nothing objectionable about Colbert’s rant about Trump. Jesus, when confronted with hypocrisy, abuse of others and institutions did himself resort to anger and violence, not simply prayer and “love”.

    If the New Testament account is true, Jesus did commit certain acts of violence. Whip in hand he attacked the merchants in the Temple area, causing a fracas (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45, John 2:15). He caused the death, by drowning, of a herd of swine by allowing demons to purposely enter their bodies (Matthew 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33) and destroyed a fig tree for not having fruit out of season (Matthew 21:18-21, Mark 11:13-14).

    And the Father did kill the first born of every Egyptian be they a pharoah or slave …. Exod. 11:5; 12:29-30
    Nothing there about love, prayer and forgiveness.
    But then that violence is of God and Colbert is not God….God acted, Colbert only spoke words.

    • Cynthia Millen

      We are never to judge, nor call people names. We are not God, but sinners like everyone else. This is one of Jesus’ clear commands to us.

    • adam aquinas

      One of Jesus’ commands….oh, come on now….Jesus called people names who act like the man Colbert called names. Jesus example first….
      1. Ye blind guides (Matt. 23:16).

      2. Ye fools (Matt. 23:17).

      3. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees…for ye are like whited supulchres…full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness (Matt. 23:27).

      4. Ye serpents (Matt. 23:33).

      5. Ye generation of vipers (Matt. 23:33).

      6. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Luke 11:44).

      7. Ye are as graves which appear not (Luke 11:44).

      Want more? Jesus took a stand…that’s his example. You must be reading a different version of the Bible than I.

    • Cynthia Millen

      Please read Matthew 5:21-22.

      Jesus, as God, was able to say and do many things that we mere humans cannot.

    • adam aquinas

      Another of the many Biblical contradictions: Do as as I say not as I do ….Jesus would not have us act in a manner different from his own actions …. he was our example!

    • samton909

      You cannot be serious. Are you a recent college graduate? That would explain things. But you cannot expect people to take you seriously

    • samton909

      Oh, it looks like you are really an atheist. You seem very confused. Criticizing people and things is one thing, but Colberts foul mouthed rant was a sick example of a fallen culture. Your atheist hatred has blinded you to reality. It is this way for many atheists.

    • adam aquinas

      You sir, or ma;am. make many assumptions. I am 70, I am not an atheist, I hold two doctorates and care full time for a disabled adult son. I frankly care not if people take me seriously, I speak my Truth … making assumptions about people you do not know is “foul mouthed”. Sadly, the world is full of people who make assumptions and categorize people …are you one of those?

    • Patricia Von Plinsky

      Jesus never called anyone a name like we do today. He called names to behavior not to individuals. Scribes and Pharisees are groups of people not a particular person. Hypocrites that is behavior. People ACT like hypocrites. He was pointing to their behavior that was causing them to sin. He died for these people as well as for all of us in the future. There is nothing that says we as Christians cannot judge someones behavior (with love) what we cannot do is judge THEM for that is reserved only for God. The problem today is people tend to judge (criticize) with disdain instead of as Jesus did which was with LOVE! We bring people down, Jesus was pointing to their behavior and HE taught and lived with LOVE. That means sometimes we have to hear things we do not like about our behavior. The reason GOD (in the form of the Man God) can do what we cannot is because HE sees what we truly mean. He sees into our souls where ordinary humans cannot. We only see the actions and behavior of others but we cannot see what is the truth inside the person. It is NOT a do as I say not as I do! Because HE can see what we CANNOT See, He can see the SOUL! When people name call and bombast people they are NOT doing it with love they are doing it out of disdain for the other. They are not taking a behavior and discussing what is wrong with that NO THEY are attacking the person, judging the person with anger and hate. THAT JESUS DID NOT DO! Unless you want to take things out of context more. THAT is the biggest problem with people taking things out of context and making assumptions about what out of context words mean.

    • Geoffe

      Hmm, I have become skeptical of this admonition to never judge others. I think this is an example of a Catholic teaching that the popular culture has taken a simplistic and ultimately erroneous understanding of.

      If we are to take the full context of Matthew 5:21-22, we are called not to judge *rashly*. Note that later on in the passage it is said,

      “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5)

      Thus, we are called to live righteous lives so we can discern the wrongdoing of others and then be more effective in correcting them without coming off as hypocrites.

      “Admonishing the Sinner” is a spiritual work of mercy. We cannot even start to do that if we cannot clearly discern the wrongdoing of others and call them out on it. (Basically “judging” others).

    • Cynthia Millen

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Geoffe, and your comments below. I agree with you to a point. Yes, popular culture has taken Jesus’ command of “do not judge” to justify acceptance of any “truth” which the holder believes, and, in fact, to support relativism. (That’s your truth, this is my truth.) Conveniently ignored are His clear teachings about what are non-negotiable truths that are writ clearly throughout the Old and New Testament re: marriage, sanctity of life, etc.

      But, while I am not a theologian, it seems to me that Jesus does not want us to judge and categorize that person by their actions. In modern terms, Jesus doesn’t want us to play “identity politics” with others. Hence, the woman who committed adultery is not seen by Him as an adulteress (as the men who brought her to Him did), but as a child of God who has sinned. “Neither do I condemn you,” He states after everyone leaves His challenge unanswered. But then, He follows that by stating, “Go and sin no more.” It is not her but her actions that He judges. We can see this approach throughout His ministry: people are not treated as Samaritans, Gentiles, women, etc., but as children of God who, like all of us, must “sin no more” and follow the Way. And it is precisely because He views us all equally as God’s children that He is so disparaging of the Pharisees—the so-called “religious” authorities—because they categorize and condemn.

      You are correct that “admonishing the sinner” is a spiritual work of mercy, and a delicate one at that. If we see that someone is committing a sin and we are in a position to help them, we must first be in a relationship with them in which they know that we love them as a child of God. Then we must make clear that we are judging their actions according to God’s commands, and not the person himself. Similarly, if we are admonishing actions in the public sphere (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, etc.), we must make clear that it is the act that is sinful, and not the people themselves.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, and I hope the above makes sense. Have a beautiful day of our Lord!

    • Geoffe

      Makes sense. I see and agree with the truth in what you have said. 🙂

    • samton909

      You are without question the weirdest Christian on the planet. Killing a tree ia violence? Get over yourself. If you approve of the unbelievably foul mouth of Colbert, something is missing somewhere.

    • jcsmitty

      I don’t watch Colbert, but the author was complaining about his use of vulgarity. If that is true, why would you approve of that?