Colbert and Fr. Martin: Disappointingly “Mainstream Catholicism”

I’ve watched maybe 2% of the total number of Colbert Report episodes that aired during the run of the show on Comedy Central. I saw enough to get the idea. Stephen Colbert creates an “alter ego” for the show, pretending to be a “conservative talking head”, while folding in aspects of his real life, like the fact that Colbert professes to be Catholic.

A number of Catholic bloggers, over the years, made mention of Colbert’s Catholicism, arguing that his presence in the mainstream media landscape was a potentially hopeful example of the way that a celebrity can be a good witness for Catholicism in public.

Although Colbert mentioned “Catholic things” on his show (otherwise ignored by the unflavored MSM) from time to time, his bits always left me a bit chagrined, because they were rarely edifying at all, and even when there were “good parts”, they required a fragile calculus to determine whether the problematic elements eclipsed the good.

The “chaplain” to the Colbert Report was Fr. James Martin, SJ, the editor at large of the Jesuit “America”. On the show, Fr. Martin was the backstop against which Colbert lobbed his Catholic bouncy balls of fun — Martin never really said or did anything funny; his contribution could be reduced to the significance of a Roman collar on national television. Martin’s serial appearances always seemed (to me) to be unseemly attempts at expanding his own notoriety.

Although the show ended a while ago, now everyone’s all agog over this insipid video:

What happened to those 403 seconds, right? And maybe it’s nitpicky on my part, but I think it’s really irreverent and poor form to hear a priest say “What the hell” twice in six minutes.

So yeah, I’m that guy who thinks Colbert is occasionally funny, but doesn’t do Catholicism any favors. In Colbert’s world, “Catholics” might be the people who walk into a bar and aren’t teetotalers but might still feel guilty about it. Sadly, they’re never too guilty to stop identifying themselves as Catholics.

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2 thoughts on “Colbert and Fr. Martin: Disappointingly “Mainstream Catholicism”

  1. Pingback: Wednesday, March 4, 2015: Second Week of Lent | The Quarterdeck

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more. There are many priests with great senses of humor and they don’t have to awkwardly blurt out “what the Hell??” in a vain attempt to be funny..

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