Created By: Belfagor on April 21, 2012 Last Edited By: Belfagor on June 1, 2012
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Creepy Catholicism

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I find your lack of faith disturbing.

"Catholicism is not a soothing religion. It's a painful religion. We're all gluttons for punishment."

Light and darkness play an important role in every religion. When it comes to Christianity, however, Catholicism is by far the most associated with dark elements, including exorcisms, evil hidden behind a collar or more mundane ones like corruption and a very controversial history (which, however, isn't uncommon when it comes to religion).

Creepy Catholicism embraces the description of Catholicism either as simply uncanny and dark or outright criminal and corrupt, especially if compared with other religions. This portrayal is typical of countries characterized by a Protestan majority. Once the Protestant Reformation got going, many Catholic traditions were suppressed. The sort of very bloody and gory art (crucifixes, frescoes of martyred saints, etc.) and ostentatious church decor popular among Italian, Spanish and Latin American Catholics, for example, can be quite shocking to someone from one of the more austere Protestant sects that favors plain wooden crosses and unadorned churches.

So if a writer wants to evoke the sort of mood and creepy factor of a pagan sacrifice or incomprehensible witch-doctor ritual, yet make it Christian, then the creepier sort of Catholicism is the way to go, especially once you toss in some Ominous Latin Chanting.

Creepy Cathedral and Hollywood Exorcism are generally associated with this trope. If a Pedophile Priest or a Sinister Minister appears, he'll probably be Catholic (but not always). May have something to do with Christianity Is Catholic. Anime Catholicism may overlap with this trope.

No Real Life Examples, Please!

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • From Black Lagoon, "The Church of Violence" run with an iron fist by Sister Yolanda, an (apparently) elderly nun who wears an eyepatch and a fully - loaded, custom Desert Eagle pistol under her habit at all times. I should note that the church is not actually an official subsidiary of the Catholic Church, it's a cover for questionable activities.
  • Blue Exorcist

Comics
  • Nightcrawler from The X Men is a devout Catholic, but his demonic appearance is seen as scary by many, and he has an affinity for shadows, which emphasize the "dark" elements of his character. On the other hand, he had a cheerful and nice personality.
    • The film version plays this trope straighter, by giving him a more introverted personality and self-inflicted scars as a way to atone for his sins.

Film
  • The Exorcist and every other movie dealing with Christian exorcism. Interestingly, The Exorcist had a Jesuit priest and teacher as a technical advisor (he also played the part of Father Dyer).
  • Constantine. Several of the characters fighting against demonic incursions are Catholics, one of whom is a priest (Father Hennessy). The title character uses Catholic rites against demons, including exorcism and the Last Rites, and is definitively an Anti-Hero.
  • In The Blues Brothers, the title characters go "to see 'The Penguin'" - who turns out to be not the Batman character, but a very stern, heavyset, intimidating Catholic nun who wields a wooden 1-foot ruler like a martial arts weapon.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Frollo's "Hellfire", one of the most famous VillainSongs ever, is a Prayer of Malice in which Frollo asks the Virgin Mary to destroy Esmeralda.

Literature
  • Angels & Demons: Religious buildings in Vatican City are used as locations for the murders. Also, the description of the papal conclave wouldn't be out of place in a locked room mystery.

Live-Action TV
  • The Borgias
  • Criminal Minds plays this straight in the episode "Demonology", which revolves around a priest suspected of murder and an exorcism.

Music
  • Lady Gaga plays a lot with this trope, the most evident example being the video of "Alejandro", where she is dressed in a latex outfit that resembles a nun's one and swallows a rosary.

Tabletop Games
  • Brave New World supplement Covenant. The Catholic Church has a secret group of heroes with super powers that fight against demonic influence and other supernatural monsters.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: The episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star" has Bart sent to a Catholic school, where great emphasis is put on martyrdom and suffering.
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • April 21, 2012
    Koveras
    Sinister Minister a subtrope?
  • April 22, 2012
    Belfagor
    Sinister Ministers aren't always Catholic.
  • April 22, 2012
    Bisected8
    Compare Creepy Cool Crosses, where Catholic (and other Christian) symbology is used as a creepy foreign religion in Japanese works.
  • April 22, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    Blue Exorcist is based heavily on Catholicism.
  • April 22, 2012
    animeg3282
    ^ although it's more Anime Catholicism than anything. Mostly, the order are good guys.
  • April 22, 2012
    Alvin
    This may have someting to do with All Christianity Is Catholic.
  • April 22, 2012
    Alvin
    I meant, with Christianity Is Catholic.
  • April 23, 2012
    Arivne
    Some positive examples:

    Constantine
    • Constantine. Several of the characters fighting against demonic incursions are Catholics, one of whom is a priest (Father Hennessy). The title character uses Catholic rites against demons, including exorcism and the Last Rites.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Brave New World supplement Covenant. The Catholic Church has a secret group of heroes with super powers that fight against demonic influence and other supernatural monsters.
  • April 23, 2012
    peccantis
    The examples of Blue Exorcist, The Exorcist, Angels And Demons and The Borgias should be expanded upon to avoid Zero Context Example.
  • April 23, 2012
    MartinTheMess
    Hmm. Possibly expand, or create the sister trope Voodoo Catholicism, for the sort of older local superstitions that got absorbed into Catholicsm as it expanded, first into Europe, then into the Americas and elsewhere. Local Gods and Goddesses were replaced by Saints with similar motifs, symbols, attributes, and Odd Job Gods responsibilities. Of course, a lot of the festivals and traditons of the former faith got repurposed as veneration of that saint, smoothing the transition from one religion to another. Many aspects of Hollywood Voodoo, such as sticking pins into dolls, were actually traditions of French Catholics, particularly peasants who still clung to some of the older pre-Catholic traditions in Christianized form.

    Once the Protestant Reformation got going, many of these traditions were suppressed, either for being too Catholic, or too pre-Catholic. People raised in one of the more staid and boring Protestant denominations may find some of the older traditions of (in particular) certain immigrant-based or third-world Catholic communities rather jarring. The sort of very bloody and gory art (crucifixes, frescoes of martyred saints, etc.) and ostentatious church decor popular among Spanish and Latin American Catholics, for example, can be quite shocking to someone from one of the more austere Protestant sects that favors plain wooden crosses and unadorned churches.

    So if a writer wants to evoke the sort of mood and creepy factor of a pagan sacrifice or incomprehensible witch-doctor ritual, yet make it Christian, then the creepier sort of Catholicism is the way to go, especially once you toss in some Ominous Latin Chanting.

    Of course, there are creepy protestants as well, and the Snake-Handlers of the Deep South and the faith-healing TV evangelists speaking in tongues creep out Catholics just as much as Voodoo Catholics creep out protestants.

  • April 23, 2012
    Belfagor
    ^ It would be better to create another trope (the subject is interesting), since this focuses only on fictional portrayals of Catholicism as creepy.
  • April 23, 2012
    animeg3282
    Martin, we have Voudoun
  • April 23, 2012
    Sammy14
    Er...PedophilePriest anyone?
  • April 23, 2012
    Belfagor
    ^ Already added.
  • April 23, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Would these count?

    Anime and Manga:
    • From Black Lagoon, "The Church of Violence" run with an iron fist by Sister Yolanda, an (apparently) elderly nun who wears an eyepatch and a fully - loaded, custom Desert Eagle pistol under her habit at all times. I should note that the church is not actually an official subsidiary of the Catholic Church, it's a cover for questionable activities.

    Film:
    • In The Blues Brothers, the title characters go "to see 'The Penguin'" - who turns out to be not the Batman character, but a very stern, heavyset, intimidating Catholic nun who wields a wooden 1-foot ruler like a martial arts weapon.
  • April 23, 2012
    deltanine
    How about the Iscariot organization from Hellsing? Especially Enrico Maxwell?

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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=kejxyuu68wnz8mvvsue7qeij&trope=CreepyCatholicism