Created By: TheHandle on May 23, 2014 Last Edited By: TheHandle on September 1, 2014

Sincere Sermoning Sinner

Shows clear signs of moral weakness, while at the same time teaching a higher standard.

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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.

Community Feedback Replies: 44
  • May 23, 2014
    Antigone3
    This seems to assume that alcohol consumption is always a moral failing, which is a pretty big assumption.
  • May 23, 2014
    bitemytail
    • In Tropico4, the representative of the religious faction, Father Estabon, is a drunk. If the religious faction petitions for a prohibition, he'll regretfully ask you to enact the edict.

    On a side note, do we want to ban Real Life examples? Otherwise, we'll have a list a mile long of televangelists and Catholic priests.
  • May 23, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^^Not alcohol consumption per se, but alcoholism.
  • May 23, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    I've formatted the previously-added examples...

    Comic Books
    • In Runaways, Nico Minoru is a good Christian girl who used to have an unfortunate tendency towards Sex For Solace, often ignoring if the other person has a significant other.

    Literature
    • In A Song Of Ice And Fire, the men of the Night's Watch all swear to abstain from sex. Very few of them seem to be able to keep this vow, and in fact, the economy of the neighboring Mole Town seems to rely heavily upon the Sworn Brothers' patronage of its brothel.
  • May 23, 2014
    DAN004
    While examples seems to be about priests or other devout ppl as the title suggests, the laconic sounds very general.

    Subtrope of Hypo Crite, btw

  • May 23, 2014
    arbiter099
    ^^another Ice and Fire example: The Red Priest Thoros of Myr evangelizes in the name of the flame god R'hhllor. Known for ritualistically carrying a flaming sword into battle, Thoros is also well known for indulging in lust and gluttony. He changes his ways and becomes more devout when R'hhllor makes his power felt, granting visions in fire, setting swords magically alight and reviving the dead.
  • May 23, 2014
    Chabal2
    Preacher has an old German guy living in a small, Deep South town, who waxes philosophical about the American Dream, how flawed people can become far better than they are, etc. He's also a former Nazi.
  • May 24, 2014
    Arivne
    Here are a couple of examples from TV Tropes using the term "Whisky Priest" that may be examples of this trope as well.

    Anti Hero: The Whiskey Priest in Graham Greene's The Power And The Glory. If it fits the trope, it may be the Trope Namer.

    Yes Minister, Take The Third Option: The third option at the end of "The Whiskey Priest" drives Hacker to drink, because he may be a self-serving politician but he also has a conscience.

  • May 24, 2014
    Lawman592
    Literature ^ I see Arivne already suggested the unnamed priest from The Power And The Glory.
  • May 24, 2014
    DAN004
    Needs to mention Hypo Crite.
  • May 24, 2014
    TonyG
    Robin Hood Men In Tights replaces Friar Tuck with Rabbi Tuckman, won enters Sherwood Forest with a wagon full of sacramental wine. When the Merry Men ask for some, Tuckman says it's only for blessing... then adds that there are a lot of stuff around to bless.
  • May 24, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^ What's the difference between Hypocrite and Straw Hypocrite?

    I think the distinction is one of intent: Hypocrites use a moral doctrine to chastise others or justify themselves, but only when it is convenient to them. A subtrope of that would be Moral Myopia: such as a Social Darwinist who believes people deserve being attacked and brutalized by him for being weak, but will react with outrage if they are beaten at their own game. A Whiskey Priest doesn't just uphold their principles when it's convenient, but they ignore them when weaknesses get the better of them.
  • May 26, 2014
    Lawman592
    Becoming a Whiskey Priest can also be a symptom of a clergyman's Crisis Of Faith.
  • May 27, 2014
    jamespolk
    Compare to Nun Too Holy, when the putative holy person isn't holy at all, but morally bankrupt or even evil.
  • May 29, 2014
    xanderiskander
    This is related to Dirty Old Monk, when the holy man has lecherous and perverted tendencies, despite the fact that they should be above such worldly desires.
  • June 1, 2014
    TheHandle
    bump.
  • June 2, 2014
    TrustBen
    The name should probably be changed. The current name could make readers think it's limited to alcoholic clergy.
  • June 2, 2014
    TheHandle
  • Isn't this already covered by Hypocrite?
  • June 30, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 1, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^ Then it's not Hypocrite. "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, although the more self-aware among them may occasionally acknowledge (and/or attempt to justify) their situation with a Hypocrisy Nod."

    This trope is explicitly not covered by Hypocrite. Also, failing to live up to your own moral standards is very different from lying about them and believing them.
  • July 1, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 1, 2014
    TheHandle
    No it's not. I'm rather baffled on how you arrived to that conclusion.

    Okay, here's an example: you're about to enter a crack house, to try the stuff out. One of the drug users on the porch tries to stop you: "Boy, don't come here. You'll ruin your life." He takes a deep puff off his crack joint. "This stuff is bad for you," he says, as he looks at it with a mix of hatred and lust.

    He's not lying. He's saying the truth. He's just too far gone, too addicted, to stop himself from engaging in this self-destructive behaviour.
  • July 1, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ but I'm still convinced that we have this already, though. Broken Aesop or Evil Parents Want Good Kids are perhaps related in that regard.
  • July 1, 2014
    TheHandle
    Evil Parents Want Good Kids is definitely a subtrope. Broken Aesop kind of overlaps when the creators do believe in the message they're telling, but there's too many variables involving authorial intent, interpretation, and so on...
  • August 8, 2014
    TheHandle
    Bump.
  • August 8, 2014
    ZuTheSkunk
    I do believe Frollo from Hunchback From Notre Damme qualifies, but I didn't watch that movie myself, so someone else needs to write a proper example.
  • August 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Preachers Kid
  • August 8, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Changed media section title(s) to our standard style.
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
      • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
  • August 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Is "teaching a higher standard" a requirement?
  • August 8, 2014
    bejjinks
    ^ I think it is but maybe the wording can be softened. 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.
  • August 8, 2014
    DAN004
    I'm thinking of someone who does something that is sinful, but a nice person otherwise.

    Though that might be covered by many tropes... (Good Bad Girl, Affably Evil, I Did What I Had To Do, Ethical Slut, etc)
  • August 8, 2014
    TheHandle
    Switched it to Sincere Sermoning Sinner, which is more indicative and has Added Alliterative Appeal.
  • August 8, 2014
    Chabal2
    Inverted by one of the crooks in Huckleberry Finn (who apparently preached temperance but was caught drinking and chased out of town) who remains a conman.
  • August 8, 2014
    DAN004
  • August 8, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^ Let's not bring that up...
  • August 8, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ huh?
  • August 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Anti Role Model.
  • August 27, 2014
    bulmabriefs144
    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.

    Btw, compare means that it's like the following trope. But alot of them are contrast to.
  • August 31, 2014
    AgProv
    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...
  • August 31, 2014
    MorningStar1337
    Would a minister/Judge Frollo count? He seems to have an important role in the catholic church in Paris bus his lust for Esmeralda, is a defining character flaw.
  • August 31, 2014
    arbiter099
    ^he's also faithful, he's perfectly willing to spare her if only she would marry him so he could love her in accordance with his church. and if not, also as willing to burn her alive.
  • September 1, 2014
    Arivne
    In the title, "Sermonizing" is a more recent and more commonly used version of "Sermoning".
  • September 1, 2014
    dalek955
    • 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.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=8jnwvuijwh4qfa3oy33dsjhm