Stephen Colbert returned to the Catholic Church at 22, on a cold day in Chicago

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If you were an old-school watcher of The Colbert Report, you probably knew that Colbert is a devout Catholic. It was one thing he shared with his fake-news persona, and he often featured religious guests and they would debate and have substantive discussions about Catholicism, comparative religion, religious extremism, etc. I suspect that he probably veers towards the more Jesuit strain of Catholicism, a more liberal/intellectual reading of faith in general. Anyway, the show Faith In Focus did an interesting interview with Colbert about politics and religion and his CBS show, but he also talked about how he returned to Catholicism in his early 20s after leaving the faith for the years:

Late night television host Stephen Colbert is open about his faith but revealed in an interview that he became “convicted of [his] atheism” before returning to Catholicism. The CBS star told Father James Martin on his Catholic talk show “Faith in Focus” on Thursday night that there was a time in his life he turned away from God. However, a moment in 1986, when he was 22 years old, changed his mind while walking down the street in Chicago.

“I had lost my faith in God, to my great grief,” he explained. “I was sort of convinced that I had been wrong all this time that I had been taught something that wasn’t true.”

That day, while walking, a person handed the comedian a book. “And I was walking down the street and somebody handed me a little, green New Testament Proverbs and Psalms,” he said.

“The Late Show” host said he had to crack the Bible open in order to read it because it was so cold outside. “And I open it up to a little glossary in the front and it said verses to read based upon if you [have] anxiety,” he said. He recalled the passage being from Matthew Chapter 5. The comedian said he immediately felt “lightened” after reading the passage.

“For the first time I understood the real meaning of the phrase, it spoke to me. Like it read off the page. The words of Christ read off the page. There was no effort. I stood on that street corner in the cold and read that sermon. And my life has never been the same,” Colbert said.

“That’s beautiful,” the priest responded.

“This gift of religion is something that can only be given in this way,” he continued. “And therefore you should be humble and accept this act of love. And see what it is they gave you without rejecting it,” he said.

[From Page Six]

I’m including the video of the interview below. It’s not smarmy, which is good because I often find so many of these religious-type interviews to be rather smarmy and proselytizing. It also feels like, yes, the Catholic Church is still in the middle of at least a dozen crises, so here’s a well-respected celebrity Catholic speaking earnestly about coming back to his faith, so we can talk about that instead of the ongoing crises.

Colbert’s interview starts around the 6:30-mark of this video:

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15 Responses to “Stephen Colbert returned to the Catholic Church at 22, on a cold day in Chicago”

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  1. steph o says:

    I like Colbert and I have a lot of affection for Fr Martin. That being said, I do not appreciate reading an article on contemporary Catholicism that doesn’t even mention the thousands of children sexually abused in Pittsburg ALONE. The church has failed time and time and time and time again to protect innocent, vulnerable children. There needs to be a reckoning, and trying to put a human face on the church is a PR move, not an effort at substantive change. And I find it insulting.

    • Annika says:


      • cher says:

        Agreed! The Catholic Church is NO moral authority. And those who support it (my mother and Colbert included) enable it to function quite smoothly as a criminal enterprise. What good do they do that is worth overlooking the brutal rapes and ruined lives of countless children and their families?? And the despicable, immoral coverup of these crimes and protection of the offenders?? No good can absolve them of their multitude of sins. They are pure and power-hungry evil.

    • Ashley says:

      I agree that child molestation is a major issue in the church, but I’m not mad at Colbert for not talking about it. He was speaking about his personal experience not as a representative of the church as a whole.

      • steph o says:

        @ashley I’m like, almost agreeing with you? But your comment also solidified my stance. My initial ire was with K for writing about this without acknowledging the systemic child sex abuse. But upon reflection, I’m also bummed out at Colbert for not dying on the child sex abuse hill. Because how do you not die on that hill? How are you not reeling and terrified? Buuut I’m less annoyed with him than with the Catholic PR machinery and their enablers.

    • Cay says:

      Yes, I’m a fan of Colbert, but I find it hypocritical of him making jokes about Weinstein, Moonves, Trump, and other predators when he doesn’t do the same with the Catholic Church and priests. There’s a real disconnect there for him. I find it frustrating, at best.

  2. Ashley says:

    I have always referred to myself as a “Colbert Catholic “ meaning a person who can be simultaneously very liberal and yet still love the Church very much. A lot of liberals feel there is no place for them in Christianity, but Colbert shows that there is.

    • Steff says:

      I wonder how he feels about the church’s abortion stance.

      • Ashley says:

        I can’t speak for him, but I can speak for myself as a liberal Catholic. I am pro-choice because I don’t believe that I have the right to control the rights of others. I personally could never have an abortion, but that doesn’t mean I judge another who chooses one. I say this as someone who has volunteered lots of hours at my local abortion provider.

  3. Gaby says:

    I was born and raised as a Catholic, and I’m from a country that doesn’t have as many child-molestation stories as other countries, I honestly can’t think of a single one, mostly are priests having wives or affairs, so even though nowadays I disagree with the church in many many many stances and I don’t consider myself a follower of any church, is so hard for me to put these Catholic churches in the same group like the one I grew up in and I believe many people feel the same way, which is why so many latin and European countries are still largely catholic. I do agree that there a huge need to bring these people to actual justice and prosecute them.

    Why do these priests have so much access to children in your countries??

  4. Mise says:

    Oh man. I was raised Catholic and from a European country (Ireland) and, honestly, my country has been devastated by the Catholic Church. For most of the last century, we’ve had huge censorship in the media and arts, no contraception, no divorce, no abortion, women not being able to work in certain jobs after being married, stillborn babies not being able to have respectful burials, no such thing as rape in marriage, huge problems with child abuse, “sinful” women being locked up in Magdalene laundries and having their babies taken away (and often sold). I could go on.

    Needless to say I am no longer religious, but I think if people really believe in Christ and his message, the best thing to do would be to go full Martin Luther and burn the thing to the ground and start from scratch. Colbert can dress it up any liberal way he wants, but the Catholic church is and continues to be a massively damaged and even criminal organisation, and if you support it, you’re allowing its grossness to continue. I’m not saying there’s not good people in there, but as a whole it’s an evil monster that needs to go. They need to find a better way of living their truth elsewhere, as there’s no way currently not to be a giant hypocrite.

  5. Deeanna says:

    Another “former” here. I left long ago. Before any of the molestation incidents necame public. I think people who call themselves a “liberal catholic” are a joke. There is no such thing. There is church doctrine. Period. There is the infallability of the pope. Period.

    The doctrine of the Roman Catholic church is not such that communicants get to pick and choose what they personally “believe in”. It just doesn’t work that way. Ask any priest about this.

    My question has always been why stay in a religion whose tenants you really dont believe in? There are plenty of other religions out there. And most of them are not anywhere as screwed up as the Roman Catholics.

    And, by rights, denial of church doctrine is a mortal sin, is it not? Hmmm..

    • Genessee says:

      Deeanna, as a former, then you should be aware that the pope is NOT infallible nor is he considered to be. Please do not confuse speaking “ex cathedra” – something that in the 2000 year history of the papacy has only been done 6-8 times….total. The last in the 1950s regarding the Assumption of Mary.

      And denial of doctrine is not a mortal sin. Especially since the church invites question and debate. There is an entire religious branch dedicated to it.

      Uninformed blanket statements do not help. I respect your opposition to the organization and your rights to not believe or follow but please, this reminds me of the uninformed statements the deplorables use against Muslims and Jews.