"I wouldn't be a very spiritual man, right. I don't believe in God, right. Still Catholic. Because there's nothing you can do when you're Catholic. Once you've started Catholic, frankly, there's no real way to stop being Catholic. Even not believing in God isn't regarded as sufficient reason to get out of the Catholic Church."
There are many who were raised Catholic, and — even though their life has moved away from adamantly following Catholic doctrine — are still really concerned with their Catholicism and/or cite it often. This comes up very frequently in any Good Girls Avoid Abortion
conversation, as when a female character will suddenly be revealed as a "good Catholic" who just can't do it.
This also pops up a lot with many comedians, directors, and musicians. Even though they may be lapsed, converted to another religion, or are now atheists, Catholic imagery and topics often still appear in their works. There are also certain N-Word Privileges
: A comedian who tells you he or she was raised Catholic is probably going to make a lot of Catholic jokes or observations about the Church, that might be deemed more offensive if it came from someone else.
For whatever reason (perhaps because Christianity Is Catholic
), there seems to be no common Protestant equivalent to this trope, even though people paying lip-service to their family or culture's religion is as old as religion itself. One possible explanation for this is that Catholicism, much more than Protestantism, is considered by some to be a part of one's ethnic and cultural identity in addition to being a religion, especially for those whose national heritage is tied to the Church (such as people of Irish, Italian, or Hispanic descent). Informed Judaism
pretty much works this way, as well. Another possibility is that compared to Protestantism, the Catholic Church places a somewhat stronger emphasis on iconography and ritual; this can then become a rich source of material for former Catholic authors who may no longer remember the subtler aspects of Catholicism or who also may require an easy cue for their non-Catholic audiences to recognize
. The third probable answer is the fact that it used to be rather difficult to formally abandon membership in the Catholic Church, and since 2010 it's impossible, which means that the Church still considers practically all lapsed Catholics as members of its flock whether they like it or not.
There are various shadings of this. A "Sunday Catholic" is someone who attends Mass regularly, and may or may not follow Church doctrine closely; a "Christmas and Easter Catholic" is someone who attends Mass only on those holidays (and maybe such events as weddings and funerals), again regardless of how closely they hold to Church doctrine; a "cafeteria Catholic" is someone who chooses which teachings to follow or ignore, regardless of frequency of attendance; an "ex-Catholic" or "recovering Catholic
" has left the Church, may or may not self-identify or have formally converted to another religion, but still has the cultural baggage of having been raised Catholic; a "cultural Catholic" or "non-practicing Catholic" still identifies as Catholic due to family or ethnic heritage but really doesn't adhere to the religion itself; and a "lapsed Catholic" or "fallen-away Catholic" is the Catholic Church's own term for all of the above.
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- Catwoman from Batman. Her sister Maggie's a former nun, too, but has some mental health issues and believes that Selina is possessed by some sort of cat-demon. This leads to problems when Maggie becomes possessed by an actual demon and attempts to perform a lethal exorcism on Selina.
- Huntress, aka Helena Bertinelli, of the Batman family and Birds of Prey, doesn't bring it up often, but she wears cross jewelry and prays before she fights Lady Shiva, possibly to the death. Her faith has varied in strength over the years, from non-existent (an important plot point in one story) to firm (but never devout). The strength of her faith is used as a symbol of how much hope and optimism she has for the future. In bad times, her faith declines. For example, after causing the death of a mob boss who knew her identity, she throws away her cross. In good times, her faith is stronger. For example, she plans on attending Mass after getting her teaching job and feeling accepted by the Birds of Prey.
- Eddie Brock/Venom may kill people, but he's a good Catholic and goes to church. He fails to see the irony on multiple occasions.
- Blue Devil is a devout Catholic, even though his diabolic nature prevents him from regularly attending church.
- Nico Minoru and Victor Mancha of the Runaways are both stated to be Catholic. The Minoru family's Catholic roots go back at least as far as 1907, when Nico's ancestor Witchbreaker was part of an implicitly all-Catholic gang called the Upward Path.
- Nearly every major character in Love And Rockets is Catholic (the major exception being Petra, who became a born-again.) The level of devotion varies considerably.
- The Punisher was raised Catholic and even (briefly) considered going into the seminary when he was still a teenager, but had major issues with the business of forgiving sinners. Of course, as shown in the MAX imprint story "The Tyger", he'd seen horrible crimes even in his childhood. Particularly in stories written by Garth Ennis, he is shown as fully aware that his violent war on crime has damned him to Hell and there is no hope for forgiveness, he just doesn't care. He's gone light-years beyond even Non-Practicing Catholic. Frank also shows a strong streak of Raging Against The Heavens, particularly when he sees young children or women being victimized. Frank: "There are times when I'd like to get my hands on God."
- Daredevil, aka Matt Murdock, remains a devout Catholic despite (or maybe even because of) his mother having left him and his father when he was an infant to become a nun.
- Bruce Banner is occasionally implied to have been raised Catholic in the 616 universe, and heavily implied in the Ultimate universe.
Films — Live-Action
- The Boondock Saints
- Silent Bob, according to Chasing Amy. In a moment where he exemplifies The Silent Bob he explains how he ended up breaking up with his girlfriend after finding out about her previous sexual experience not from any disgust, hatred or anything but because...
"Now this just blows my mind, right? I mean, I am not used to this sort of thing. I mean, I was raised Catholic, for God's sake."
- In Dogma, at the beginning, Bethany doesn't believe in God and works at an abortion clinic, but still goes to Mass on every Sunday.
- The villainous Doctor from Amen describes himself as "a bit Catholic".
- In "Sister Act" Delores' first scene is her making a joke about the Apostles and the Beatles, and then being told my a nun she'll never succeed. Cue a shit-eating grin, and a flash forward to Whoopi Goldberg, a grown up Delores, who's a lounge singer. Of course, by the end of the film, Maggie Smith saves her soul.
- There's a joke where a man goes to his first confession in several years, and after rattling a list of sins, stopping short of murder, the priests asks if he ever knowingly ate meat on a Friday. "I may have sinned," says the man, "but I didn't become a Protestant".
- There's one joke about a woman going to confession, and the hard-of-hearing priest being greatly relieved when she makes it clear that she became a "prostitute" rather than a "Protestant".
- A joke was also told about a man who calls off an engagement when his fiancée tells him she had to become a prostitute to survive once, thinking she said "Protestant" (she clarifies, and the engagement is back on).
- There is a story told of James Joyce, who, after he left the Church, was stopped on the streets of Dublin by a woman who congratulated him for becoming a Protestant. "Madam," he said, "I have lost my faith; I have not lost my reason."
- A Protestant nod towards this trope goes thus: There are two kinds of people in the Church of England, those who believe in God and those who don't.
- Quentin Crisp wrote, "When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?'"
- A Spanish joke has a Jehova witness knock on the door of an atheist. After a while of give and take, the atheist gets fed up and says: "Look, I don't believe in the Roman Catholic Church, which as we all know is the only one, true and holy, and you expect me to believe in yours?"
- Cole St. Clair in Wolves of Mercy Falls Series is heavily implied to be this, without the title "Catholic" ever being used. He is seen holding a rosary, "Fingers grasping the beads as if the gesture was familiar" and later, an interviewer questions his belief in God, quoting Cole's former role as a choir boy. Given that Cole is now a Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll poster child, he is very much the lapsed sort.
- This is perhaps the most important theme in Brideshead Revisited; Catholicism has left an indelible mark on the souls of the errant Flytes (Lord Marchmain, Sebastian, and Julia), and all of them are eventually and almost inevitable reconciled with the Church.
- In the Stephanie Plum series, both Stephanie and her sister Valerie mention still having guilt instilled by Catholic upbringing, even though neither actively practices the faith.
- Most of the main characters of Fort Hope were all raised Catholic. Emma goes to Church regularly and the religion seems to be somewhat important to her. The other characters don't care nearly as much.
- Word of God states that Hercule Poirot's religion is Roman Catholicism, which is a part of Christianity. He has some morality based on that part of Christianity, since he is Roman Catholic by birth.
- John, an Author Avatar and main character in The Word Weary, makes the sign of the cross when he hears a siren and has an icon of the Virgin Mary in his room, but seems to be a lapsed Catholic.
- Played with in Better Days. The Catholic-raised Rachel is a wild party girl who constantly cheats on her boyfriend (including with the local priest while she's in the confessional!), but still considers herself very religious and seems to seriously want to one day settle down with said boyfriend and have lots of children. On the other hand, the boyfriend identifies as Catholic for the first few chapters we see him, but eventually gives up his faith (which he describes as an "emotional crutch") to be with Lucy, who is an atheist. He pretty much completely disavows any identity as a Catholic after that.
- Brian, Rowan and the rest of the Fitzpatrick siblings from Rhapsodies. Neither appear to practice, but they still use the Virgin Mary's name in vain and get dragged to confession by their mom.
- Kevin Smith, who makes foul movies filled with all sorts of cussing and donkey shows, is still obviously obsessed with his Catholic upbringing. And made the movie Dogma.
- However, he goes to Mass only before commencing the filming of a movie, and before the premiere. He's also pretty open about being a Cafeteria Catholic.
- Martin Sheen has been quoted thus: “I'm one of those cliff-hanging Catholics. I don't believe in God, but I do believe that Mary was his mother.” He became a believer again after reading The Brothers Karamazov, which was given to him by Terrence Malick.
- Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has described himself as "this indoctrinated Catholic even though I haven't been to church of my own volition in 10 or 15 years now."
- Pete Jones, the winner of Project Greenlight's first season, made a movie about a young Catholic boy trying to convert a dying Jewish boy to Catholicism.
- Luis Buñuel, even though he is obviously anticlerical, it's impossible to point out one of his films that doesn't include a reference to Catholicism.
- Guillermo del Toro is an atheist, who was also raised Catholic and uses a lot of Catholic imagery.
- This is an extremely common practice in Ireland, and presumably in other majority-Catholic countries as well. Catholicism is a huge part of the national psyche, whether one believes in it or not. Most schools in the country have a Catholic ethos, with most of the remainder having some religious affliation.
- It also may have something to do with the fact that Catholics are taught Baptism leaves an indelible mark on their soul.
- This is particularly true in the Philippines as well. While Catholicism is a part of local culture and that there are groups of pious devotees, actual religious practice in general (at least in formal terms) varies considerably.
- This also true for a lot of Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans. Most will tell you that they're Catholic, but ask if they go to church regularly or even believe in God...
- Of course in Northern Ireland (and, to a lesser extent, Glasgow), a person's professed creed is used by many as a badge of their ethnic background and political allegiance over the whole Stroke issue. (See the joke about this above- it's not the only time that's been claimed to have happened to an outsider).
- A poll from a religious magazine directed at Catholics in France has concluded that 48% of them don't believe in God. Not 48% of the French, 48% of the Catholics.
- And in contrast to Ireland, France enjoys the world's most ironclad separation of church and state so getting your kids into school isn't an issue. This is purely a matter of belief and self-identification.
- However, Americans might find their version of "separation" baffling.... the government OWNS the church buildings (a leftover from the monarchist era when church and state were very much intertwined), and just lets Christians use them (rent-free).
- This is because most churches are hundreds of year old and of historical and artistic importance and value. So giving them to the Christians was out of the question. But letting them using them and taking care of them left everybody happy.
- Madonna was raised Catholic, and a lot of her songs, music videos, and albums (particularly from The Eighties) allude to this.
- Lady Gaga was also raised Catholic and even attended an all-girls Catholic school. Her video for the song Alejandro features strong Catholic imagery.
- Martin Scorsese said "I'm a lapsed Catholic. But I am Roman Catholic - there's no way out of it." His films often deal with Catholic concepts of guilt and redemption.
- It's been suggested that his 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ, which offended many in the Catholic Church (and many other churches besides) can be chalked up to a vague sense of self-loathing or alienation on Scorsese's part.
- Jimmy Carr, who references his upbringing in his stand-up routine despite being an anti-theist.
- Joe Rogan, who makes references to his Catholic School education and Catholic upbringing despite being an atheist now.
- Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame — it seldom shows, but he looked very annoyed when Jeremy Clarkson and James May were joking about the Catholic priest sex scandal.
- A number of Catholic writers, such as John Caputo and his "religion without religion," deconstruct this trope by rethinking what constitutes religion and belief in the first place. Hence to press the "Cafeteria vs Faithful" Catholics issue (especially in terms of "piety") would be missing the point of actually believing in something.
- Denis Leary goes so far as to found the Lapsed Catholic Church at the end of his second album, Lock'N'Load. He also admits that he couldn't remember the Hail Mary prayer during a scene when his character in Rescue Me has to recite it, but can name the starting lineup of the 1967 Red Sox off the top of his head.
- Brazil is a Catholic-majority country. Brazilian Catholics are Non-Practicing-Majority Catholics. The same can be, and is—probably with varying degrees of accuracy—said about most majority-Catholic countries.
- And Dara Ó Briain, who provides the page quote.
- George Carlin's massive hit show Class Clown was all about being the class clown of a Catholic high school. A prominent joke: "I used to be Irish Catholic; now I'm American."
- Stephen Colbert, while himself a Catholic in person (and in fact teaches Sunday school), views it differently from his persona.
- Dan Savage is openly atheist and a supporter of the skeptical movement, but considers himself "culturally Catholic" because he was raised that way and respected his parents' beliefs. He tends to bring this up when religious conservatives accuse him of being "anti-Christian."
- Critics find that James Joyce writes very much as an ex-Catholic, not a non-Catholic.
- Camille Paglia.
- José Saramago
- Anthony Burgess, English author most renowned for his novel A Clockwork Orange, was raised by Catholic parents in Manchester, England. He had a heavily religious education in Catholic schools and, though he lapsed from his faith in his adult life, his works are consistent with a Catholic perspective and worldview on various subject matters such as the concept of "free will" in A Clockwork Orange.
- A few people from Rooster Teeth cite themselves as this, though most notably Burnie Burns and Michael Jones. The former's dad was a priest at one point before retiring, and while Burnie doesn't seem much of a believer now he admits he would struggle to get rid of a Bible. The latter was raised Catholic by his parents and has said that he doesn't really follow it in adult life.
- Paul McCartney, leading to speculation about whether the "Mother Mary" mentioned in "Let it Be" is the Virgin Mary. (Word of God is that she a reference to Paul's own mother—who died when he was in his teens—but that the religious imagery is nonetheless deliberate.) George Harrison too, though thanks to his fascination with Eastern religion it never comes up (though it explains the Take That to The Pope in his solo song "Awaiting On You All").
- The entire Canadian province of Quebec is an example of this trope. From the conquest of Nouvelle France by the British until the 1960s, the dominant political and social power was the Catholic Church. Then, in the 1960 there was the Quiet Revolution, hospital and schools became government-run instead of Church-run (though nuns and priests still tour the hospitals on Sunday to offer the Host. Also, schools taught Catholicism until the last decade, though you could opt out very easily), and the Church was demonized into a totalitarian, reactionnary relic of a bygone age. Still, the majority Quebecers, even those born after the 1960s, are baptized and know the basics of the religion. And suggesting the huge honking cross should be removed from the National Assembly (or the top of Mount Royal), that the mayor should not have the right to say a prayer to open a council session, or that the Premier should publicly wish people Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas (or rather Joyeux Noël) will cause a huge media shitstorm and talks on how those things are not religious but cultural.
- Roger Ebert considered himself to be a Catholic and was even friends with a priest (and former Sun Times writer) named Fr. O'Leary, even though he didn't believe in God.
- His colleague Richard Roeper is Catholic, but according to his own words, "not always first in line for Sunday Mass".
- Comedian Mike Birbiglia. In one of his bits he says that you can always tell people who went to Catholic school because they're atheists.
- Punk writer-musician Jim Carroll, as he explained in his song "Catholic Boy":
They can't touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me:
I got baptism,
I got communion,
I got penance,
I got extreme unction
I've got confirmation
'Cause I'm a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild!
- Andy Warhol is a particularly bizarre case, somewhere between a subversion and an outright inversion. Warhol was absolutely not your typical image of a "proper" Catholic (it's Andy Warhol), but not only was he raised Catholic (in the oft-neglected Byzantine Rite Ruthenian Catholic Church), he was devout. So devout, he made an entire collection of paintings on religious subject that he never released them, as he considered them works of personal devotion. So devout, he attended Mass every week at a Latin Rite church, and even converted a few people to Catholicism. So devout, he agonized about crossing himself the "wrong" way (Eastern Catholics cross themselves like the Orthodox) in the Latin Rite church he attended. So devout, he probably remained a virgin his whole life (he was almost certainly gay, and everyone knows what the Church has to say about gay sex...). So devout, in fact, that despite his great and demonstrable devotion he took communion hardly ever if at all, because he apparently didn't believe himself worthy. And yet, he was Andy Warhol, iconoclastic artist and owner-operator of the Factory—the biggest den of sin in New York City in its day.
- Former Manchester United player Roy Keane.
- Brian "Q" Quinn from Impractical Jokers recently confirmed that he is an atheist on a Twitter Q&A despite attended an all-boys Catholic High School with the other three Jokers. he respects the beliefs of others and apologized to a fan for making an anti-Christian joke, which led to him admiting his non-theistic beliefs.
- Tom Baker is an extreme example as he was not only raised Catholic but was into it enough that he spent his late teens as a Trappist monk. Even though he lost his faith, he has remained obsessed with religion ever since and is notorious for banging on about it in interviews no matter what the interviewer is trying to ask him. Sufficiently symbolically sensitive viewers may notice the Catholic imagery and Messianic Archetype symbolism he incorporated into that character for which he is most famous.