NEW YORK – In a rare public moment out of character, actor Stephen Colbert told students at the Jesuit Fordham University on Friday that he loves the Roman Catholic Church no matter its human flaws.
The host of "The Colbert Report" talked about his faith in a discussion on humor and spirituality with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Rev. James Martin, author of "Between Heaven and Mirth" and the official chaplain of Colbert's show.
Colbert, who has taught Sunday school classes to school-age children, said people in comedy often don't understand how he could remain Catholic. But he said he views the church as teaching joy, which he called the "infallible sign of the presence of God."
"I love my church -- warts and all," he said, before an audience of about 3,000 cheering students, who posted his quotes on Twitter using the organizers' (hash)dolancolbert hashtag.
Colbert said people in comedy often make jokes at the expense of religion, but he makes jokes about what he called people's misuse of religion in politics and other arenas. Still, he said, "If Jesus doesn't have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble."
Colbert took the opportunity to needle Dolan about the new English-language translation of the Roman Missal, the text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass. The translation was introduced last fall in U.S. parishes to initial grumbling over what critics called stilted language. A focus of the complaints was the translation of the Nicene Creed, replacing the phrase "one in Being with the Father" to "consubstantial with the Father."
"Consubstantial?" Colbert said, as Dolan shook his head and laughed. "It's the Creed. It's not the SAT prep."
For his part, Dolan, who gave benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, told of his encounter with Clint Eastwood at the GOP event.
According to the cardinal, Eastwood said he had once played a preacher in a movie and said "I know that neck thing is really uncomfortable."
The cardinal didn't mention Eastwood's peculiar talk on the convention stage with an imaginary President Barack Obama in an empty chair.