"Forgive me, Maria! Don't let this siren cast her spell. Don't let her fire sear my flesh and bone.
Destroy Esmeralda! And let her taste the fires of hell! Or else let her be mine and mine alone!"
He'll go to church on Sunday and rob a bank on Monday. He'll lie to get what he wants but he won't take the Lord's name in vain. He'll kill innocent people but won't hurt a priest. This is a character who identifies with a religion and participates in religious rituals but also commits crimes in his everyday life. Basically, a Family Values Villain
if the "family value" is going to church.
One reason a writer might create a Churchgoing Villain is to examine religious hypocrisy. The character often views religion as a set of rituals that he follows out of habit. He rarely applies the teachings of his religion to his everyday life and generally does not think deeply enough to see how irreconcilable his faith and his actions are.
Sometimes the Churchgoing Villain may be portrayed more sympathetically. The image of a human being trying and failing to resist his sinful nature
resonates with Christian teachings, which makes this version of the trope more common in Western fiction.
Finally, this might be done simply for the sake of realism
as a vast
majority of the human race belongs to some religion. That said, No Real Life Examples, Please!
This trope does not include religious extremists. Religious extremists do evil because
of their views on religion. Churchgoing Villains identify with a religion but their evil acts are not connected to their identity in any way. It also does not include people who are members of a Religion of Evil
See also: Straight Edge Evil
, Family Values Villain
, Punch Clock Villain
, Nun Too Holy
, Sinister Minister
and Raised Catholic
Anime and Manga
- In The Castle of Cagliostro, one of the Count's henchmen is moved to cross himself when he sees the Bishop arriving.
- Father Pucci from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He wears the vestments. He spends most of his time in the chapel. He also brings the end of the world.
- Scar of Fullmetal Alchemist filled this role early on, even going so far as to pray for God to bless the souls of those he recently killed. As time passed and he moved into a protagonist role, the conflict between his religious beliefs and his chosen path were brought into focus.
- The Corleones and other crime families in The Godfather were pretty devout Catholics, and ruthless racketeers.
- Frank Lucas in American Gangster. He's a drug dealer, gangster, and murderer but takes his mother to church every Sunday.
- The gangster villains in The Boondock Saints, who are Catholic and disgusted at the murder of a priest.
- Mr. Rooney, the villain of Road to Perdition. He's a gangster but frequently prays in church and realizes that he will not go to Heaven.
- Moses from Beyond Reanimator, a religious prisoner who nonetheless succumbs to his cannibalistic urges from time to time. He'll tear out a chunk of your flesh only to spit it out and beg God for forgiveness.
- Lt. Kendrick in A Few Good Men.
- Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, or for that matter most of the characters, in one way or another, such as Bill's Irish Catholic underlings who stab Amsterdam in the back.
- John Doe in Se7en is a deeply Christian serial killer who despises the entire world. To show his disdain for all the "sins" around him he gives his victims ironic deaths tied to their perceived guilt in order to cleanse society.
- Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption.
- In Nuns On The Run Charlie is a practicing Catholic and a low-level Mook in a criminal organization.
- Predators: Cuchillo and Mombasa are both seen praying at different points in the movie, but the former is a Mexican cartel enforcer and the latter a Death Squad officer in the RUF.
- Robert Hanssen in Breach.
- Ragetti and Pintel from Pirates of the Caribbean, Played for Laughs. After losing their immortality and escaping the death penalty, they both become mildly religious. However, they always use it as a way of rationalizing their own selfish desires.
- Gibbs mentions prayers a few times.
- Angelica from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. She refuses to let her father Blackbeard kill a clergyman captured in a raid. However, she's still very much a pirate and perfectly willing to lie, steal, and kill.
- Jack Sparrow himself leans towards this in On Stranger Tides as well. He tells a missionary that he's concerned about where he'll end up in the afterlife. However, he's not concerned enough to convert.
- Edward Wilson from The Good Shepherd is an Anti-Hero version of this. He is a practicing Christian who has verses from The Bible inscribed on the walls of the CIA. He is also willing to drug, torture, and kill people. He's also a Noble Bigot with a Badge.
- The mafiosi of F/X 2. They were finding stolen religious artifacts with the intent of giving them back to the church.
- Discussed in Lucky Number Slevin, when the title character meets with The Rabbi, a gangster who is also a Rabbi, and asks him how he reconciles his faith with his chosen career.
Live Action TV
- Derek Sagan from the The Star of the Guardians series by Margaret Weis.
- Cardinal Richelieu from The Three Musketeers. First off, he tried to become the Queen's lover. Not only is this adultery (she is married), but as a Catholic priest, Richelieu is supposed to remain celibate. When she rejects him, he plots to turn the King against her by exposing her affair with the Duke of Buckingham. He also wants to start a war between England and France.
- Big Jim Rennie in Under the Dome by Stephen King. Many of King's novels have a bad guy fall under this trope, but Big Jim is one of the best examples.
- Long John Silver and the other pirates in Treasure Island. They are worried when one of their crew members tears a page out of The Bible to make a Black Spot for Silver, who advises the crew members to start praying.
Mythology and Religion
- Eco and Sayyid in LOST are kind of the Anti-Hero version of this, especially if Sayyid were actually any good at torturing.
- In the TV show Oz, most of the Christian gang is this, especially William Cudney and Timmy Kirk. One is a vindictive child murderer, the other is a complete monster and ex-Irish gangster.
- In The Wire, most of the criminals honor the "Sunday Truce". This is apparently so that they can go to church with their family without those outside "The Game" getting shot at. When Stringer authorizes an attempt on stick-up-man Omar's life while he's with his grandmother, the rest of the underworld is appalled.
- Shows up a few times in Dexter. A few victims of the week were active at their churches, and the Big Bad of season 4, the Trinity Killer, was a very religious man.
- The Irish gangsters on Castle are portrayed as these.
- Barney Miller has this a few times. One perp plays up his Catholicism, although it's more of an attempt to guilt Wojo into letting him go because Wojo doesn't regularly attend church himself (it doesn't work). Then there's an actual Catholic priest who worked as a fence to try and fund his parish. Another time, it's a bust on a rabbi who has dramatically overextended his synagogue's licence to hold a casino night.
- In the Supernatural episode "Heart" (S02, Ep17), Mason's neighbor Glen who wears Mission Church t-shirts.
- Sarah Newlin on True Blood full stop. She will stop at nothing to achieve her goals because she believes she is doing the Lord's work.
- In the Eberron campaign setting of D&D there's no requirement for clerics to match their deity's alignment. The Church of the Silver Flame in particular has a problem with corruption.
- King Claudius, who murdered his brother to claim the throne, is encountered by Hamlet praying. Hamlet intends to kill him but is forced to hold off during then because he fears killing Claudius while he's praying will send him to heaven.
- Kirei Kotomine from Fate/stay night, who gets bonus points by actually being an ordained priest. He's not a villain per se, but he is quite an evil person who actually delights in the suffering of others (down to the point that he's also The Gadfly).
- It doesn't help that the church actually trained him to become a Church Militant exorcist, though in their defense nobody realized just how dangerous he could become.
- Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A judge of deep religious devotion, he is still governed by his lusts, hatred, prejudice, and revenge and driven to attempted kidnapping and murder. In the original story he is also a clergyman, alchemist, and sorcerer.