Why Priests? Stephen Colbert takes on Garry Wills on the Real Presence of the Eucharist

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Stephen Colbert was the host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert report, a satirical news show. He is also an openly-professed Catholic. In today’s video Colbert takes on Garry Wills, a prolific American writer and also a Pulitzer Prize winner, who has recently written a book called Why Priests.

The incredible thing about the video is Colbert’s capacity to keep Wills on his toes and even pull the rug out from under him more than once. Discovering such a clever and relatively well formed defense of transubstantiation and Catholic teaching on the Comedy Central channel is a rare event, to say the least.


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**Note that in posting this video – while Mr.  we are not by any means pretending to support or approve all the Mr. Colbert says.

The video offers us 3 important things:


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1. The Catholic Faith is like a symphony orchestra, its beauty and truth resounds in its unity. Each element of faith is complemented, elevated, and situated thanks to the other elements. Pull out one element, or separate it from the others and you will be left with nothing but dissonance. “The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith.” (DV 12).


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2. Without faith, without truly believing that God and his Word interpreted through the Church offers us Truth, one’s Catholicity crumbles. What’s regrettable about Garry Will’s approach isn’t only his belief about transubstantiation or about priests– these are manifestations and consequences– rather the fact that he appears to have lost his faith in Christ’s incarnation. It is our faith in the incarnation that allows us to perceive a God of presence, a God of closeness, a God who truly works in and through the lives of others.  It is in contemplating the event of God becoming man that we behold the key for perceiving reality: Christians, through baptism and God’s call, are called not only to be “leaders” but also “Other Christs”! This is a radical novelty not to be ignored or downplayed! It is the Church who has fought and gone to the world’s end to preserve and transmit this truth. To deny Her her role, her value and validity, is the first and fundamental step towards losing your way among the countless empty voices in the world.

3. Faith can indeed be defended publicly, intelligently, charitably, and even with humor in today’s world! Leave your excuses, your false humility, your cowardly appreciation for political correctness aside. It isn’t about imposing our beliefs! It is about living them with naturality, with gratitude, with radicality and courage! Since when did lies or misconceptions deserve more airtime than truth and understanding? The Truth of the Catholic Faith is NOT a possession to be proud of (in the negative sense) nor a weapon to belittle others. It is above all a gift that demands responsibility, courageous coherence, and humble creative service.

Please check out another interesting article written about this video by Frank Weathers. He also provides some great quotations from St. Augustine refuting Will’s ridiculously unfounded claims:


“Take a gander at the Augustine citations found on Early Christians on the Holy Eucharist, from the Apologetics Toolkit hosted by a website out of Columbia University. Here is the thought that Wills centered his comments around Augustine upon, assuming the rest of us are ignorant of the breadth of commentary on the subject written by the Doctor of Grace,

St. Augustine, Explanations on the Psalms, A.D. 392-418, [98, 9]:
`Unless he shall have eaten My flesh he shall not have eternal life. [John 6:54-55]‘ [Some] understood this foolishly, and thought of it carnally, and supposed that the Lord was going to cut off some parts of His Body to give them … But He instructed them, and said to them: `It is the spirit that gives life; but the flesh profits nothing: the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life’ [John 6:64]. Understand spiritually what I said. You are not to eat this Body which you see, nor to drink that Blood which which will be poured out by those who will crucify Me. I have commended to you a certain Sacrament; spiritually understood, it will give you life. And even if it is necessary that this be celebrated visibly, it must still be understood invisibly.

But goodness, gracious, Augustines’ thoughts upon the matter continue on, and on.

St. Augustine, Sermons, [227] A.D. 391-430:
… I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you receive worthily, you are what you have received.”

… read more.


Learn more about Garry Wills book Why Priests? with Fr. Baron’s commentary:

About Garrett Johnson

Garrett Johnson has written 365 post in this blog.

Born in Texas, I fell in love with evangelization when I was 18. A former NET member and a Franciscan University of Steubenville Alumnus, I am now living in Rome and studying for the priesthood.

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