The great and the good — and lots of politicians and TV pundits, too — gathered Thursday to hear comedian Stephen Colbert roast and toast everyone from Pope Francis to his host for the evening, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
The 68th annual Al Smith Dinner, named for the first Catholic presidential candidate in American history, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel raised $3 million for New York’s neediest children.
Colbert is a lifelong Catholic, a man who is, as Alfred E. Smith IV said in introducing him, “serious about both his craft and his Catholic faith.” The cardinal — who is also pretty funny — and the comedian first met last fall, and Colbert had Dolan on his show last month. So the archbishop of New York returned the favor by having Colbert headline the dinner.
Here are some of the best Roman rimshots from the night:
Colbert on Colbert
“You could not have found a more perfect keynote speaker tonight because I am proud to be America’s most famous Catholic. And I’m sure the cardinal is thinking, ‘Stephen, pride is a sin.’ Well, cardinal so is envy. So we’re even.”
“I am the youngest of 11 children. … I will hold for you to applaud my parents’ passionate obedience to Humanae Vitae.”
“I was an altar boy for 11 years. I put my time in the pews — uppin’ and a downin’ and a crissin’ and a crossin.’ The pancake breakfasts at CYO [Catholic Youth Organization], the pancake breakfasts at the Knights of Columbus. Eating pancakes for dinner every Friday during Lent. At this point in my life, I am one-third buttermilk.”
On Catholic presidents
“We got close-ish in 2004 with John Kerry, who was a deeply Catholic candidate. In fact, listening to him talk was like attending a Latin Mass.”
Colbert on Dolan
“Your Eminence, that’s a fantastic title. Just think of that: His Eminence. He’s not just sitting there. He’s emanating. He’s like a fog of cardinal-ness. On the other hand, ‘The Eminence’ sounds like the most boring Spider-Man film of all time.”
“I have great respect for Cardinal Dolan. Though I do have to say, sir, it is not easy when you’re wearing that outfit. In that cape with the red sash you look like a matador who’s really let himself go. Did you not see the invite? It said ‘white-tie’ not ‘flamboyant Zorro.’ “
“Cardinal Dolan of course has a very, very hard job. Trying to hold up Catholic family values in sexually liberal New York City. I’m not saying New York is the gay mecca. But it’s at least Gay-rusalem.”
“But the cardinal’s doing a fine job, isn’t he? … In fact early this year he came this close to being selected pope. But he blew it in the swimsuit competition. I’d have gone with the one-piece.”
“Instead he was first runner-up. And that means of course that if Pope Francis tests positive for steroids, Dolan’s in. Cardinal, warm up your blessing arm in the papal bullpen.”
Colbert on Pope Francis
“Speaking of Pope Francis, obviously as an observant Catholic, I believe the pope is infallible. But he’s also wrong about a lot of things.”
“By the way, is the pope here? Pope Francis, are you here? Because if you were we probably wouldn’t know because His Humbleness would be out washing the feet of the coat check guy or something. We get it, you’re modest.”
“If Pope Francis were throwing tonight’s party we wouldn’t be in white tie at the Waldorf. We’d be in sweat pants crammed into a corner booth at the IHOP.”
“It’s not just his humble lifestyle that gets my chasuble in a bunch. He’s off message! Saying: Catholics, please stop obsessing about homosexuals, abortion, and contraception. For Pete’s sake, we need something to be obsessed about now that ‘Breaking Bad’ is over.”
David Gibson writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.