Sincere Sermoning Sinner
Shows clear signs of moral weakness, while at the same time teaching a higher standard.
Description Needs Help Tropeworthy? Better Name

(permanent link) added: 2014-05-23 07:09:35 sponsor: TheHandle (last reply: 2014-09-01 09:39:47)

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People particularly those with authority, be it moral or political are expected to act in a manner in accordance with the ideals they espouse. That is to say they should practice what they preach.

Not all who fail to live up to these standards are hypocrites. Some people may fervently and honestly believe what they say is right and good but they lack the moral strength or willpower to consistently live up to their own high standards. These aren't hypocrites (although they can risk becoming so). A hypocrite, by definition, only pretends to believe what he preaches.

A Sermonning Sinner (traditionally known as a 'Whiskey Priest') is the kind of character that has a moral compass and a conscience, but often is overcome by their weaknesses. It doesn't have to be an alcoholic or a priest; it's enough that they be a "spirit willing, flesh weak" type. A junkie telling people not to use drugs doesn't have to be promoting religious purity. Simply telling people not to use drugs is teaching a higher standard than the junkie is living up to. But an alcoholic priest is the archetypical example. Becoming a Moral Sinner can also be a symptom of a clergyman's Crisis of Faith.

Compare to Nun Too Holy, when the putative holy person isn't holy at all, but morally bankrupt or even evil. Compare to Dirty Old Monk, when the holy man has lecherous and perverted tendencies, despite the expectation that they should be above such worldly desires.

Evil Parents Want Good Kids is a when parents want their children to be better people than they are. Broken Aesop is when a story tries to teach a moral but demonstrates the opposite.

I lifted it from Wikipedia after looking up the expression from the multiple references to it in the Yes, Minister page: there's a bunch of Zero Context Examples from series and stories I haven't read or watched, so help in fleshing them out is appreciated.

EDIT: I believe the suggested examples all focus too much on literal monks. The piece that inspired me to start the whole thing has for subject a minister, not a monk; this trope is a major, major trait of his character (or lack thereof), and... well, you can see him demonstrate it here (where he is genuinely appalled that the British government is indirectly selling arms to terrorists) and here (where his colleagues successfully cajole, browbeat, and blackmail him into letting things be the way they are).

Thing is, I'd like more examples of non-monastic moral people who fail to live up to their own standards, not out of deliberate malice but out of weakness.

No Real Life Examples, Please!.


Examples

Anime and Manga

Film - Live Action
  • Father Barry in On the Waterfront is an upstanding person, although he is seen drinking towards the end of the film. [Why is that a bad thing?]

Literature
  • Friar Tuck of Robin Hood fame is sometimes depicted as a whisky priest, although more often his physical weakness for food and drink is not shown as spiritual weakness.
  • The main character in The Night of the Hunter would undoubtedly qualify as a whisky priest, and is in fact a murderer as well. [Zero-Context Example]
  • The antiheroic protagonist of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory is sometimes called a "Whiskey Priest" and is arguably the Trope Namer. [Zero-Context Example]
  • In the Discworld novel Small Gods, most of the Omnian clergy could be considered whisky priests, with the exceptions of the genuinely holy Brutha, and the pathologically insane Vorbis. Most amusingly, most of them don't believe in the Great God Om anymore, they just believe in the Church and the Exquisition.
  • The character Enoch Root in the novels of Neal Stephenson also shares some of the characteristics of a whisky priest.[Zero-Context Example]
  • The prison chaplain in A Clockwork Orange drinks alcohol regularly yet is the most moral character in the book.[How does this make him qualify at all?!]
  • Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist has some attributes of a whisky priest.[Zero-Context Example]

Live-Action TV

Music
  • Poppa Was A Rolling Stone, by The Temptations, follows a family as they learn the awful truth about their deceased dad. One verse goes:
    Heard some talk about papa doing some store front preaching;
    Talking about saving souls and all the time leeching;
    Dealing in dirt, and stealing in the name of the Lord...

Real Life
  • Particularly in Baptist churches, there will be a sign talking about how the priest overcame drugs or alcohol. They are effectively using their past as in advertisement to their faith. This is not to say they won't lapse back into addiction.

Theatre
  • In Hamlet, Polonius utterly sucks at following his own advice. All the more ironic because it is, by and large good advice, and the fact that he gives it most prominently to his son before the latter goes in a journey means that he does believe in its goodness.

Video Games
  • Reverend Esteban, speaker for the Religious faction in Tropico 4, considers rum to be God's gift and would prefer to conduct his sermons in a bar rather than a church. Seems to be at odds with most of his followers, but reluctantly goes along with their wishes anyway. He would claim that God told him to ask for a prohibition on alcohol, then if it is implemented call the radio station the next day as an anonymous "concerned citizen" to protest the very policy he asked for.

Web Comic
  • In Kid Radd, GI Guy laments the way most game sprites revel in violence and seek out combat, while still readily admitting that he feels that way too. And then it turns out that he has despaired of sprites ever overcoming their violent natures and creating anything they will not eventually destroy in a rampage, and plans to destroy cyberspace outright and hope it gets the humans too.

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