Stephen Colbert's wikipedia bio states:

Colbert is a practicing Roman Catholic and a Sunday school teacher and an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church Monastery.

These two (bolded) things, according to various media reports and the blogsite of the Universal Life Church Monastery are factually correct, so I'm not asking if they are possible, but whether according to official Catholic doctrine the two are reconcileable?

Stephen Colbert officiating at the wedding of Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le

By way of background information:

The Universal Life Church Monastery (ULC) is a non-denominational, non-profit religious organization famous worldwide for its provision of free, legal ordinations to its vast membership over the internet. The ULC, recognizing the importance of maintaining open hearts and minds, embraces any individual, no matter his or her spiritual background, who wishes to become a member of this family of faith. Since its founding, the Universal Life Church has ordained more than 20 million ministers. - www.themonastery.org/aboutUs

The Picture is of Colbert officiating at the wedding of Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le using a licence granted to him in the state of New York on the basis of his ULC credential.

Clearly Colbert was not officiating as a priest in the Catholic sacrament of marriage, but do his actions in conducting a non-Catholic wedding violate any particular Church teachings? If so, would it be regarded as a venial sin or a mortal one?

  • Thanks for the clarification. I've voted to re-open, although I doubt there's any official answer. The ULCM seems to have no official doctrinal views with which the RC can disagree, so I doubt they have any prohibition against being a member, or "ordained."
    – Flimzy
    May 26, 2016 at 16:17
  • Also, FWIW, the photo you've included isn't really relevant; he conducts that service "by the power vested in me by the state of New York", not the ULCM. (source).
    – Flimzy
    May 26, 2016 at 16:19
  • 1
    @Flimzy The state grants licences to conduct weddings to recognised ordained ministers (and presumably other suitably qualified celebrants etc.) & the ULCM claim that Colbert: "...received his [ULCM] minister credentials online and used them to officiate the wedding of Cassesso and Le on his show last week" May 26, 2016 at 16:27
  • 2
    @Geremia: I mean that you changed the entire nature of the question. Previously it was asking about ordination in a non-Catholic religious organization; now it's asking about performing marriages, which is an entirely different question.
    – Flimzy
    May 27, 2016 at 20:05
  • 1
    "A church-going Catholic friend of my daughter was asked to officiate at the wedding of a non-Catholic couple, by becoming a “minister” of an on-line “church”. I assume that legally this is permissible as far as the State is concerned, but it seems a serious violation of canon law regarding the Catholic layperson. I’ve researched on line but haven’t been able to find a definitive answer, (at least not one from a trustworthy authority). But it definitely doesn’t pass the “smell test”. Fr. Z's Blog
    – Ken Graham
    May 28, 2016 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


When examining your conscience, as a Catholic preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a book like the Handbook of Prayers, you'll hit this bullet point under the First Commandment:

Did I endanger my faith by joining or attending meeting of organizations opposed to the Catholic Faith (non-catholic services, the Communist Part, free-masonry, "new age" cults or other religions)? Did I take part in one of its activities?

No, that would be "joining a non-Cathoic service". The church looks pretty new-agey too. Mr. Colbert, has no obligation as a TV personality to perform secular duties to marry people like a ship's captain or the Mayor of Pittsville.

The gravity of the sin, I think is varied by why he is doing what he is doing. I'd say, at least he's not obviously officiating an illicit marriage, but why he's in that position, looking like an ordained minister - functioning as an ordained minister of a sect that holds values opposed to his own.

Now, lets analyze whether or not the Universal Life Church Monastery holds values

One the one hand you could have this type of a conclusion to the ceremony:


Minister: By the power vested in me, by the Universal Life Church and by the state of Delaware, I pronounce you, Sally and Kevin as wife and husband, lawfully wedded before God. Kiss

Minister: Kevin, you may now kiss the bride, forever sealing your union. Presentation

Minister: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Sally and Kevin Smith!

On the other hand:


Minister: By the power vested in me, by the Universal Life Church and by the state of Delaware, I pronounce you, Sally and Jennifer as wife and wife, lawfully wedded before God.


Minister: Sally, you may now kiss the bride, forever sealing your union. Presentation

Minister: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present to you Mrs. and Mrs. Sally and Jennifer Smith!

and that's what they consider a Christian marriage service. Now, there are lots of Christians who think this is peachy, but Catholic's can't just do what they want and not consider it sinful behavior, that's the price one pays for consuming the Body and Blood of Christ and also what one sacrifices when they knowingly commit a mortal sin.

One thing to note is, the reason this is not good is because it "endangers my faith". It's a serious occasion of sin for a private individual. But, being a public figure and a self-proclaimed Catholic, it becomes scandalous, which is always worse.

This is the kind of stuff that needs to be denounced just as publicly as it was done in the first place.

  • 1
    There are so many problems with Mr. Colbert's position, that it is hard to know where to begin. The most glaring problem is pretending to be clergy when he is clearly not (he was never ordained a deacon or priest); then, his actions border on communicatio in sacris (he did not just attend non-Catholic services—he was officiating); finally, if any Catholics attempted a marriage with him as the witness, their marriage is clearly invalid (unless they receive a dispensation—which is very unlikely in this case). Nov 7, 2016 at 12:18
  • I think it's worth noting that this is phrased as 'something to consider' and 'whether it endangers your faith'.It is not phrased as 'you are not allowed to do this'. For a long time I was in a place where ecumenical services were held on a frequent basis, and Catholic laity and clergy took part. So I think the bottom line has to be that such things (attending a non-Catholic service) are not necessarily forbidden, but may be problematic depending on circumstances Jan 12, 2019 at 18:34
  • It's also worth saying that the ULC does not appear to require its members to hold beliefs which are contradictory to Catholicism (I'm not sure it requires its members to hold any beliefs at all). Jan 12, 2019 at 18:36
  • @AthanasiusOfAlex Is Mr Colbert really pretending to be clergy? Or is he simply acting as a marriage officiant, like any city clerk? Jan 12, 2019 at 18:39
  • @DJClayworth Is what he's wearing in that photograph what the city clerks wear to officiate at a marriage? Or what men "pretending to be clergy" wear? The photo may not show the whole story, but a chasuble would look very very similar. Jan 13, 2019 at 21:27

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