The Catholic Church has existed for close to two thousand years
, and nothing steeped in that much history, mystery, and power is ever left alone when it comes to storytelling. It's way too juicy a target not to take advantage of
Enter Fantastic Catholicism
, wherein creators spice up the The Church
with fantastic elements, making it out to be the coolest, most badass organization around. Most typical of Fantasy
, Science Fiction
and Alternate History
, this trope applies the Rule of Cool
to that fusty old Catholic Church, coming out with a Holy Grail full of awesome. See also Christianity is Catholic
for when it's not explicitly
stated to be Catholic, but uses elements unique to Catholicism anyways. Compare Crystal Dragon Jesus
, where a fantasy universe features a religion with superficially Christian (usually Catholic
Common elements used to turbo-charge the Church's awesomeness factor include:
The Church Fights The Supernatural!
Often the Church will fight and destroy all manner of unholy creatures (or creatures they have deemed as such), either overtly, or covertly in a Mildly Military
sub-organization of the church. Demons, Vampires, Werewolves and ravenous spirits seem to be the most popular villains, but when the Church is fighting Fey creatures, witches and other things that are nice or cute, then it's a sign they are being portrayed as Well Intentioned Extremists
. See: Church Militant
Usually existing hand in hand with the above element, if the church isn't actually hunting down magic users, (or sometimes even if they are), there will be magicians and the like in the church, often backed by the awesome power of God. Sometimes the Magic is Religious
, other times The Church just seems to have come off a recruiting drive, focused on populating the church with super-powered wizards and witches.
The Church Has A Direct-Line To Jesus!
Far from just praying and allowing circumstances and the Holy Spirit to guide them in determining God's will, this Church need do nothing so roundabout. Angels, Saints, even Jesus himself may routinely materialize before clergy or certain people, and try to guide them on the right path or act as mentors or Guardian Angels
. God probably won't show up, but the Big Man will definitely be mentioned by beings who know him personally and act as his messengers.
The Church Has An Ancient Secret!
Not only is the church in on The Masquerade
, they started it. That or they have some other secret, such as having a great artifact in their possession that used to belong to Solomon or Abraham or Jesus or Saint-Somebody, which has incredible magic power or strange abilities. Other times they might be hiding something that would decrease their validity and power in the world, such as disproving God or Jesus, or otherwise making their version of Christianity seem to be incorrect.
The Church Is Full Of Badasses!
The Church has a lot of gun-toting, sword-swinging, kung fu fighting Badasses. Maybe they are part of that magic fighting organization mentioned earlier, but if not then they may be out to punish sinners, fight for the glory of the church and otherwise protect people, or get rid of heretics. These badasses usually work as lone warriors or small groups, and may be part of a higher order or sub-organization in the church, which may be either overt or covert.
The church actually rules the world as The Empire
, or has otherwise become a super-power on level with other countries, and may even have taken over a large area of land for themselves and have a cool new name with the word 'Holy' in it somewhere. If there is a King, or President, he will be a figure head, the Pope is the real guy in power. When this happens there's a pretty good chance of The Church
being corrupt bad guys
, but that doesn't make them any less cool.
The Church Is Technologically Advanced!
For some reason, the church always has the best toys. Presumably they have a lab somewhere filled with guys in white labcoats note
chugging out holy-hand grenades, with all that money they seem to have from tithes. Either way, the Church is invariably better armed, financed and geared-up than any other organization out there. This may also result in the church venturing out into space
. All those aliens to evangelize, you know?
Compare Anime Catholicism
, which is also Catholicism meets Rule of Cool
but has Japanese media tropes
mixed in. Unlike Anime Catholicism
, Fantastic Catholicism
is usually more accurate... at least as far as religious beliefs are concerned if not elsewhere, the main characters are often in their thirties and older and there isn't a particular amount of emphasis on good looking characters. Fantastic Catholicism
may also be mixed with social commentary on the church while Anime Catholicism
almost never is.
So please, do not add Anime examples
unless they explicitly contradict the Anime Catholicism
trope. It's a separate trope for a reason: it has an expanded set of qualifications which are very common to anime but very uncommon to Western works.
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- The Entire Premise of Warrior Nun Areala involves a division of the Catholic Church devoted to hunting down Supernatural Evil, with both Magic-using priests, badass Warrior Nuns, holy relics, super-technology and the resources of the global organization of the Church.
- Chick Tracts claim the Ancient Secret/Rules the World interpretation. According to the (purportedly nonfiction) comics, the Catholic Church is a completely separate entity from Christianity and is responsible for Islam, communism, Nazism, Masonry/Baal worship... the list goes on.
- Priest is an example of badass church priests. The church is pretty much the controlling government and the only people shown are the downtrodden, voluntary exiles, the priests, cops controlled by the church and the controlling priests (magisters). (Also, the Manhwa it is based off of).
- Priest. Where the New Testament never happened. Remarkably, this point could be made of most Orwellian depictions of the Church.
- Van Helsing - The title character works as an agent of the Vatican's Knights of the Holy Order (who are not all Catholic; there are also Muslim and Buddhist clerics shown in the Order's HQ) to hunt down monsters and other abominations. He might also be an Angel Unaware.
- Constantine is a Catholic demon-hunter who uses guns and magic to send demons back to hell in a world where God and the Devil are in a bet over who can influence mankind the most. Roger Ebert (on the movie Constantine):
Why do movies about Satan
always have Catholics? You never see Methodists or Episcopalians putting down demons.
- Roger Ebert [on the movie John Carpenter's Vampires]
When it comes to fighting vampires and performing exorcisms, the Roman Catholic Church has the heavy artillery. Your other religions are good for everyday theological tasks, like steering their members into heaven, but when the undead lunge up out of their graves, you want a priest on the case. As a product of Catholic schools, I take a certain pride in this pre-eminence.
- Additionally, of course, when dealing with vampires the cross is the holy symbol of preference. Or not.
- In John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, the Church kept the Devil prisoner in the basement of an out-of-the-way church, alongside proof that Jesus was an alien, and that the Church was meant to be a militant society on guard in case the Devil (also an alien) ever escaped his prison. Unfortunately, the Church became corrupt and started seeking power for its own sake.
- The Dresden Files:
- It depicts the Roman Catholic Church as including a secret society dedicated to fighting various supernatural nasties, as well three Knights of the Cross with holy swords made using the nails from the Crucifixion and more or less confirmed to be Excalibur, Durendal, and the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi.
- The Knights of the Cross explicitly have Contrived Coincidence working in their favor to ensure that they can show up where they're needed when they are needed; Harry's friend Michael Carpenter, a Catholic Knight of the Cross, is described as having power different from Harry's wizard magic, and has done things like holding back monsters and releasing Harry from mind control with his faith. The Knights of the Cross are notnecessarily part of the Catholic church. Michael is, but Shiro was a Baptist, and Sanya claims to be an atheist (though agnostic might be more accurate). The support structure we see for the Knights seems to be made entirely of Catholic priests.
- Also under The Dresden Files: Archangels make occasional in-person appearances.
- In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy series, set in a world where magic is the technology, the Roman Catholic Church not only oversees the ethics and orthodoxy of Sorcerers but counts sensitives and healers among its clergy. The Church licenses all magicians, and is in charge of any cases of Black Magic. Most magical Healers are either priests or nuns. It's an Alternate History Verse where the Reformation never happened.
- The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons has similar traits.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz: After the End, the only remaining pillar of civilization is the Catholic Church.
- Sandman Slim by Rihcard Kadrey features prevalently a secret organization funded and run by the church, which has a crazy Angel at the head of it. They are in on The Masquerade and fight demons and other people who piss them off.
- The Apocalypse Door by James D. Macdonald: The protagonist is an agent for the Catholic Church's secret service, who are all ordained priests and sometimes fight actual demons. The novel also features a nun who is one of the Church's assassins. Both also feature in The Confessions Of Peter Crossman.
- Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom has the Forza Scura, a division of the Vatican which trains operatives to fight demons.
- The His Dark Materials series never calls it "Catholic" (because the Reformation never happened), but the Church both rules the world and uses magic.
- Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels. Despite lacking the Papacy, the Western Church is Catholic in liturgy, there's intrigue (sometimes against secular rulers), psionic magic users and fights against them, even powerful summoned beings called by the names of archangels (and most participants think they are in fact Raphael, Gabriel, Michael and Uriel). They don't call their church Catholic, in part because the books are alternative histories set several centuries before Protestantism, and there is Eastern Orthodoxy (mostly in Torenth), Islam, and even Scandinavian paganism in a tiny minority. Most of the action is in the West. In the "Camber" trilogy, you'll find the Michaelines (Order of Saint Michael the Archangel), a fearsome combination of the Templars and the Jesuits, with many members who can use magic. Oh, and many active characters/protagonists are in their 30s and 40s.
- Dan Brown features the church involved in intrigue and conspiracies:
- In Angels and Demons, a young priest fakes an elaborate plot by the Illuminati involving anti-matter to kill various cardinals who are being considered for election to pope, to try to get himself elected pope and suppress the encroachment of science on religion.
- In the Heirs Of Alexandria Historical Fantasy series, priests and nuns can be magicians, and the Church apparently includes some non-humans, with one Venetian church having a "water chapel" for undines. This is all hidden from most ordinary folk, though.
- Sergey Lukyanenko
- Rough Draft duology has a parallel world called Tverd ("firmament") where technology appears to be in Medieval Stasis thanks to the efforts of the functionals with the exception of bio-engineering. The Church, based in Rome, of course, is in nominal control over all of the world. However, this control means it's more relaxed and allows minor religions and denominations to exist, knowing full well they'll never get many followers. Instead of Inquisitions, they prefer logical argument and theological discussions. The only thing they are very adamant about is "thou shalt never modify a human being". Since man was made in the image of God, using bio-engineering to modify His greatest creation would be a grave sin and is punishable by death. Modifying any other animal or plant is perfectly fine, though, as was established by Saint Charles Darwin. There is no Pope in this world with the Church controlled by the Council of Cardinals. Tverd is one of two known worlds to successfully resist the functionals.
- Seekers of the Sky duology also has an alternate version of the Church and is described in great detail. Basically, Jesus was killed as a baby, so God chose a human child as His Messiah. The Redeemer used his ability to make anything disappear and reappear to ascend to the Roman throne. He then made himself disappear, as well as most of the iron in the world. Fast-forward to "modern" times. The world is in Medieval Stasis thanks to the deficit of iron. The Roman Empire never fell but now controls most of Europe and parts of the Americas. The Church is powerful and split into two major denominations: the Chuch of the Redeemer and the Church of the Sister (one of the Redeemer's disciples, possibly Mary Magdalene). God's Stepson is the Pope Expy and controls both denominations. Since the Redeemer was not crucified but had himself tied to a pole, the pole is the symbol of the Church with pieces of it considered holy relics. Hell is seen as a frozen wasteland, and The Devil doesn't exist (to say otherwise is heresy of the highest order). Thomas Aquinas is considered a heretic. Killing is not a violation of the "thou shalt not kill" commandment unless it's done 12 times (with a few exceptions) thanks to a literal interpretation of the Redeemer's words.
- Maurice G. Dantec's Cosmos Incorporated blends Catholic metaphysics with Cyber Punk in a world where Catholicism (as well as the rest of Christianity but particular emphasis is laid on the Catholic Church) and a woman is given the power to alter reality by the angel Metatron.
- The book Vampire$ by John Steakley, has the presence of vampires, and Catholicism-based magic which hurts vampires. Being in or near a Catholic church hurts vampires and makes them hazy in the head; the Vatican has an even more pronounced effect. Priests have special vampire-ass-kicking power and mystical light tends to appear while they're doing their thing. Even regular characters can wield crosses, or halogen lights in the shape of crosses, or silver bullets that were part of a cross and then melted down, and get extra vampire-killing points from it.
- The Holy Dominion in the Destroyermen books is an Empire controlling much of North America on a parallel world formed by Spanish Conquistadors and a May Inca Tec tribe that were brought to this world by the same means as the crew of the USS Walker. The Conquistadors' beliefs ended up intermixing with the blood sacrifice practices of the natives to form a "perversion of Catholicism" (something the books reiterate constantly). The Doms believe that, since Christ died after enduring torture, torture and a painful death must be a requirement to get into Heaven. The blood priests and blood cardinals control the Dominion from both a religious and political standpoint. Their version of the Pope titles himself as "His Supreme Holiness, the Messiah of Mexico, and, by the Grace of God, Emperor of the World" and is kept in perpetual bliss by alcohol, food, drugs, and women (that the current Pope is able to keep his wits about him through all this is incredible). All nobles, priests, cardinals, and even Popes undergo their version of the Last Rites when near death. Naturally, it involves ritualistic flaying. Which is one of the reasons why the heroes take a some delight in killing them quickly and with the least amount of pain (i.e. Boom, Headshot).
- In an early episode of Angel, Angel sought to help a boy possessed by a demon. Did Angel call Willow or try to cast a spell? Hardly. He sought out a Catholic priest. It should also be noted that when Angel and Wesley enter the church, a nun immediately recognizes Angel as a vampire on sight (a talent not even Buffy had).
- Apparitions is a six part BBC drama about a Catholic priest, who examines evidence of miracles to be used in canonization but also carries out exorcisms.
- Brave New World supplement The Covenant. The title organization is an order of the Roman Catholic church devoted to fighting evil supernatural creatures. Many of them are Deltas and thus have superpowers.
- In Ars Magica, the Catholic Church's authority over medieval Europe is called The Dominion, and stifles the power of demons, faeries and Hermetic wizards. The devout have a chance of calling on a miracle as well.
- Hunter: The Vigil has the Malleus Maleficarum, "The Hammer of Witches," as the Catholic Church's black bag group. They tend to view supernaturals as monsters that plague mankind, and gain access to holy Benedictions based on the saints.
- In Nomine allows human servants as well as the angels and demons.
- Warhammer 40,000: The priests are genetically enhanced Super Soldiers in Power Armor, the Nuns also wear Power Armor and mainly use fire weapons and the interstellar Inquisition hunts demons, aliens and heretics and dooms whole planets for the suspicision of heresy. While the actual religion is not neccessarily Catholicism, most elements common to it and the style of buildings fit the bill.
- Sword of the Stars has similar traits as it's somehow the only major human religion to survive, and missionaries are spreading it to the Tarka.
- The Deacon's Tale book also shows the enormity of the Pope's power. When the SolForce director (who's pretty much the most powerful man in human space) doesn't hurry up to investigate the violent attack on a colony, during which a priest was tortured and killed, the Pope refuses religious services to everyone until this is done. Now imagine what sort of pressure this puts on the director, where a vast majority of people are Catholic. Actually, the director is just about ready to arrest the Pope for treason and damn the consequences.
- In Darklands, you can invoke saints for specific buffs and magical effects.
- In Assassin's Creed video games, the church ("Templars") have a serious organization out to control the world and keep the big secret about The Precursors from entering common knowledge. They use a technology called the animus to extract information about religiously important object (which are lost etch, perhaps), and hunt and kill anyone in their way.
- The Borgias were members of this group, and a Borgia Pope tried to mind-control the citizens of Rome with a magical artifact. The Assassins told him to have a date with gravity.
- In Bibliography has the "protectors against supernatural forces" variety.
- Sister Claire lives in a nunnery that knows that God's supernatural power has been invested in the world, can be used for various purposes like kung-fu, or misused by witches. We don't talk about the psychic twin nuns.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Order of Malta (a Real Life paramilitary order controlled by the Church) has been retasked into a Church-run team of superheroes who protect Vatican City (and by extension, Rome), and especially oppose any supernatural enemies of the Church, such as demons, vampires, and evil sorcerers.
- In the Whateley Universe, the Roman Catholic Church runs a small group (the 'Roses and Thorns') who actively fight demons, dark mages, and such.
- Interestingly, a real life example of this could be the covert actions of the Church during World War II (They saved an unknown number of Jews and may have passed information to the allies), though not very many people know about that and it may be a bit too controversial for a TV Tropes article. There is also The Pope's Legion (The Papal Zouaves) which was a multi-national force of volunteers intended to stop an invasion by Napoleon and maintain the independence of the Church.
- The church has had many military orders throughout their history, especially during the Crusades period including:
- Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (more commonly known as the Knights Hospitallers)
- Order of Saint James of Altopascio
- Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
- Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (more commonly known as the Knights Templar)
- Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (more commonly called the Teutonic Knights)
- Livonian Brothers of the Sword
- Knights of the Cross with the Red Star
- Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ
- Order of the Faith and Peace
- Militia of Jesus Christ
- Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ
- Order of the Dragon (to which belonged Vlad II Dracul of Wallachia, father of Vlad III Dracula)
- Blood of Jesus Christ
- Alliance et Compagnie du Levrier (Alliance and Company of the Greyhound)
- Emprise du Fer de Prisonnier (Enterprise of the Prisoner's Iron)
- The Catholic Church did actually rule over a significant portion of Italy as The Papal States for over 1000 years. They only ceased to exist in 1870, when they were conquered by the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.
- In theory the Holy Roman Emperor was also supposed to be a Catholic superpower, at its greatest extent covering a significant portion of Europe. However, it was never particularly Holy or Roman, was more a collection of minor bickering states than an actual empire, and the Pope had no more direct power over it than any other Catholic country at the time.
- The Catholic Church is also one of the few Christian faiths that still trains exorcists, so movies such as The Exorcist are rather Truth in Television. In the rare cases that a priest from another faith tradition believes that someone is under Demonic Possession (not unknown, but vanishingly rare -and a subject of controversy as to whether it's real at all- in Real Life), they'll ask the nearest Catholic priest for help. That priest, however, will refer the person to the local Bishop or Archbishop, who then will demand a battery of physical and psychological tests to exclude any illness that would produce similar effects to a possession. It is only after that, having exhausted any possible temporal causes, that the person will be allowed to see one of the Church's trained exorcists.