(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Stephen Colbert, the popular host of Comedy Central's satirical news show “The Colbert Report,” portrays an over-the-top conservative Republican character on his show, but what some may not know is that in real life he is a practicing Roman Catholic – and even teaches Sunday school.
“The Colbert Report” has featured many comical stories on religion, often to ridicule the ways in which politicians use it as a tool. Colbert himself is reportedly a registered Democrat.
A variety of guests have appeared on the show to discuss faith from various viewpoints, with figures including the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who has visited the show several times and is introduced by Colbert as “The Colbert Report chaplain,” to atheist Richard Dawkins, who was invited in 2006 to promote his bestselling The God Delusion book.
A recent profile piece in The New York Times on Colbert goes deep into the character he portrays on screen, as well as the real person behind the show. The article confirms that Colbert is a practicing Catholic, and lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J.
The profile reveals a great tragedy that Colbert suffered when he was 10 years old, when in 1974, his father and two of his brothers died in a plane crash. Speaking about the incident, Colbert reflected: “There’s a common explanation that profound sadness leads to someone’s becoming a comedian, but I’m not sure that’s a proven equation in my case.”
“I’m not bitter about what happened to me as a child, and my mother was instrumental in keeping me from being so. 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. 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.”
Some have made Colbert’s faith a point of contention, considering how often certain aspects of religion appear to be mocked on “The Colbert Report.”
However, David Gibson, a Catholic writer who covers religion for PoliticsDaily.com, shared with Religion News Service his views on the issue: “He shows what is important to the faith and what can genuinely be debated and disparaged.”
“They ask me whether or not he is Catholic, and they are delighted (that he is). He shows them they can be Catholic and be thoughtful and provocative and funny and they don’t have to be deadly serious about religion,” Gibson added.
In another interview by Rolling Stone magazine in 2009, Colbert was asked: “Does faith still play a big part in your life?”
“Very much. I am highly variable in my devotion. From a doctrinal point of view or a dogmatic point of view or a strictly Catholic adherent point of view, I’m first to say that I talk a good game, but I don’t know how good I am about it in practice,” he answered. “I saw how my mother’s faith was very valuable to her and valuable to my brothers and sisters, and I’m moved by the words of Christ, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Colbert is also a Sunday school teacher, it has been revealed, although the name of the specific church where he worships has not been reported.
“I teach the seven year olds. I'm the catechist for their first communion,” Colbert shared with Rolling Stone.