Stephen Colbert roasts the Pope
Comedian Stephen Colbert roasted Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Thursday night.
October 18th, 2013
10:17 AM ET

Stephen Colbert roasts the Pope

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) –– Declaring himself  "American's most famous Catholic," comedian Stephen Colbert roasted church leaders at a charity event in New York on Thursday, taking aim at Pope Francis and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

"As an observant Catholic, I believe the Pope is infallible," said Colbert, a Communion-class teacher at a parish in New Jersey. "But he's also wrong about a lot of things."

Colbert, whose bombastic persona on the "Colbert Report" often takes a conservative slant on Christianity, poked fun at the new Pope's humble lifestyle, saying that if the pontiff were in charge of the white-tie charity event, it would have been held at an IHOP, not New York's glitzy Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

“His Humbleness would be out washing the feet of the coat-check guy or something,” Colbert quipped. "We get it, you're modest."

"But it's not just his humble lifestyle," Colbert continued. "He's off message. He says Catholics need to stop obsessing about homosexuality, contraception and abortion. For Pete's sake, we need something to obsess about now that `Breaking Bad' is over."

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

The Catholic comedian also teased Pope Francis for taking a softer line on Catholic doctrine than previous pontiffs.

"Being Catholic is like being in the Admiral's Club of Christianity: Membership has its privileges," Colbert joked. "But if even atheists can be redeemed, what's next, Lutherans?  It's madness."

MORE ON CNN: Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

Colbert was speaking at the Al Smith Dinner, an annual event for Catholic charities in New York named after the the late New York governor who in 1928 was the first Catholic politician to be nominated for president by a major party.

The charity dinner is usually attended by New York's cultural elite. Last year, President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney attended and traded zingers less than a month before the election.

This year's event was less politically charged, but Colbert quipped about another kind of election.

Dolan, the portly archbishop of New York and a rising star in the Catholic Church, came thisclose to being elected pope himself earlier this year, Colbert said.

"But he blew it in the swimsuit competition. I would have gone with the one-piece."

On Thursday night, Dolan, who was dressed in a cardinal's traditional small black cape with red trimming, looked like "a matador who's really let himself go," Colbert joked.

"Did you not see the invite? It said white-tie, not 'flamboyant Zorro."

Dolan, who is close friends with Colbert, took the ribbing lightly, saying that his father always told him that the mark of a good night is any one that ends in laughter.

Dolan also quoted Colbert from an event on Catholics and comedy led by both men at Fordham University in the Bronx last year.

"A sense of humor comes from faith, a faith that everything is in God's providential hands, a faith that frees us up to laugh."

Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia has an audio recording of Colbert's keynote address

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Celebrity • Christianity • Leaders • Media • Pope Francis

soundoff (780 Responses)
  1. Women Clothed with the Sun


    Shall my lovely women stand up in our HOLINESS, purified walking by example, attracting our Heavenly Other Half to bring more leveled, balanced mini creatures of Highest ofALL..........

    "saving the feminine" is my mission so we may all heal the planet and actually start LIVING once again in terms of Universal Laws that once we do not REBEL, yet in peacefulness come to grounding point of reunion with 5th God's Kingdom blending with us lietrally these moments, we are tobe enjoying these most historical ascension with SMILE on our faces, and so much high vibrancy, healthy spirit, body, whole auric system

    million divine KISSES
    yours MAMA

    January 10, 2014 at 10:07 pm |
  2. Collectively We Can Help

    The Holidays are upon us and This Charitable Fundraising Campaign needs our help! Please donate $10 or more at – https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/people-helping-people-f30a8821
    And also forward this to all of your contacts & followers throughout all of your social networks and ask them to help as well by donating just $10 dollars will help out immensely and will be greatly appreciated… Thank you

    December 15, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  3. MiamiC

    Pope Francis is wonderful. The Catholic Church has been out of touch with the World and its own followers for half a millennium, and he is going to bring it around. The Church will emerge from his papacy as a powerful instrument for reform and the betterment of Man, which is something we must always seek.

    November 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Read/watch this

    Colbert should have him on the show.

    Published on Oct 25, 2013

    Peter Boghossian is a Philosophy professor at Portland State College, where his main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Dr. Boghossian's primary research areas are critical thinking and moral reasoning. His is the author of the forthcoming book A Manual for Creating Atheists.


    Pope might not like it.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • mike

      Preachy atheists are as annoying as any preachy religious nut. Knock it off. You're as bad as they are.

      November 27, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • John H.

        Other than what the religious preach is unproven drivel. At least the atheist preaches withholding judgement till we have proof. So the two are not even on the same planet.

        November 27, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          The Old Man and the Ladder

          One day a very distinguished old man was standing near a high wall next to a park. The old man, whose white beard flowed down to his chest, stood and held a ladder that extended to the top of the wall. After a while a young man, who had the eyes and expression of a maniac, walked up. He was loaded down with a large automatic rifle and several cartridge belts on his shoulders and waist. The young man saw the ladder and asked if he could use it. The old man kindly assented. The armed man began to climb the ladder. The ladder was so long that it required the old man's constant support to keep it from falling down.

          When he reached the top, the young man started firing on the people in the park. After ten minutes of shooting, there were at least fifty dead bodies and many wounded lying on the park ground. The sound of the rifle's fire brought a quick response from nearby police and firemen. They arrived on the scene to find the young man firing his last shots and the old man patiently holding the ladder. It didn't take long for the firemen to use their own ladders to find out what had happened on the other side of the wall. Both the old man and the assassin were arrested and taken off to jail.

          A Courtroom (several days later)

          The Judge (to the young assassin): Why did you kill all those people in the park?

          Young Man: God told me to kill them. They were evil, just as you are, and therefore they had to die.

          The Judge: Do you know the other defendant? The one that held the ladder for you and pulled you up?

          Young Man: No, I don't know him. I just happened upon him near the wall of the park. I don't even know his name. He strikes me as a strange old duffer.

          The Judge: That's all for now. Call in the other defendant.

          The Old Man takes the witness stand.

          The Judge: Please state your name and occupation.

          The Old Man: I am God. I am the supreme governor of the universe.

          The Judge (a bit shocked): Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You are God, the one who is all‑powerful, all‑knowing, and all‑good? Is that who you are?

          The Old Man: Yes, your honor, that's who I am.

          The Judge: Tell me, God, what were you doing in the park with that ladder which this madman used for his slaughter?

          The Old Man: Well, your honor, I haven't become flesh for a long time and I wanted to see what it felt like again. I am really at the same time everywhere, supporting and moving everything with my ladders. I just thought I would make one of my supporting ladders visible.

          The Judge: You mean I'm on one of your ladders – and everyone else too?

          The Old Man: Yes, your honor, that's right.

          The Judge: Tell me, God, if you're all‑knowing, that means you knew that this young man would do what he did at the top of your ladder, right?

          The Old Man: That is correct, your honor.

          The Judge: But since you're all powerful, you could have easily prevented him from killing all those people, right?

          The Old Man: You are right again, your honor. I could have prevented him, if I had wanted to.

          The Judge: Well then, for heaven's sake, why didn't you?

          The Old Man: Well, you see, your honor, I believe very strongly in human freedom and want people to take responsibility for their actions.

          The Judge: Then this man must be lying when he told me that you told him to kill these people.

          The Old Man: Yes, some people do use that as an excuse for the evil deeds they do.

          The Judge: Excuse me for being somewhat philosophical, but how can human beings be free if you constantly have to hold their ladders. Somehow that doesn't strike me as compatible with the definition of human freedom.

          The Old Man (hesitantly): That's a very complicated question I would prefer not to get into now. Suffice it to say that the human will is free. People of course rely upon me for everything else.

          The Judge (forcefully): I must confess that I still don't understand how I can be free, if you have all the power and I have none. I also cannot understand why I must charge this young man with murder, since he is not free either. If you knew beforehand that he would shoot all those people, it seems that he was compelled to do just what you foreknew. He had no other choice.

          The Old Man: I cannot dispute your logic, sir, but please trust me.

          The Judge (yielding): Since you are God, I guess I'll have to take your word for it.

          The Old Man: Thank you, your honor, for giving me the benefit of the doubt.

          The Judge (with renewed vigor): But I'm afraid I'll have to charge you with being an accomplice to the crime. You knew that the man would kill those people. You offered him your ladder when you knew he would commit a crime, and you also supported the ladder during the crime itself.

          The Old Man (nervously): I certainly cannot argue with you on those points. Please your honor, have mercy on me.

          The Judge: Well, that's up to our jury here. Bailiff, will you please take both defendants back to their cells so that I can instruct the jury?

          (Some hours later, the jury returns from their deliberations)

          The Judge: Have you reached a verdict?

          Head of the Jury: Yes, we have, sir. We have found both defendants guilty as charged.

          May 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          the story of the old man and the ladder is not my own, but it does illustrate why atheists become atheists, quite simply they don't understand God and all of His perfect attributes, also their utter depravity and wicked heart; they deny accountability to Him and a need for Him and therefore go to great lengths to prove He does not exist.

          May 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
        • Doris

          snore... (@wandering)

          May 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
  5. hermittalker

    Thank God for a practising member who can poke fun without being vulgarly insulting as do the many night-time unfunny men.

    November 24, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Science Works

      A must read.

      The state of Texas is the talking snake no ?

      Bill Nye: Debate Over Evolution In Texas Schools Is Jeopardizing Our Future

      Posted: 11/23/2013 5:01 pm EST | Updated: 11/23/2013 7:28 pm EST

      And another part of the problem is the RCC's biblical stand on procreation when they teach and supposedly understand evolution.

      Evolution should not be up for debate.

      November 25, 2013 at 7:19 am |
      • Rene Castaneda

        Yes, it should. Evolution is just a theory...not a law.

        November 26, 2013 at 11:32 am |
        • Science Works

          Rene Castaneda

          Look up 5 laws of Evolution.

          Scientists Find Brain Region That Helps You Make Up Your Mind

          The lateral habenula is considered one of the oldest regions of the brain, evolution-wise, the researchers say.


          November 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • dave

          Genesis is just a story. The Bible is a religious book not a science book and not a history book. You read the Bible to learn about God, not biology. The stories in the Bible are metaphors and exaggerations meant to teach lessons about the relationship between God and man. No one ever lived to be 900 years old.

          November 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
        • mike

          Rene, OK, debate evolution, with another scientific theory. Creationism is not a theory in a scientific sense.

          November 27, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • sarahfalin

          Surprise surprise! Another ding-bat that does not have a clue what a scientific theory means.

          November 27, 2013 at 11:02 am |
        • Rbnlegend

          You will want to learn about scientific terminology. In particular, the meaning of "theory" in a scientific context. In casual use "theory" means "an unproven idea". In science, a theory is a set of hypothesis which have been tested and which are reasonably well supported. A theory may be refined over time, and may be disproven, but in general, once something reaches the level of being established as a theory, it is fairly well supported and unlikely to be replaced entirely. Gravity is a theory. Germs causing disease is a theory. And yes, evoloution is a theory.

          In science, a law does not explain how or why something happens. A law states that a definitive verifiable cause and effect relationship exisits. It is a scientific law that pure water will freeze at 32 degrees. There is scientific theory that explains why that happens.

          November 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
        • John H.

          Google "not just a theory" and you will why your comment is asinine!

          November 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • John H.

          Correcting something. An edit button would be nice.

          Google "not just a theory" and you will see why your comment is asinine!

          November 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          "Gravity is a theory. Germs causing disease is a theory." jump out of an airplane at 30k feet and tell me it's a theory, or stick your mouth down on a sewer pipe and tell me germs are theory. It simply does not equate friend, not the same thing. There IS scientific fact and there is scientific theory. Evolution is scientific theory, unproven.

          May 19, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
      • a guy

        do people realize that most of this country is NOT catholic? Especially outside of the NE? B/c everytime something concerning religion happens in this country, everyone blames the Catholic church like that will change the beliefs of Lutherans, Baptists, etc.

        November 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • Jeremy

        The Church does not take the 7-day creationist view on the origin of the Universe and Evolution. We are free to believe what we want about that concept, so long as we stand that we became "ensouled" by God when the first man came into being. the Book of Genesis, as the RCC stands, is to be read as allegory-as in it provides many truths about our creation, without being a direct history book.

        December 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Third Eagle of the apocalypse.

      @ hermittalker
      You do realize what satire is …right?

      This is the problem with religious types. They will believe anything they are told on face value.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  6. Mark Causey

    "I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen." ~ Crashing Vor

    November 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • dave

      Right on -- let's get back to the original idea of our Founding Fathers - all white male landowners are equal

      November 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • awanderingscot

      fisherman, not herdsmen. you really need to read your bible more.

      May 19, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
      • Keith

        you are the most biblically illiterate person on this blog. Most of the Atheists have more theology training than you do. Bronze Age Herdsmen, (Old Testament) Iron age hippies, (New Testament)

        August 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
  7. RickGhor

    I admire Pope Francis, I used to admire Billy Graham, but I don't believe a word about religion. It is just silly for intelligent adults to believe in a fairy tale just because they are otherwise afraid to die. When we're gone, we're gone, and believe me, since I was there before I was born, it's not so bad.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Ruby

      Well said.

      November 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Khan

      Except – when we die we come face to face with God for accountability. Christian belief that only christians will enter Heaven & Billy Graham & his family holds the franchise alloting mansions in heaven is a big DELUSION OF GRANDEUR. The truth is that even the Prophets of the like Abraham (God called him a friend), Jesus (God's mightiest Prophet), Mohammed (A Mercy to humankind) will WAIT till God passes the Judgement. So will all humans.

      November 22, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • UrbanPhoenix

      Assuming these men really do believe and that that belief drives their entire perspective and action, something must be said for what they believe. Plant an acorn, and you don't get a pear tree but an oak tree. I don't know, what do you think?

      How is it that good people can believe in something so different from reality and yet be admirable as a result of that belief? It merits consideration, if we are concerned with goodness.

      November 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  8. Byrd

    So why do Popes wear those funny looking mitre hats?

    Ask the guys with the elongated skulls they dug up beneath the Vatican. Not human. Just like their friggin' god they've apparently deemed worthy of worship.

    Let my people go, Francis.

    November 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • ancv1992

      Did you hear what happen to the Pope while visiting in Mexico? He suffered head injuries when the people mistook his mitre for a piñata.:)) (The Pope is fine, it's only a joke!)

      November 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.