On The Late Show Tuesday, Stephen Colbert misreported Pope Francis’ recent comments on Christian treatment of gays in order to blame the Roman Catholic Church for historical violence and to make fun of its sacraments and rites.
“When asked if he agreed with a German cardinal who said, in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, that gays deserved an apologies from the church, ‘I believe that the church … should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended …’” Colbert joined his audience in applause.
“It is a huge step to admit the Church should apologize to the person who is gay… Now, this apology is a huge moment for my Church in terms of accepting homosexuality.” Colbert added.
This “huge step” was nothing more than a restatement of official Church teaching, recorded by scary, traditionalist Pope Benedict in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Colbert’s selective quotations hide the fact that Francis was explicitly referring to the Catechism – that same Catechism that was written under the close supervision of soon-to-be Pope Benedict XVI, who Colbert was considerably less fond of.
Colbert also made it seem like the Pope endorsed the notion that the Church’s doctrine on marriage contributed to the violence in Orlando. Pope Francis said nothing of the sort, and even clarified that it is Christian individuals who should apologize for discriminating against gays, not the Church itself, which is “holy.”
Colbert capitalized on this out-of-context reporting to make fun of the Church some more. As “The Pope of Late Night,” he donned a white zucchetto, picked up plastic crosier, and began apologizing for all the things he thought the Church had done wrong.
The list includes “the Church’s obsession with gold leaf,” which Colbert likened to Trump Plaza. “Truly that money could have been use to feed orphans or clothe the poor.” He also apologized for how long weddings are. “After all,” he jokes, they “probably already did it.” Then – still pretending to be Pope – Colbert joked about how he had his eyes on the maid of honor, who’s going to “catch more than the bouquet tonight, am I right.”
Next up: Pope Colbert apologized for all the “magic” saint relics, which he says are “just gross” and “medical waste.” The “pope-pologies” ended in apologies for “the crusades, the inquisition, and for not taking sides in WWII.” “We really blew that one,” he said. “It was sort of a gimme.”
Colbert has already shown his aptitude for misrepresenting the facts, so why not with the history of the Church as well. Leaving aside the rehashed whining about the crusades and the inquisition, it would be interesting to hear what Colbert’s standard is for “taking sides” during WWII.
Even before WWII, Pope Pius XII denounced the Nazis as “false prophets with the pride of Lucifer.” In 1941, The New York Times called Pius “a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe” because he was “the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all … against Hitlerism.”
It may be all fun and jokes, but it’s doubtful whether Colbert’s audience (or Colbert himself) has a good enough grasp of Church history and theology to discern the truth from the age-old anti-Catholic propaganda in the jokes.