Breaking: Garry Wills discovers liberal Protestantism 200 years behind the curve

It says something about our culture that it takes a comedian to call an intellectual on his folly. Catholic Garry Wills recently appeared on The Colbert Report to hawk his new, very non-Catholic book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition. In perhaps the only time in history a jester and historian have jousted on late-night television about the eucharist, Stephen Colbert tried a little elementary catechesis on Wills. Enjoy.

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Matt Baugher, for pointing this out. And thanks to Johnny Simmons for the new headline. The previous headline was “Stephen Colbert catechizes Garry Wills.”

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • Joe Canner

    It is indeed interesting and humorous to see Gary Wills debate transubstantiation and other Catholic doctrines with a comedian pretending to be a conservative Catholic, but I don’t see any evidence that Colbert proved Wills’ “folly”. Both made good points and Wills was clearly prepared to defend his case against Colbert’s simplistic arguments. If you want to rag on Wills’ book, you should find a better proxy than Stephen Colbert.

    • Joel J. Miller

      I’m not ragging on his book. I haven’t read it. If I’m ragging at all, it’s about what he said on the show. And I didn’t say Colbert proved anything, only that he called him on it, which he undoubtedly did. The Orthodox tradition (to which I belong) does not understand the real presence in terms of transubstantiation (a view developed under the mediaeval schoolmen), but a Catholic who denies the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, however construed, is surely approaching folly, if he’s not already twelve steps past it. If Wills desires thus to demote the sacraments, there’s no longer cause to claim the name Catholic, is there?

      • Joe Canner

        I’ve don’t get too worked up anymore one way or the other about how people view the Eucharist, so I’m not in a position to judge where Wills falls on the continuum. Nonetheless, as a liberal who attends a conservative church, I certainly sympathize with those who choose to stay in a particular church despite being critical of certain doctrines or practices in that church.

  • Joe Rigney

    Shouldn’t the headline be “Prominent Catholic Author Comes Out as a Protestant on Colbert Show”?

    • Joel J. Miller

      I think that might be more to the point.


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