"Deep in prayer my cross to bear, I kneel upon the floor. Temptations of a Catholic priest aren't easy to ignore. But I can not control myself It rips my soul apart! For one small sheep among my flock has Stole this shepherd's heart."
Very simply, this is when a priest is depicted as or accused of being a paedophile or child molester. Given the implicit trust associated with the profession, this is typically portrayed as the ultimate betrayal of innocence and a Moral Event Horizon for everyone involved. Due to the cultural impact of the late twentieth-early twenty-first century child molestation scandals in the Catholic Church, Catholic priests are by far the most likely to be involved in a molestation accusation in modern media, although other religions are not immune. Of course, in real life paedophiles are much more likely to be a random person online, a teacher, carer, babysitter, or family friend than a priest, simply because - just like murderers - paedophiles exist in all professions and at all levels of society. Hell, they can even be a children's TV Presenter and the studio may have covered it up.
Depending on the tone of the work and whether it regards the church as inherently good or evil, the initial accusation may be treated as an aberration of a single sick individual, or may lead to the uncovering of a corrupt or actively malevolent church hierarchy. Taken to the extreme, the church is nothing more than a Wretched Hive of child abusers using their religion as a shield. By contrast, in a comedic work, the trope may be Played for Laughs as a stock joke without exploring the Unfortunate Implications.
The accused need not even be guilty; the simple accusation of pedophilia/molestation is usually enough to set off a Pædo Hunt, which a Genre Savvy villain may take full advantage of as a Red Herring to cover up or distract from their crimes. Another way this trope can be used on a non-villainous character is that he has joined the church not only to get an excuse to remain a bachelor, but also as a way to fight against his urges and remain chaste.
See also Dirty Old Monk, Corrupt Church, Religion of Evil, Sinister Minister, Pædo Hunt, Rape as Drama.
Many Hentai works have these characters going after girls (and sometimes boys) who don't look like they've reached puberty.
In one issue of Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem investigates one of the president's consultants and learns he is associated with a church that is being used as a meeting for predatory child molesters. He arrives at the said place just in time to save a girl from becoming another victim of the priest who runs it. The Church of Mary Vestal Slut, specifically. Which adds another disturbing layer to the whole shebang, considering the child molesters considered kids "pre-sexual human beings" and wanted to legalize pedophilia.
The corrupt bishop from V for Vendetta. As part of the government attempt to hush him up, he is sent a different little girl every Sunday afternoon after the service. V intercepts his usual source and sends Evey, a 16-year-old, dressed as a preteen. When she first arrives, the priest expresses concern that she might be too old for him.
One of the 15 Portraits of Despair in Endless Nights is about a priest (not explicitly a Catholic priest) who gets booted out of the church, forcing him to start his life over, because he's accused of being one. He isn't, but it makes no difference to the outcome.
If Garth Ennis happens to write in a priest in one of his stories, chances are that priest is gonna be one, as seen in The Boys and The Punisher Presents: Barracuda.
Defied in Sailor Moon Abridged, both in and out of universe. Molly considers taking a shot at the oneshot Catholic priest character, but decides it would be too easy.
Hellsing Abridged: Alucard lets loose a parade of jokes about this trope when he first encounters Alexander Anderson. Seras "Policegirl" Victoria later references the trope as well, although she was likely being entirely serious (or probably just scared shitless) given the circumstances and in the episode 4 preview, Enrico Maxwell has another priest executed for being one.
A janitor is mopping the church when the priest grabs him. The priest exclaims that he has an important meeting he has to attend and cannot miss, but was scheduled to take confessions instead. The priest shoves a list of sins into the janitor's hands and tells him just listen to the confessions, look up the penance and tell the confessor how many "Hail Mary"s to say. The janitor doesn't mind helping, and goes into the confessional while the priest grabs his golf clubs and leaves. The people come in, the janitor looks up the sin and says the penance. This goes on just fine for a bit, until a man confesses he got a blow job. The janitor checks every page of his instructions - it's not listed. Panicking the janitor peeks outside of the confessional and sees an altar boy walking past. "How much does the priest give for a blow job???" the janitor whispers to the altar boy. The altar boy replies "20 bucks and a candy bar."
A Baptist pastor, a Catholic priest, a rabbi and a group of children are on board the Titanic. When the iceberg hits, the pastor yells "save the children!". The Rabbi says "fuck the children!" The priest says "do we have time for that?".
Films — Live-Action
A deleted scene of In Bruges would have subverted this. Ray assumes that the priest he killed was a pedophile, because his boss is protective of children. However, Ken says that he was just opposing their boss' land grab.
The second X-Files movie, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, has a character like this who was made into a psychic visionary, implied to be done by God to make him atone for his actions.
Le souffle au cœur (Murmur of the Heart). Laurent, 14 and a half, is in confession when his priest and teacher makes a pass at him. Laurent asks to go back to class. The priest, annoyed, gives him an excessive penance: thirty Hail Marys. The priest seems to have a reputation for making passes at the boys. However, during the private lessons he later gives a convalescent Laurent nothing much, if anything, happens.
In Lindsay Anderson's if..., a middle-aged chaplain and mathematics teacher at a boys' boarding school seems to take an interest in Jute, a pretty new boy in his class, probably 13 years old. The chaplain is skewered by Anderson's satire, as are most of the adults in the film.
The Least of These features Father Andre James (Isaiah Washington) being transferred to a small, out of the way boarding school after the disappearance of a former priest. As the movie proceeds, much darker things are revealed in both the cases of the disappeared priest and his own past.* Father Andre is not the Pedophile Priest himself. In fact, he actively discourages even light sexual shenanigans, as we see in one scene where he chooses to dine in the main hall with the boys instead of in the private dining room with the older priests; he also takes the opportunity to confiscate the dirty magazines one of the boys brings to dinner, dumping them right in the trash and calling out one of the boys who was looking at them, without even looking over his shoulder.
In the Spike Lee film Red Hook Summer, a young boy is sent to spend the summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, a local minister. After several weeks of friction, he begins to respect his grandfather and enjoy his church services—until one day, a young man walks into the church and angrily confronts him over having molested him 20-something years ago. That said, there is never a single improper scene between the boy and the man, who insists that he deeply regrets his actions and has spent the past 20 years trying to redeem himself.
In Airplane II: The Sequel, a priest is seen reading "Altar Boy" magazine. Which has to be read sideways. Later in the movie, the stewardess has to say, "Between your own knees, Father," when instructing passengers to assume crash positions with heads between their knees.
Nine Dead is about nine people with apparently no connection to each other who are kidnapped, and told that one of them will die every 10 minutes unless they can their captor why they are all there. They all come to conclusion that they all must have directly or indirectly screwed over their captor. One of the kidnapped people is a priest and is questioned over whether or not he molested the captor which he vehemently denies. The priest is telling the truth and is one of the more sympathetic captives in the film.
In Storm of the Century, Andre Linoge hints that the local village priest likes children a bit too much.
Robert DeNiro's character in Sleepers is an inversion. He is a friend and father figure to the four main characters as boys. When they tell him 16 years later about the sexual abuse they suffered in a juvenile correctional facility, he helps them punish the guards responsible.
How Not To Write A Novel has a notice that characters should be careful not to touch young children in case they come off looking dodgy — "Priests shouldn't even touch a boy to rescue him from a burning building."
Septon Utt from A Song of Ice and Fire. The fact that he is the only member of the Brave Companions who is even close to sympathetic really says a lot — at least Utt feels guilt over what he does, while the rest of the Brave Companions revel in their vileness.
Father Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds is a vague example of this. Although nothing happens between him and Meggie until she is in her mid-20's, it is strongly implied that he has had feelings for her since he met her, when he was 28, and she was 10.
Michael Cordy's novel The Miracle Strain has a priest who rapes teenage girls. They're young enough that it counts as a sex crime in the US, though maybe not in other countries.
Subverted with Brother Nhumrod from Discworld's Small Gods. Though it's implied that by the strictly literal definition of pedophile he qualifies, after Om accuses him of being a pederast, it's mentioned that while he might occasionally have "disquieting thoughts" in his head, he makes sure they stay in his head rather than him acting on them "and he did not in any literal sense deserve to be called what the tortoise called him, which, had he heard it, he would have thought was something to do with feet".
Henry de Montherlant's Les Garçons has a priest in his 30s deep in unrequited love with a 14-year-old pupil at the boys' school where he works. The priest's attractions and emotions are directed at boys of of 12-15.
Roger Peyrefitte's Les amitiés particulières (Special Friendships) is also set in a Jesuit school. One of the teacher-priests seems to fancy 14-year-olds Georges and Lucien, suggesting that they switch pyjamas and the like. Eventually he is caught entertaining one of the boys in his study at night and kicked out of the school. Another of the priest-teachers loves 12-year-old Alexandre and has him sit on his lap.
The Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Free Fall has the Vigilantes take on a group of pedophiles, and one of them is a deacon, which is not exactly a priest, but pretty darn close. Under the Radar has the Vigilantes take on a polygamist (considered synonymous to "pedophile" in this story) sect in Utah, run by a Prophet named Harold Evanrod. While Harold is probably not supposed to be a priest, he might as well be.
Alberto Moravia's 1951 novel, The Conformist has Lino, a defrocked priest who attempts to molest 13-year-old Marcello near the beginning of the book.
In the furry erotic novel A Fox Tail it's stated that one of Vulpie's foster guardians when he was twelve was an assistant pastor named Vander Clishaw who had a side business as a drug dealer and liked to drug him up and invite some friends over to gang-bang him. Eventually one of Clishaw's rivals alerted Child Services and got him arrested, and after he got out of prison five years later his corpse was found with fourteen different stab wounds. Vulpie is suspected but it's never confirmed.
Played around with in Skippy Dies. The students assume that Father Green is this, and the fact that he teaches French which makes him "Père Vert" doesn't help. In the end, after his death, everyone agrees to blame him for Skippy's abuse, rather than the swimming coach who's actually responsible. Double Subverted in that Father Green actually does fantasize about molesting children but never acts on it.
However, some of his inner monologue implies that he did molest children in Africa when he was there as a missionary.
This is the secret of Father Mick Honan in Benjamin Black's Holy Orders, who is attracted to both boys and girls.
The Atheist Experience (and The Non-Prophets podcast) regularly criticizes Catholic priests and Protestant ministers for this behavior.
Referenced in an episode dealing with abuse of designer drugs by students at a Catholic school. After the headmaster stonewalls Danny and Jackie's request to search the school with drug-sniffing dogs, Frank goes to the bishop to get the headmaster overruled. Among Frank's lines in that scene is one that goes something like, "The Catholic Church cannot be seen covering up another scandal."
Another episode has Danny trying to locate a priest who he suspects of this. When the parish finally decides to let him talk to the priest he turns out to be an exorcist instead; the runaround is explained by the church not wanting to publicize the fact that they still do exorcisms. Danny apologizes.
The subject of several Blue Heelers episodes, to the point where if a newly introduced member of church appears (outside regular characters like Brian Heggity and Grace Curtis} odds are they are either abused or abusers.
One episode of Bones features a priest who was killed because he was suspected of being one of these. (He wasn't.). The murderer was caught in the process of poisoning his successor at the pulpit. (He's innocent too.)
Surprisingly, mostly averted in Father Ted of all places. Still mentioned a few times, though. Father Jack once made a class of teenaged girls in Catholic School do P.E. without their tracksuit tops, however. His horrific molester-face whilst this goes on is clearly meant to invoke this trope.
Frontline has had a few episodes about pedophiles in the clergy:
The 1994 episode "Judge And Jury" revolves around a young woman who accuses her parish priest of raping her. Frontline runs the story with a rebuttal from the priest, but edits it in such a way that it makes him look unreliable. The priest ends up committing suicide offscreen, and when Frontline interviews the woman again, she quickly destroys her own credibility by claiming to have been abducted by aliens.
Surprisingly few episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but enough. Although, when it happens, it's usually of the "Church is lousy with pedophiles" variety. One episode features a priest who murdered a transgender hooker; it is quickly determined that he was molested by a priest. They find two pedophile priests in his church, and another victim molested by a different priest.
And before that, there was the Law & Order episode where Logan inspected rumors about his old priest after a fellow former parishioner committed suicide.
Misfits references this, and actually has one of the characters announce: "when I was growing up in Ireland, if the Priests weren't fiddling with you, you were one of the ugly kids." Although said character is notoriously prone to making ridiculous, insensitive and untrue statements, so it's probably best to take his words with a large grain of salt.
A few months after the film Deliver Us From Evil (see "Films" above) was released, a reporter and camera crew from BBC documentary series Panorama caught up with the pedophile priest profiled in the movie. Following his deportation from the United States, he was shown trying to get close to children yet again, all without the knowledge of the locals of his previous conviction for child molestation. According to The Other Wiki, a few weeks after the episode ran, he slipped out of Ireland. He turned up in The Netherlands in 2010 volunteering at a local parish under a pseudonym. A few months after that, he was found in Ireland to have kiddie porn on his laptop and several storage devices.
Rampant pedophilia in the Catholic Church made Bobby Donnell of The Practice turn his back on the Catholic faith.
Father Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds is a vague example of this, as mentioned in the Literature example above.
Ultraviolet. In the episode "Mea Culpa" a 12-year old boy kills a priest and the team is sent to investigate if the killing is vampire-related. The priest in charge of the team, Pearse Harman, gets annoyed when ex-cop Michael Colefield thinks it's child abuse-related, lampshading the paedophile Catholic priest cliché. Subverted at the end when it turns out the priest was innocent and vampires were involved, yet Harman cynically allows the public to believe the priest was a paedophile to maintain the Masquerade.
An episode of the sitcom The War At Home had the youngest son convinced that the local priest was a pedophile, so he attempts to seduce him so he can report him to the cops.
Subverted in Oz: Ryan O'Reilly tells his Catholic priest cellmate that he was molested by a priest as a child. "There are some bad priests...", the priest starts, but O'Reilly interrupts him and tells him he was just messing with him.
"Priest", by Stephen Lynch is a song of a priest barely trying to resist his urges.
Rammstein's "Halleluja" is about a priest not trying to resist his urges.
Tim Minchin blasts pedophile priests, and the ones who cover for them, in "The Pope Song".
Sinead O'Connor has campaigned for years about exposing pedophilia in the Catholic church, and often incorporates the fight into her music and performances.
The Bad Religion song "Sinister Rogue" contains a mention of this, among other attacks on the Catholic church.
In the Insane Clown Posse song "C.P.K's" (Crooked Preacha Killas), this is stated as one of many evil acts that the titular "Crooked Preachas" commit (including drug use, corruption of faith, and even Demonic Possession). This being the Hell's Pit album, however, it is up to debate whether or not the preachers actually did anything they were accused of, or if it's just The Witch deceiving the Clowns into killing holy men in order to further damn them.
In the French satiric show Les Guignols de l'info, Cardinal Sylvestre and just about about any Catholic priest shown (except the Pope) are portrayed as this. Comedic variant, of course. The above picture is from a skit were the Papamobile is used to isolate the choirboys from a flock of such priests, forcing the Pope and his cardinals to walk besides.
Given how Darker and Edgier White Wolf tends to be, this is surprisingly averted in Hunter: The Vigil with the head of the Inquisition. He's outrageously corrupt in other ways, such as being addicted to vampire blood, and having a Will and Grace relationship with Satan's daughter, and is in fact homosexual, but while he does like them young (being Really 700 Years Old, they have to be), he instead likes them legal, consenting, and... pitching.
It was played straight in the Werewolf: The Apocalypse supplements that mentioned the Seventh Generation, a conspiracy of child molesters and serial killers, and which explicitly included priests (as well as politicians and business leaders) among its members.
The parody game Hol has one as one of the game's pre-generated characters as part of its whole Vulgar Humor atmosphere.
The Bishop of Basingstoke in Jekyll & Hyde (who is Anglican rather than Catholic).
The play Doubt (and the movie adapted from it) centers on the efforts of an old-school nun to remove a progressive priest from the Catholic school she runs, on the grounds that he is (she believes) a pedophile. Although the final scenes imply that she was correct, she is now plagued with doubts about her own less than pure motives and methodology.
Operation: Pedopriest, a political flash game inspired by Sex Crimes and the Vatican, that has the Villain Protagonist try to protect pedophile priests from the police.
Father Paul Rawlings in Clive Barker's Jericho is called this by SS-Commander Fräulein Hanne Lichthammer. This is never elaborated upon, but as a powerful psychic, Lichthammer has access to a person's darkest secrets (like Church's Rape as Backstory).
Lampshaded in The Darkness II, where Jackie begins to recount a story about a priest he knew as a kid and adding "I know what you're thinkin' and it ain't that kinda story."
One of the villains in Maken X is a thinly-veiled reference to the historical Gilles de Rais, a companion of Joan of Arc's who eventually descended into madness, complete with raping young boys and then sacrificing them to a demon he believed in. He's fought in the Vatican, which he had infiltrated and joined the upper echelons of the church. He's now immortal and looks positively angelic, complete with wings.
Implied in Medieval II: Total War when a Priest picks up the Choir Boy follower ("This boy's beautiful voice is a gift from God! One I must keep close by at all times..."). Such a character will gain a bonus to Piety, but a penalty to Purity.
Also implied in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. One of the town criers' announcements is a citywide ban of the song about "The Little Boy of Prussia", since minstrels singing it have caused "embarrassing physical juttings" for priests wandering through town who hear it.
Shane Dawson: Shanaynay's interview with Lucas Cruikshank gives us this:
Lucas: I never masturbate because I'm catholic.
Shanaynay: Oh so you only do it with... a priest, I gotchya'.
In American Dad!, Stan admits to being molested by a priest in summer camp. And later admits that he was the one who initiated it.
Daria has a non-Catholic example with the minister at Erin's wedding, who spends most of the reception talking with teenage Quinn about how important "love" is. She doesn't seem to understand what he means; her escort does and tries to kick the minister's ass.
Parodied in Drawn Together when all characters were making an inscenization of what can happen if Xandir tells his parents about being gay. Wooldoor was playing pedo priest.
In Family Guy, Peter commented that they were going to keep drinking until they brought up repressed memories of being molested by a priest. Only Cleveland is shown to have recovered on.
The episode "Red Hot Catholic Love" shows local priest Father Maxi as just about the only non-pedophile priest in the entire Catholic Church. (He has been shown makin' it with at least one adult female parishioner though.) Then again, Father Maxi is in a different place on the corruption spectrum in pretty much every episode in which he appears.
In "Hell on Earth 2006," all the Catholic priests are shown leading around naked boys on leashes. No-one appears to notice or care even when they are in public.