Comedian Stephen Colbert and Comedian Timothy Dolan interacted onstage Friday night, September 14th, before 3,000 cheering students at New York’s Fordham University.

As Laurie Goodstein reports, the evening was publicized as an opportunity for two Catholic celebrities to discuss how joy and humor permeate their spiritual lives. “They both delivered, with surprises and zingers that began the moment the two walked onstage,” Goodstein reports. “Mr. Colbert went to shake Cardinal Dolan’s hand, but the Cardinal took Mr. Colbert’s hand and kissed it — a disarming role reversal for a big prelate with a big job and a big ring.” Apparently it was all great fun.

I like comedy but recall the line from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Comedy, of course, can be a temporary or a long-term distraction. Comedy Catholics, with all due respect to comedians Colbert & Dolan, would love to distract us, hoping we will not think too long or too much about the leadership problem in today’s church…..

When the laughing stops, here are some no-joke contemporary American Catholic realities:

  • Cardinal Dolan, of course, creatively navigated his way through the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Let us not forget that, when commenting on President Obama’s health care mandate, the Comedy Cardinal suggested that if contraception is available, perhaps prostitution services should be made available for men with erectile dysfunction. The Big Apple Big Archbishop compared homosexuality to incest. Perhaps that is better than Cardinal Francis George of Chicago who compared gay and lesbian advocates to the Klu Klux Klan. Dolan reminded American Catholics that “we bishops are pastors, not politicians.” What great pastoral leadership. Dolan of course still proclaims his friendship and admiration for Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, saying he “wants to see him in action.”
  •  Over in Denver, Archbishop Samuel Aquila says he admires Paul Ryan’s fiscal prudence and suggests thinking people should not ignore Ryan’s message just “because the consequences seem compassionless.” In Ryan’s home state, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison continues to praise the vice-presidential candidate’s “accomplishments as a native son and brother in the faith;” and Morlino reassuringly asserts that native son’s budget proposals involve “choices where intrinsic evil is not involved.” Morlino forgets to mention that the Ryan budget would do great harm to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. But I guess one can denigrate and oppress the poor without slipping into intrinsic evil.
  •  We should remember Baltimore, as well.  There, Archbishop William Lori, the top USCCB man for their religious liberty campaign, issued a bitter and sarcastic response to America magazine’s editorial highlighting the flaws of the US bishops’ position. Lori refused, as well, (more intrinsic evil or just incest???)  to participate in a Catholic University of America discussion about homosexuality and Catholicism. He was afraid such a discussion “might weaken Church teaching.”

 A few more comic anecdotes from my contemporary Catholic humor file…..

  • Philadelphia’s Cardinal Justin Rigali, responded last year to a grand jury report that documented 37 priests still in active ministry despite serious allegations of sex abuse against them. Rigali reassuringly asserted there were no such priests in active ministry. One month later, of course, the archdiocese suspended 21 priests. And at the end of July, Rigali’s clergy helper, Msgr William J. Lynn, was sent to jail. For failing to protect children from a known predator priest, Lynn will spend three to six years in prison. Philadelphia Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, addressing the former secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese on July 24: “You knew full well what was right, Msgr. Lynn, but you chose wrong.” The judge also told Lynn, he had “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children.”
  •  And then of course we have some great episcopal one-liners: Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill., compared Obama to Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin…..Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh told his people that the Obama administration is saying “to hell with you.” …..Current Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said “contempt for religious faith has been growing.”

The issue is pastoral leadership,

not contempt for our Catholic Faith!

So what do we do?

My friends at ARCC, Association for the Rights of Catholics, have re-focused their October program, in response to participant needs. I like what they say: IN ALL THINGS HOPE.

 In All Things – Hope

This workshop will empower you to identify issues of injustice, then determine in community with others how to respond in a way that is both non-violent and effective.

Together we will follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who eschewed violence while insisting on living faithfully his relationship with the Father.

As the workshop progresses, we will become aware of the following:

 • All hierarchical systems of government are dependent on the obedience and cooperation of the governed and their social institutions.

• The governed have the ability to limit or retain their contributions and obedience to the system.

• If the governed retain their contributions and obedience to the system in large enough numbers and for a long enough time, the system will have to negotiate or collapse.

By the end of the workshop, you will be equipped, with tools and a community, to take action against injustice in a way that is non-violent while fully consistent with who you are before God.

ARCC website has complete info:

2 thoughts on “Contemporary Catholic Comedy

  1. On Sacred Space (the Irish Jesuits website) online this morning, we are reminded that we are a pilgrim church on a journey. I guess we just have to look at these bishops as highwaymen we must protect ourselves from along the way.
    As to ARCC workshop, there is a group meeting in Washington DC calling itself Jubliee Freedom that is trying to accomplish the same sort of response to the hierarchy as ARCC is in this workshop. IT’s first gathering it was a very positive experience of church free of the toll that the managers of the church are exacting from our spirits. Second gathering is today.

  2. One does not know whether to laugh or cry at these Bishops’ comments. The bigotry they express is so un-Christlike.

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