Baptized Democrat

Stephen’s interview with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend about her book, Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way, Catholic families, the Our Father and the gospel message. I got the feeling that Stephen was getting caught up in listening and then “Stephen” remembered that he needed to say something. Interesting to watch the turns in the conversation.



  1. Wow, this woman sounds a little angry at times. Too bad she doesn’t uderstand that an child in the womb is the poorest and least privileged in society.

  2. The more I visit this site and watch these clips the lower my opinion of Colbert becomes. In this clip he gives this author and dissenting Catholic time to say everything and disputes nothing. I know this is comedy, but its still enabling dissent and an attack on Church teaching. I don’t see where he’s doing any good whatsoever….

  3. I’m not sure she said anything to the contrary, though. I agree with her point that politics has more tapped into religion as a “target audience” more than anything else. It seems to hyper focus on hot topics.

    That isn’t to say the topics aren’t valid

  4. This isn’t a Catholic apologetics show, Sanctus Belle. It’s a politics show, and a comedy show. Sitting there and refuting every point she makes about the “Christian right” is not the intent.

    In any case, Colbert is openly pro-contraception, so he’s something of a dissident himself.

  5. I find it kind of sad that this woman, saying that she’s Catholic, says that there is nothing in the Bible about homosexual marriage. Excuse me, but has she read Genesis? Any of Paul Epistles?

    Or how about the fact that she thinks Jesus’ entire message was love each other, but that the Church is supposed to love God first and foremost in life. It is that love of God that causes us to naturally want to love each other. She drops the entire first half of the Great Commandment!!!

    While she does have a point about some branches of Christianity narrowing God down, I think she does basically the same thing by casting Jesus as this fuzzy, feel-good dude that just wanted us to all get along and let the gays get married. Oh, and free abortions and embryo research, too.

    God is not a Democrat, nor is He a Republican. Neither party is perfect, probably because none of us are.

    I really thought that all those people who grew up before Vatican II were so much better Catechized than those of us who were born after. 😉

  6. truth, I don’t think Colbert is openly pro-contraceptive. He’s made public statements that he accepts the Church’s teachings and that he discovered after a long time of dissenting in some areas that you either accept it all or you aren’t accepting any of it.

    Are you confusing him with Sean Hannity, by chance?

  7. Colbert, the youngest of 11, is not, as near as I can tell, pro-contraception, he even refused to disagree with Church teachings on that matter in an interview. He may have been a bit of a dissenter a few years ago, but he has become more orthodox in recent years. Anyway, I’m happy we have somebody on TV who is quoting St. Thomas More.

  8. No, I’m referring to the Fresh Air interview where he told Terry Gross that he approves of the use of birth control pills.

  9. From that interview…

    “GROSS: In the sketch we heard earlier from “This Week In God,” you talked about the Christian pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control.

    Mr. COLBERT: Right.

    GROSS: Now the Catholic Church opposes birth control, which…

    Mr. COLBERT: They do.

    GROSS: …I presume you do not and…

    Mr. COLBERT: Presume away.”

    Gross was giving Colbert a nice out, a chance to take some easy hits on the Church and Colbert did not take the bait.

  10. You know, the last time I checked, the four marks of the church were one, holy, catholic and apostolic. I’m not sure when one’s position on birth control became the determining standard of the level of one’s Catholicism. This was the point of the interview. A lot of gospel truth gets lost when hot button political issues enter the mix. I’d love some links on these interviews where Stephen has said that he accepts everything the church teaches without question, because I’m not aware of them.

  11. FD,

    I actually interpreted that interview the other way, since he goes on to say that he found it frustrating that the pharmacist in question in the Daily Show segment is opposed to birth control pills since they prevent abortions. I have that interview as an mp3; I’ll listen to it in the car today to see if I missed something.

  12. Here’s the thing – Colbert is not up there being a Catholic, he is up there being a wicked parody of right-wing blowhard pundits. The fact that he is even up there talking about his Catholicism at all is a good thing.

    I mean, think about it – other than saying “I’m a Jew”, Jon Stewart never talks about his religion. And other than saying “I’m Christian”, most pundits don’t either. He’s up there quoting scritpture and putting up pictures of obscure saints, and reciting the Nicene Creed in its entirety – multiple times!

    He may not be toting the orthodox line on 100% of what he does, but this is not an EWTN show. This is a very popular, mainstream comedy show and he is out there walking the walk. He’s very vocally giving up sweets for Lent, when he has his own ice cream to promote. He went to a party with THE Ben and THE Jerry to promote an ice cream with HIS picture on it and he didn’t eat one bite.

    He sets examples for his children and for other Catholics by following some of the more traditional devotions to the church. He talked about being a Catechism teacher on Conan O’Brien, too. He is not just a Catholic in name, he is publicly declaring his Catholicism as part of who he is, even in real life when he is Stephen and not “Stephen.”

    To judge him on one interview, or one slightly not 100% orthodox teaching is to overlook all of the good he represents as a lifelong praciticing Catholic. How many other public figures (other than Mel Gibson) can you think of that talk about Catholicm on such a regular basis on such a public forum?

  13. I was curious about this, so I found the relevant interview from 2005 when I was in my car just now and listened to it. Here’s an expanded transcript. The conversation starts with a “This Week in God” story from the AP wire about a Texas pharmacist who refuses to prescribe birth control pills.

    (God Machine sound)
    Colbert: Christianity! … Pharmaceutical Christianity! Some devoutly religious pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, citing their moral opposition to contraception. Viagra, on the other hand…. that crank makes your jimmy thicker. And that is the Gospel truth. (audience laughs and applauds) Texas pharmacist Steve Mosher explains why he doesn’t dispense the Pill.
    (Interview clip) Pharmacist: I just cannot uh, go with, uh, participate in taking the life of an innocent human being.
    Colbert: Remember, he’s talking about birth control pills. The ones that prevent fertilization. Because for Mosher, life begins as soon as you think of having sex. By the way, the average adult male creates life every seven seconds. (Pause) … There she goes! (Pause) … One more! … In their defense, pharmacists say they’ve received no complaints from their customers who aren’t huge sluts.
    Terry Gross: Now, did you actually talk to the pharmacist, or is that just a news clip from somebody else’s…
    Colbert: No, that’s a news clip. We get our stuff off of the AP wire.
    Gross: Okay. (laughs) Did you ever hear from him?
    Colbert: No! Oh, God, I don’t want to ever hear from anyone! (laughing) I.. I, uh, try not to hear from the people I talk about for fear that they’re gonna be upset about the things I say.

    Gross: Now, you grew up in a family with what, 11 children?
    Colbert: Yeah, I’m one of 11 kids. I’m the youngest.
    Gross: And was it a, uh, a religious family? You say you go to church, and…
    Colbert: Oh, absolutely. You know, we’re very devout, and, you know, I still go to church, and my children are being raised in the Catholic Church. I was actually my daughter’s catechist last year for First Communion. Which was a great opportunity to speak very simply and plainly about your faith without anybody saying, “yeah, but do you believe that stuff?” which happens a lot in what I do.
    Gross: Can I ask you a kind of serious question about faith?
    Colbert: I’ve been turning all of your funny questions into serious things for an hour so I don’t see why you can’t do the same to me.
    Gross: In the sketch we heard earlier from ‘This Week in God’ about the Christian pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control. Now, the Catholic Church opposes birth control.
    Colbert: They do.
    Gross: Which I presume you do not, um, and…
    Colbert: Presume away!
    Gross: (laughing) So, how do you deal with contradictions between, like, the Church and the way you live your life.
    Colbert: (chuckles)
    Gross: Which is something that a lot of people in the Catholic Church have to deal with.
    Colbert: Oh, sure! You know, that’s the hallmark of an American Catholic. That’s the individuation of America and the homogenation of the Church. Um… homogenation in terms of dogma. I love my Church, and I don’t think that it actually makes zombies or unquestioning people. I think it’s actually a church that values intellectualism. But, um, certainly, it can become very dogmatically rigid. Um…(sigh) .. Somebody once asked me, how can you be a father, because I’m a father of three children, how do you be a father and be anti-authoritarian? And I said, that’s not nearly as hard as being anti-authoritarian and being a Roman Catholic. You know, that’s really patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. Umm.. I don’t know. You know, I don’t believe that I can’t disagree with my Church. And I’ll leave it at that.

  14. I know that Colbert is not a Catholic Apologist, but since when does that negate a Catholic’s duty to uphold Catholic Truth?

    If you publicly state you are Catholic, and you either dissent from Church teaching openly, or remain silent in the face of dissent, thereby giving your consent – you give scandal. Scandal leads others into SIN. Remember what God says about giving scandal??

    “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20)

    “Such occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to those through whom they come” (Matt. 18:7).

    “And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (I Cor 8:12)

    “It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:2)

    It does NOT matter that he is a comedian, a talk show host – it matters that he’s giving scandal. He may well be placing his soul and others in jeopardy and that is no laughing matter.

  15. Just wanted to let you know if there’s a delay in the comments, I’m getting hit by some weird cake-related comment spam and it’s bogged down the whole system. That and I do have to do some real life work today!

  16. Truth, I don’t think you were missing anything. It was quite clear to me that Stephen approves the use of birth control pills from the things said during that Fresh Air interview.

    Even in the statement “Presume away…” and the tone with which he says it, his support of birth control is pretty apparent.

    And Fidei… I’m not sure what the size of his family has to do with it. His parents had 11 children. This fact does not mean his opposition is a given.

  17. Mmmm, cake.

  18. It is interesting to see different perspectives on this, Truth thanks for digging up more of the context.

    Short of us asking, I guess we’ll never know what Stephen thinks on a lot of these issues. From his “presume away” comment I interpreted it to mean he was almost mocking the fact that the media takes for granted that American Catholics dissent from the Chuech on this issue, something we know not to be true.

    His attitude towards the pharmicist was unfortunate, though this was a few years ago and maybe his views on that have changed. I think Stephen was looking at contraception vs. abortion as a “lesser of two evils” sort of thing, sure there are flaws in that reasoning, but it’s understandable that someone, even a practicing Catholic might agree with it.

    Also, there is a difference between what we “approve” of and what we actually do. I mean, I guss you could say I “approve” of people eatiing steak on Ash Wed. but it’s something I would not do, due to my faith.

    As for him being the youngest of 11, I just thought it was rather insulting that the interviewer was trying to get Stepehen to openly dissent from church teaching on contraception, when in all reality, people who are in large familes, espeacilly the youngest of 11, would not even exist, had eveyone adopted the contraceptive mentallity, that contemporay society embraces.

    DB-I think your comments really hit the nail on the head

  19. FD,

    Just a quick comment since i’m working on something. Your argument about why members of large families ought to be against contraception doesn’t logically follow.

    I’m the daughter of a devout Catholic and an agnostic who is opposed to organized religion. Should people who are dating ignore religion in their choice of a partner? After all, had my mother held out for a faithful Catholic man, I never would have been born.

  20. Truth, maybe I was unclear, my argument was not that people who are in large families will automatically be against contraception, my point, rather, was that I think it is rude to try to jostle someone who comes from a large, in this case Catholic, family, to support contraception. Whether malicious or not in its intentions, basically the question from the interview seems to imply the whole contraceptive mentality, a mentallity which would think “11 Children, that’s excessive/bad for the planet/crazy/ 10 too many!/etc”

    I am simply pointing out something that I, a member of a large family myself, find insulting.

    You ask me, should people who are dating ignore the religion of their partner? Well yes and no. I don’t think you can/should completely “ignore” per se something which is a major part of who somebody is. Issues on which there is not agreement can be engaged in. I am not saying dump the love of your life if they aren’t the same religion as you, I don’t see how you read that into my comments.

  21. Wow. Diane, congratulations, you have certainly provided a forum for some debate!

    I find the focus on what Stephen’s parents chose (to have 11 children) a bit puzzling. When assessing Stephen’s approach to these matters, isn’t the more telling fact what he himself has chosen in his own life, rather than what his parents chose? He and his wife have three children, not 11.

    I’ll back away quietly now.

  22. WordsWithGrace,

    Are you suggesting we judge someone’s heart and intentions on these issues based upon the number of kids they’ve had? As if there couldn’t be legitimate reasons they haven’t had more, from biological to psychological, just to name a few?

  23. I just watched the video and Kathleen Kennedy Townshend did not seem very angry to me, but rather simply convicted and frustrated about some issues dear to her, no different than a conservative Catholic would be with their own convictions that aren’t being met by the faithful around them.

    Additionally, I think she makes a great point about slavery. It took the Catholic Church almost 19 centuries to clearly come out against slavery. Now, slavery is seen as utterly deplorable, whereas in the past “perpetual slavery” was even supported by a pope in an Apostolic Constitution!

    I’m not saying the Magisterium didn’t occasionally come out against slavery either. I’m just pointing out that there was some serious incoherency in the practice toward slavery, with the highest Magisterial statement on the issue (Pope Nicholas V, Apostolic Constitution, January 8, 1455) actually supporting reducing persons to it perpetually, until Leo XIII firmly opposed it in an encyclical in 1890.

    Is it not possible that changing times and a greater awareness of life in Christ may be leading to another development in doctrine (albeit perhaps another dramatic shift), this time in regards to sex, love, reproduction and children. After all, the unitive dimension of sex also received little attention until the 20th century. I don’t have a final answer to this, but I just don’t think we should be so quick to say all is settled on the matter already. Humanae Vitae said no such thing, encyclicals are not infallible statements, and the ordinary Magisterium, while typically deserving of submission, is nonetheless not deserving of faith, and has been known to err on occasion, being fallible as it is.

  24. I’m not sure how this got to be a thread about contraception, since it wasn’t even part of the interview, but any more comments in that direction will probably not appear. Let’s remember the Catholic principle of personal conscience. Don’t make me quote the Catechism at you! People clearly have very personal feelings about these issues. Chris’ comment is a good reminder that one can’t judge based on outward appearances and that’s all we’ve got to go on here. In the interview with Terry Gross, Stephen very clearly chose not to discuss the issue, and quite frankly it’s irrelevant to me. I’ve never considered it a reliable bellwether of one’s Catholicism and I’m not about to start now.

  25. Dude. The Church is big enough for EVERYBODY! That’s what’s so great about it. I really enjoyed the interview, thanks for posting it. Now I have a new book for the Holy Rollers Book Club. Thanks!

  26. This is why I believe in birth control,
    I know of a Catholic family that didnt practice birth control and had 9 children that they could not afford proper medical care for so that when one of the children would get a severe cut the father would stitch up the cut himself with yarn.!!! Even the mother in later life told me if she had had common sense she would have used birth control.

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