Not exactly all that saintly...
"By killing her I took her physical life, but
saved her life eternal. You see how all things serve the will and the mind of God? You see, you meddling little shit?!
Men of the cloth serve a plethora of roles in all branches of media, both modern and ancient. They may be wise counselors, corrupt bureaucrats or confused and bumbling but generally well-intentioned old duffers. But every once in a while, a preacher crops up who is intimidating, charismatic and completely devoid of morality. These archetypal villains typically serve as the Big Bad
in their respective worlds, controlling vast hordes of starry-eyed True Believers or manipulating the inner workings of their Church. He is often a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
clergyman, but there's nothing saying he can't not be a white Anglo-Saxon and there's definitely nothing saying he can't be a Catholic (especially
if the setting is in the Middle Ages), and is clean-cut and perpetually smiling while delivering sermons that alternate between gentle reminders of the importance of virtue and scalding fire-and-brimstone rants commanding their followers to rise and smite heathens in the name of the Lord, amen.
The Sinister Minister is a one-man Corrupt Church
(and it's usually a man in this role, though female examples are not unheard of) in that all power typically ends up resting firmly in his hands and his hands alone as opposed to being shared out within an organization. He seldom employs Sidekicks
or advisors, preferring to rely instead on his own usually very devious brain for scheming while entrusting the main grunt work to the hordes of unwashed and sanctimonious Mooks
who make up the bulk of his followers.
, the Sinister Minister is nonetheless unspeakably evil and regularly engages in acts of sexual depravity (or perhaps not; many a Sinister Minister is Straight Edge
) and, if not outright violence, threats and intimidation. The Sinister Minister usually keeps his own hands relatively clean until late in the game when his power base is secure and he can act with impunity.
There are typically two types of Sinister Minister
. The first type is subtle and deceptive, using soft words and a friendly attitude to gain trust among his congregation; in this way, he's much like any other man of the cloth, but his true motives are anything but typical, taking advantage of that trust once he has it. The second type is far less subtle, using scare tactics in the form of fiery sermons to convince people that God is a vengeful Creator who will not hesitate to condemn "heretics" (a favorite word this villain has for anyone who disagrees with him) to the pits of Hell or even smite the world early unless they follow what he calls his ideal path. It's amazing how well this can draw people in
, and if the Sinister Minister
does it enough, even he might start to believe it.
The motivations of the Sinister Minister may be as simple as lust for power, though some are examples of the Church Militant
and Knight Templar
. A common motivation for the more religious among this trope's subjects is the Mission from God
, which is often either a personal delusion on the part of the Minister or in reality a mission from a Satanic or otherwise Evil divine power. In the case of those simply out for their own gain, the Minister may be skeptical as to God's existence/power or harbor outright atheistic views.
Unmasking the Sinister Minister is a waste of time, as his followers will believe any lies and fabrications the Minister employs as a cover against the brave heroes attempting to reveal him for the monster he really is. This particular school of villainy usually meets its end violently, not through rhetoric.
The Corrupt Church
tends to be rife with the likes of him, but the Saintly Church
may also prove to have a few black sheep.
Not to be confused with high level government officials in Westminster-style
governments — if they're a villain, they'd fall under Evil Chancellor
. Also not to be confused with any high-ranking worshippers of a Religion of Evil
; this Trope is for corrupt members of established and (hopefully) respected faiths.
Compare Nun Too Holy
, a Trope for nuns who turn evil. If the villain is merely pretending
to be a priest or nun, then that's Bad Habits
. If at least one of the things that makes the minister "sinister" is that fact that he molests children, then you're dealing with a Pedophile Priest
. For a priest that is simply a lecher, see Dirty Old Monk
In terms of rank, the Authority Tropes
arguably equal are Corrupt Corporate Executive
, Irish Priest
, Preacher Man
, Pedophile Priest
, Sexy Priest
and The Vicar
. For the next step down, see Student Council President
. For the next step up, see Dean Bitterman
Also a song by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Contrast Good Shepherd
, Badass Preacher
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Anime & Manga
- Father Enrico Pucci from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a corrupt priest who works at a prison and uses his status and special ability to gain many of the guards and prisoners as followers. It is revealed later that he set up the protagonist, Jolyne, to get framed at the beginning of Part 6. His ultimate goal was to achieve the power of "Heaven" and create the vampire Dio's perfect universe "for the good of mankind".
- Bishop and High Inquisitor Mozgus of Berserk is very much one of these.
- Father Enrico Maxwell from Hellsing definitely qualifies, being both self-serving hypocrite and a ruthless Knight Templar. He thankfully never gets contact with regular churchgoers, though.
- Alexander Anderson, a Knight Templar Up to Eleven, puts him down. That has to say something.
- An earlier example in the series is the unnamed vampire priest terrorising the village of Cheddar. No other character looks (or sounds) more overtly villainous in the entire series.
- The Cardinal Rolo vi Britannia in Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally has shades of this. While the Geass Directorate/Cult was not explicitly religious in the original series, it was much more so in the manga, with Emperor Charles declaring a religious state at the climax. The Cardinal serves as the mouthpiece for the religion throughout, and plans to kill Nunnally, Charles, and Lelouch to become the Demon King.
- Witch Hunter Robin first subverts and then defies. First the Inquistioner is more of a official than a minister and less 'sinister' than 'playing bad cop' to find poetential new hunters. Second is Father Juliano, Robin's foster father and grandfather tried to be this trope, but raising Robin mellowed him out. She's actually harder on herself than he is on her. Instead of condemning her, he blesses her.
- Ali Al-Saachez of Gundam 00 adopts the identity of a Muslim imam in order to trick children into joining his army. Ali himself is an atheist and a mercenary who's doing it for the money. And for fun.
- Lucas Langeais of Bokura no Kiseki. He's the only priest besides the Bishop whose Reincarnation in the main plotline has yet to be revealed, and yet he's already been set up as a villain. Teshimano has memories of Lucas attacking Veronica during the Moswickian invasion, and Lucas's reincarnation is the prime suspect for the attack on Kamioka. Not to mention, when he first appears in a flashback, there is something just not right about him.
- Pastor Nick and the other higher-ranking members of the Church of the Wall, from Attack on Titan. At their best, they are Obstructive Bureaucrats that block military efforts to improve the Walls' defenses. They are also members of the Government Conspiracy, helping to keep the populace in ignorance under the guise of being a religious cult. Nick turns out to have a good heart beneath it all, and gives what little aid he can to the Survey Corps by revealing Krista's true identity to them. He's tortured and murdered for his betrayal.
- Sakasama no Patema: Izamura's reign has religious overtones, as he's the only one in the Agian government to dress in clerical robes and enforces the propaganda of the inverts as being "sinners". But he's also a subversion in that he's so Obviously Evil, that it's a wonder how anyone can possibly think his intentions are good ones. The man is batshit insane, high on his own power, and clearly self-serving. He even ordered the death of Age's father, for having contacted a member of the "inverts" and daring to want to explore the sky. Then had Lagos captured and killed and keeps his dead body preserved in a stasis chamber. Thankfully, he meets a karmic end.
- Bishop Antony Lilliman in V for Vendetta was a child molester, as well as a cheerleader for the fascist regime.
- All Father D'Aronique, and sundry other clergy of the Grail conspiracy from Preacher. Apparently entirely sincere in his beliefs. Most of the Grail personnel who appear are Knight Templars though.
- While Jesse Custer is used as the page image, he is not, in fact, this trope, and is more of a Badass Preacher.
- Deacon Blackfire from the Batman series The Cult.
- Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark from Sin City, the most nefarious member of the city's Corrupt Church and just one member of the series resident powerful Big Screwed-Up Family.
- The Reverend William Stryker, an X-Men villain. He and his Corrupt Church believe that mutants are demons from Hell, and has an army of mercenaries to carry out his will. He first appeared in the graphic novel God Loves Man Kills, and became a recurring villain after the success of the movies, as X2 was loosely based on said graphic novel.
- Another example is Reverend Craig, a church leader in a small Scottish hamlet who is introduced leading a mob with Torches and Pitchforks after Rahne Sinclair (A mutant) to "burn the Devil out of her" (read: murder her) to fulfill God's will. In a later story, he's pulling the same shit on another mutant girl, prompting a now adult Rahne to confront him. She denounces him as a hypocrite and bully who cares nothing for the outside world because he can rule here with impunity. She then speculates that when he decided to "save" her mother, a woman accused of loose morals and possibly prostitution, that he may have in fact sired Rahne.
- Some people like to claim that if there's a priest in X-Men who is not Nightcrawler, chances are he's going to be evil. But that is perhaps more a consequence of Chuck Austen's anti-Catholic Nightcrawler storyline on Uncanny X-Men.
- One aversion in X-Men is a preacher in Denver whose wife became infected with a brood egg but regained her free will. He was always sympathetic to the mutant cause, but we haven't heard from them in awhile.
- There is also Dagger's uncle, a Catholic priest, who made a guest appearance in New Mutants as a sympathetic character.
- The Deacon from Astro City is the undisputed boss of all organized crime throughout the city (though he's just a mobster who adopted the "deacon" name for color). This is balanced by his greatest enemy, the Confessor, not only also being religiously themed, but actually being a real priest.
- In Dead Irons, Devin Irons is the utter personification of this trope. This false priest is so reprehensible that he makes Buffy's Caleb look like a wannabe sinister minister sissy. Not only did he sell the souls of his own four children, turning them into the vicious unholy beasts they are today, for the power to control men's minds; he planned to create an even larger sacrifice to gain immortality from the Plague Bringer Demon by forcing the death of 99 innocent "willing" victims. However, he needed his rogue children to complete the pact. So what does he do? He uses the dark arts to resurrect his own wife, now a mockery of life in the guise of a flesh eating ghoul, as a method of pulling the Iron children's heart strings and luring them back to his cursed town. Did I also mention he was responsible for the death of the hero's father figure, Jonas Keegan, after he came to confront the twisted preacher for tying his son to a statue, bloody and beaten, with the word "sinner" painted onto his chest?
- A couple of chapters of Nightmares And Fairy Tales feature a group of nuns that are anything but holy. They keep a pet demon in the attic of their convent and as for what they feed it? Let's just say that the local adoption rate of orphaned babies has been slipping since they showed up.
- Paulustus Jehustus II, the Pope of Rome and one of the five leaders of Evil, Inc in the Swedish comic James Hund, an Affectionate Parody of thrillers and detective stories. He is obviously meant to be a No Celebrities Were Harmed Historical Villain Upgrade version of Pope John Paul II, given that he was born in Poland as plain old Pavel Kalinka. It is not certain whether the Catholic Church is a Corrupt Church in the comic's Verse, but given that one of the founders of the non-evil origins of Evil, Inc. was a rather slimy-looking Pope during the Viking Ages, it probably is.
- Cardinal Trebaldi from Le Scorpion.
- An inmate called "Preacher" in Hard Time: 50 to Life was imprisoned for setting fire to an abortion clinic while there were people inside. He continues to be a pyromaniac in prison by pouring out the gasoline he occasionally puts in his mop bucket on a kneeling penitent and lighting the poor bastard up.
- Hack Slash gave us Father Wrath, a serial-killing undead ghoul who was a fire-and-brimstone homophobe that hid his cross-dressing homosexual urges from his congregation in his mortal life. When he tried to make out with his assistant, said assistant stove in his head with a huge crucifix. He is resurrected by an Ax-Crazy catholic schoolgirl who uses him to kill all the young partygoers at Spring Break. He is later dispatched, but his assistant takes up the cause.
- Cousin Franz, and Pater Filucius (even with a Meaningful Name - "Filou" is French for "crook") from the stories by Wilhelm Busch.
- One the new characters created during the Bloodlines Crisis Crossover event in The DCU was Cardinal Sin; a disillusioned priest who gained superpowers and became a villain after being bitten by an alien space parasite. He has not reappeared since the original event. (Presumably he is not to be confused with the real-life Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila.)
- Serial Killer the Reverand Taylor Stone in Before Watchmen: Nite-Owl.
- Pope Innocent XLII in Grendel, who has turned the entire Catholic Church into a Path of Inspiration. He's actually an evil vampire who appeared under a different identity as the villain of a previous arc, and is plotting to blot out the Sun so that he can rule humanity and use them as bloodbags.
- Played for laughs in one popular MAD article, "When Priests Go Bad". (Which was followed by sequels like "When Nuns Go Bad" and "When Clowns Go Bad".)
- Archer Mc Fall in the upcoming Nathanoraptor fic The Red Church.
- Ulysses Tiberius, a villain who appears in both Shadowchasers Torment and Shadowchasers Ascension, was an Air Force Chaplin before the contradictory nature of his job and the stress related to it drove him to madness, turning him into this Trope before being expelled from the service on a medical discharge. In the present he no longer fits the Trope, being a leader in the Cult of Tharizdun, confident that he Hates Everyone Equally.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter claims to be a preacher and has long talks with God, but is actually a roaming serial killer.
- In The Lawnmower Man, the priest who regularly beats Job with a rod. His brother confronts him, calling him a "pious asshole".
- The villainous Bishop of Aquila from the film Ladyhawke, who put a demonic curse upon Etienne and Isabeau because he wanted the latter for himself and was denied.
- The Bishop of Hereford from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, who accused Robin's father of being a devil worshipper and is actually a devil worshipper himself.
- To some extent, There Will Be Blood's Eli Sunday.
- Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II: The Other Side.
- Father Lucci in The Seventh Sign.
- Reverend Crane, father of the main protagonist of Sleepy Hollow. Also on a smaller scale, the priest of the town who had sex with the Villainess.
- The terrifying Asa Hawks from John Huston's Wise Blood, based on Flannery O Connor's novel. Worth mentioning here because Harry Dean Stanton's wonderfully creepy portrayal of the character comes across as more villainous than in the book.
- The Reverend Fred Sultan in The Great White Hype. Sort of a No Celebrities Were Harmed mashup of the Reverend Al Sharpton and Don King.
- Played mildly in Oh, God! with money-grubbing televangelist Rev. Willie Williams.
- Jonah in Drive Angry.
- Pastor Abin Cooper of the Five Points Trinity Church in Red State.
- The priest in Goodnight, God Bless. He begins his killing spree by knifing a woman and shooting a group of young children, all in broad daylight.
- Jeremiah Ketchum (and kill 'em) from The Amityville Horror remake. He tortured to death Native Americans on the land where the house stands, apparently just For the Evulz, and his monstrous spirit (along with those of his victims) continues to haunt the area.
- Preacherman, a member of the Carnival of Killers from Slashers.
- Father Jonas from Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil is an overzealous priest who kills "whores and sinners".
- Zachary Malius from Happy Hell Night, though inadvertently as he is a corpse possessed by a demon.
- The Man Who Knew Too Much: The assassin Mr. Drayton turns out to be a minister in his day job. He's even got a congregation!
- Cardinal Roark in Sin City harbors a cannibalistic serial killer and admits that he sometimes gets in on the action.
- Future Force features a crimelord priest. He proves the lesser of two evils compared to the Dirty Cop Big Bad, and saves the hero's life at one point.
- Preacher Jacob from Blood Lake convinced his followers to commit mass suicide, claiming he could resurrect them as a new, perfect race enlightened by their deaths. It didn't go as planned, and during the events of the film his homicidal spirit is unintentionally summoned.
- Kingdom of Heaven takes it to the extreme. Nearly every member of the Catholic Hierarchy is a villain but the particular two examples that stand out and represent this trope are the Jerkass Priest who antagonizes Balian in the beginning of the film and the Bishop of Jerusalem who is shown to be a Dirty Coward willing to leave people of Jerusalem to die, or convert to Islam.
- Henri Sardis from Brotherhood of the Wolf.
- Anaconda: The human villain Paul Sarone mentions that he was a priest before he decided to become an Evil Poacher. He claims he wasn't even bad at his job, he just wanted to "explore the world"... which apparently involves catching giant, man-eating snakes and feeding people to them.
- Joyeux Noël: The Scottish bishop, who remarks with disgust at the fraternization the Scottish soldiers, dismisses Father Palmer's defense of it, and creates a jingoistic, xenophobic sermon for Scottish soldiers, that was actually said in Real Life.
Bishop: "Christ our Lord said, 'Think not that I come to bring peace on earth. I come not to bring peace, but a sword.' The Gospel according to St. Matthew. Well, my brethren, the sword of the Lord is in your hands. You are the very defenders of civilization itself. The forces of good against the forces of evil. For this war is indeed a crusade! A holy war to save the freedom of the world. In truth I tell you: the Germans do not act like us, neither do they think like us, for they are not, like us, children of God. Are those who shell cities populated only by civilians the children of God? Are those who advanced armed hiding behind women and children the children of God? With God's help, you must kill the Germans, good or bad, young or old. Kill every one of them so that it won't have to be done again. The Lord be with you."
All: "And also with you."
Bishop: "May God Almighty bless you. The Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen."
- Father Rodin is a villain from the book The Wandering Jew by Eugene Sue, he is a Jesuit priest and the secretary of Father D'Aigrigny, who has charged him with the mission to get hold of The Rennepont Heritage, which is actually The Wandering Jew's treasure. During the course of the book, Rodin puts various obstacles in the way of The Wandering Jew's true heirs, in order to claim the treasure for The Jesuit Order.
- The title character from The Monk. Ambrosio's Start of Darkness was to break his vow of chastity with a woman who disguised herself as a monk.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame's sexually frustrated Archdeacon, Claude Frollo. He is, however, less evil than just lustful, confused and militant.
- The title character of Elmer Gantry, although he's portrayed more as merely slick and self-deluded than as "pure evil."
- Lysander and Marius Rassianus from the Prophet's House pentalogy.
- Annias in The Elenium by David & Leigh Eddings' is a high-ranking clergyman who loudly proclaims his virtue while using bribes, threats, and outright murder in his attempt to seize the throne of the Archprelate (AKA the Pope). Later, it turns out that he's actually working for an ancient, evil god, too.
- Reverend Sunlight Gardner, who runs an Orphanage of Fear in Stephen King's The Talisman.
- King's The Dark Tower series also features a rare female example: Sylvia Pittston, a large woman who establishes a Christian-like cult to the Crimson King in the town of Tull. She is even pregnant with the Crimson King's child via the Man in Black, though Roland destroys this hellspawn by forcing his gun up her vaginal tract, which drives her mad. Sylvia's influence over the town is so great that she's able to successfully convince the whole populace to attempt Roland. No one, including her, survives.
- The Cardinal in The Three Musketeers, though he's an antagonist because he is the prime minister of France. The religious aspect of his position is irrelevant to his character and the plot.
- The priest in the novel Chocolat. Changed in The Film of the Book, which portrays him as a young, idealistic man who is being manipulated by the local Comte.
- Corrupt churchmen occur in most versions of the Robin Hood legend.
- Dante and Virgil encounter many corrupt clergymen in the Sixth Circle of Hell in The Divine Comedy. (To put this simply, Dante despised such people, and the punishment he portrayed them as suffering was horrid to say the least.)
- The Reverend Dr Syn, a "mild mannered clergyman from Kent", also known as the vicious criminal "the Scarecrow", and the feared pirate Captain Clegg.
- Vorbis from the Discworld book Small Gods. Unlike some examples, though, Vorbis believes with absolute certainty that all the bad things he does to advance the church and himself are necessary according to his twisted conception of the religion. A character in the book mentions this trope, expecting that Vorbis maintains his austere image just to hide a life of luxury and indulgence, but he doesn't. It is implied that this makes him worse than a common variety corrupt priest, as Vorbis's crimes are driven by something stronger and more constant than self-interest.
- The 'helpful' clergyman of the John Dickson Carr mystery Hag's Nook.
- Pryrates from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is a priest as well as the most cliched Evil Sorcerer one can imagine. He lives in a tower which no one dares to enter, he wears scarlet robes, has a shaved head, kills a puppy as one of his character introduction scenes and has such evil vibes that the hero notices him as a bad guy right away. And the King doesn't care at all. It's pretty heavily implied that Pryrates indulges in every Villain Trope he can think of just because he knows it will creep people out.
- Fray Emilio Bocanegra ("Black-Mouth") from the Spanish series of books The Adventures of Captain Alatriste is an evil member of The Spanish Inquisition. He represents The Church by himself, although he conspires with representatives of other organizations. Also appears in The Film of the Book.
- In the New Testament of The Bible, 3rd John speaks of Diotrephes, a church head who was a malicious gossip and excommunicated members of his church for not adopting gnosticism. Also, Ciaphas, the guy who gets Jesus executed, is a high priest.
- In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the secretly demon-controlled Johannine Church uses Diotrephes' name as a bogeyman label. Chants of "Down with Diotrephes!" are a Berserk Button.
- Safehold's Church of God Awaiting has its Sinister Ministers, but the standout is its the Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn, whose crossings of the Moral Event Horizon include the brutal execution of a scapegoat Archbishop, having members of his order instigate a massacre against traders and merchants of the heretic nation of Charis, and having an allied prince and his sixteen year old heir assassinated when said Prince was about to surrender to the Charisian emperor, Cayleb. Making Clyntahn especially dangerous even after all that is he has himself utterly convinced that he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist. And the fact that his religion explicitly states that good intentions based in religion justify any kind of extremism makes him even worse.
- Subverted in the Illuminatus!!-trilogy, where Padre Pederastia (a nickname, obviously) is a Camp Gay Roman Catholic priest who runs a Satanic sect in his spare time, and routinely steals the sacramental bread from his church to be used in the Satanic rituals. The sect is completely harmless, Padre himself doesn't even believe in God or Satan, and he is indeed one of the good guys.
- In The Jehovah Contract, an evil televangelist with some kind of supernatural powers hires the narrator character to assassinate Jehovah.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Rogues in the House," Nabonidus, the Red Priest, "who was the real ruler of the city."
- Most of the Conan religious figures land in this category, given that even when the priesthood isn't out for actual political power, the gods they serve usually turn out to be Eldritch Abominations.
- Most Church authorities in the His Dark Materials trilogy, notably Father MacPhail and Father Gomez.
- The titular character from HP Lovecraft's short story The Evil Clergyman, a mysterious man with a decidedly Anglican attire who appears to have cast his soul into a matchbox-like object in an act of pre-suicidal sorcery, later attempting to completely usurp anyone that handles said object. The narrator manages to stop him, though not before having his appearance changed to an exact replica of the clergyman.
- Reverend Habit Morgan from the Ender’s Game book War of Gifts was a real Holier Than Thou piece of shit. He beat his son Zeck regularly and found fault and sin in everyone but himself. When Zeck got taken away by the International Fleet, the IF representative was accused of infringing on the church's freedom to worship as they pleased. The rep responded by tearing open Zeck's shirt to show the congregation his bloody and scarred back. While at battle school, Ender speculates that Zeck's mother divorced her husband now that Zeck was out of his reach.
- A common figure in the writings of Flannery O Connor: In Wise Blood, Asa Hawks preaches the Gospel but doesn't believe any of it; he's only in it for the money. He even faked blinding himself with lye as a very public demonstration of his nonexistent faith.
- Peter Mathews of Enigma Babylon One World Faith and Leon Fortunato of Carpathianism are Left Behind's examples of this trope.
- Katherine Langrish's novel Dark Angels has Brother Thomas, an over-religious and abusive priest who is cruel to the boys at the abbey. He gets his comeuppance in the end.
- Eric Long from Friday the 13th: Church of the Divine Psychopath.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has many of these:
- Septon Utt is a priest of the Faith of the Seven as well as a mercenary and a notorious serial killer of little boys
- Melisandre is a Red Priestess of R'hllor, a fire god. She's pretty ruthless and has a number of fire related powers, though she does have morals and is simply convinced that what she's doing is for the greater good.
- Aeron Damphair is a priest of the Drowned God of the Iron Islands. He's extremely zealous in a religion that advocates drowning unbelievers and pillaging the mainland.
- The vicar of Altarnun in Jamaica Inn, also an Evil Albino.
- In The Knife of Never Letting Go, the priest of Prentisstown, a man named Aaron, pursues the main character throughout the entire book. He combines this trope with Implacable Man, surviving many, many injuries (including having his head chewed on by a crocodile) due to his religious conviction.
- A good portion of the priesthood in Karse in the Heralds of Valdemar series. That is, until the god Vkandis got fed up with the Corrupt Church and did some rearranging, with a Bolt of Divine Retribution for starters.
- In the second book of the Bardic Voices series by Mercedes Lackey, we have High Bishop Padrik, who took control over the city-state of Gradford with faked miracles (most of which were learned from a rogue Gypsy clan or helped along with his magic) and being a great orator, preaching on such subjects as that woman's place was in the home, that nonhumans were Anathema, and any sort of fun (non-Church music and brightly colored clothing, for example) was a sin.
- The Dresden Files has a short story about a priest who thinks that it's a travesty that Harry has custody over Swords of the Cross as opposed to finding new users for them (which Harry is actually doing). The guy was once in the military and has been staring a lot of evils in the face from his position in South America and tries to kill Harry to get the swords out of what he perceives to be enemy hands. Michael is not amused.
- Perry from the Piers Anthony book For Love Of Evil becomes a priest after his wife is killed. He gradually gets seduced by a female demon, and winds up literally becoming the devil. In contrast to the earlier books, in his own book he's shown to not be evil so much as performing a necessary function.
- Song at Dawn: the Arch Bishop is behind all the attempts on Dragonetz' life and schemes to undermine Emerganda's authority so he can fill his coffers and make himself a more elaboate church to berate people from. Also, he hates jews.
- The Rev, father of Zeb and Adam One in Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam trilogy. His church is baldly commercial to begin with but it gets worse when you get to know him personally. He regularly visits VR snuff sites, killed his first wife and buried her in the rock garden, and had hopes to do the same to his sons.
- In Philip Kerr's novel Prayer, FBI agent Gill Martin comes up against the Church of Izrael, led by the seemingly genuine Pastor Nelson van der Velden. He soon realises the odd spelling of "Izrael" is no error or eccentricity. Van der Velden spent time in Israel learning the inner secrets of Kabbalah. These include how to actively pray for the death of dirty godless liberals, atheists, socialists and advocates of sexual deviancy, so as to bring about God's will for the USA - a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Led by President van der Velden.
Live Action TV
- Carnivŕle's Brother Justin Crowe is a super-powered example of this trope who turns out to be not only the living embodiment of evil as the Avatar of Darkness, but the fabled Usher of Destruction.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Caleb, a psychotic misogynist and serial killer who used his sermons to lure impressionable young women to him and then brutally murder them. This was before he became The Dragon for the Ultimate Evil in the universe, who granted him super-strength and an army, then tasked him with massacring the Slayer Potentials and the Watchers. He took to his mission with sadistic glee, reciting twisted prayers and Biblical references as he casually broke arms, snapped necks, and put out eyes. Caleb was, bar none, the single vilest villain in Buffy canon, even surpassing Angelus in depravity and pure hatred.
- His voice and mannerisms are also a direct reference to Robert Mitchum's character from The Night of the Hunter, whom some might consider to be even spookier than Caleb.
- Joss Whedon defended himself from backlash by pointing out that the Church had kicked Caleb out.
- And for those who would doubt the above statement about Caleb being worse than Angelus, bear in mind that Angelus is a vampire. He has no soul whereas Caleb has no such excuse for his evil.
- The Anointed One's guardian, Abasalom. ("When She Was Bad")
- A Catholic Priest, Josephus du Lac, wrote a number of books containing dark rituals, resulting in du Lac being excommunicated. ("What's My Line?")
- To a lesser degree and outside Christianity, Baber, the conservative ex-imam from Little Mosque on the Prairie.
- Although the Archdeacon, played by Colin Mochrie, fits the trope a bit more closely.
- The Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder II.
- In the first series, Blackadder himself becomes Archbishop of Canterbury in "The Archbishop", while a friar is part of Blackadder's Legion of Doom in "The Black Seal".
- The warmongering, terrorist Reverend Steve Newland of True Blood.
- There's one episode of Midsomer Murders where the murderer is the local priest, responsible for three murders. The reason for this is that (unbeknownst to his wife and the rest of the village) he'd had a kid some 20 years earlier with an unmarried woman, and said kid had died (in order to join a "club", the members made him stand tiptoe on a chair with a noose around his neck while they went off for a smoke). When one of the victims thought he was dying, he confessed to the priest, who decapitated one, burned another alive, and arrowed the last through the back. Quite a normal backstory for a resident of Midsomer County.
- Oh, come on, if there's a priest you've got about 50% odds of it being the priest. And there are a lot of priests.
- An episode of Criminal Minds had a priest who killed people using drug-laced holy water in his exorcisms, specifically targeting four people who he believed to have murdered a fellow priest while on pilgrimage.
- On LOST, a prison chaplain refused to absolve Richard for accidentally killing a doctor, in blatant violation of Church doctrine. Richard was about to be hanged, and apparently someone wanted him softened up and scared to be sent to the New World as a slave.
- Kai Winn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who becomes leader of a Saintly Church purely in pursuit of personal power, and somehow fools everyone except the main characters. Initially she believes that everything that goes right for her is proof she's doing the Prophets' will, and everything that goes wrong is a test, but later she decides that if the Prophets don't agree with her they're wrong, and turns to the Pah-Wraiths, the Bajoran equivalent of demons.
- Though, during the Grand Finale, after Gul Dukat has tricked her into releasing the Wraiths and helped him essentially become The Antichrist, she helps Sisko stop him. Naturally, she dies.
- At first, Winn expressed resentment of the Federation's presence due to their secularism. Later, when Sisko starts to embrace his role as the Emissary of the Prophets, it's more that she sees him personally as a threat to her power. After all, when the Emissary has arrive, what need is there for a Kai? It's rather akin to a scenario where the Pope is resentful of the fact that Jesus outranks him, which illustrates how much her ambition twisted her religious beliefs.
- Edward Teague on Smallville was a Well-Intentioned Extremist and former Amoral Attorney who became a Catholic priest to protect a MacGuffin at St. Christopher's church following the death of his wife Genevieve and son, Jason. Formerly a firm believer in the cult of The Traveller, he turns on Clark after the revelation that he is unwilling to kill Archenemy Lex Luthor, and tries to put them both out of his misery. One could argue that he's an Antihero, but no matter how you slice it, he's very sinister, and given the religious overtones of almost every action he takes, it ain't just an act.
- Jonas from the Alphas episode "A Short Time In Paradise." Somewhat subverted as he didn't really want to kill his congregation... it just happened because of his ability. Then he tries to burn them all in an attempt to destroy the Darkness within. Rosen stops him.
- Haven's Reverend Driscoll is the town's leading agitator for Fantastic Racism against the "Troubled". Apparently believing them to be cursed, he's been working to establish enough influence for he and his followers to one day wipe the Troubled out.
- "Reverend Driscoll" of No-particular-denomination is depicted as a weird hybrid of liturgical and evangelical clergy. As Father Brown says in "The Vampire of the Village", this is a portrayal not of any particular priest, but of "a stage parson".
- The Canon on the medieval planet in Stargate SG-1 made use of creative interpretations of The Bible, the fear engendered by the Goa'uld System Lord Sokar's raids for hosts, and a lightning-summoning ring in order to maintain control over his village. When SG-1 arrived, he accused Teal'c of consorting with demons.
- The Priors of the Ori and their head honcho, the Doci, are pretty creepy.
- Sister Jude from American Horror Story: Asylum is an Ambiguously Evil gender flipped version of this trope. She's basically a Knight Templar who believes in beating the sin out of her patients (with a rather loose definition of what constitutes "sin" even by the standards of the early Sixties) but thanks to far worse people and things inhabiting Briarcliff plus her own tortured history she can be interpreted as either an Anti-Villain or Anti-Hero.
- Father Kemp from Being Human.
- Pastor Young from The Vampire Diaries who takes over the council as of series 4 and returns it to it's original kill all vampires mission.
- Vicar Oddie from In The Flesh is constantly preaching against zombies and who orders the parish council to do less than ethical actions.
- Bishop Hugo in Robin of Sherwood, who is the clerical equivalent of a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
- Reverend Jeremiah Cloutier, a defrocked pastor convicted of embezzlement who begins building his own army of converts inside the prison on Oz.
- In the Masters of Horror episode "The Screwfly Solution", the priest in the Canadian hospital euthanizes female patients against their will while preaching the "fundamentally evil" nature of women.
- A couple of these types pop up in Jack Taylor. First we have "Lucifer" the sadistic and enigmatic nun who helped to run a Magdalene laundry in 1960s Galway. Next we have the Pedophile Priest who abused and traumatized his altar boys. Father Malachy is a subversion of this - although he and Jack frequently clash, it's more out of the Father's loyalty to Jack's estranged mother over his unconventional and unwieldy lifestyle rather than some ulterior and sinister motive.
- Pastor Johannsen in Orphan Black, a folksy but viciously authoritarian and misogynistic cult leader who rules his commune with an iron fist, has his daughter's mouth sewn shut to punish her, and treats women as nothing more than breeding receptacles.
- Bishop Brennan in Father Ted, a domineering bully with skeletons in his closet. Father Jack, the oldest priest on Craggy Island, is hinted to have been a paedophile as well as an incoherent violent drunk.
- In the "Hook Man" (S01, Ep07) episode of Supernatural, Preacher Jacob Karns murdered prostitutes because he was outraged by the red light district.
- The Genesis song (and video) "Jesus He Knows Me" is about a televangelist who enjoys a decadent, corrupt lifestyle funded by the contributions of his viewers.
- "Holy Roller Novocaine" by the Kings of Leon (and possibly about the Followill brothers' grandfather) is sung from the point of view of a itinerant preacher trying to seduce a woman he meets on his travels.
- Iron Maiden have "Holy Smoke", which lambasts sinister ministers - "Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke, Plenty bad preachers for the Devil to stoke" - written in response to the very public falls from grace of several anti-heavy-metal (and nearly everything else) televangelists. It alludes to several in a No Celebrities Were Harmed way - "Jimmy The Reptile" for Jimmy Swaggart, "The TV Queen" probably referring to Tammy Faye Bakker.
- Apocalyptica's "I'm Not Jesus" is about a kid confessing to having been sexually abused by a priest/minister/or some such figure.
- Falconer's Enter The Glade describes a corrupt evangelist who uses his supposed connection to the divine to enrich himself at his followers' expense.
- The priest mentioned in a few songs from Queensr˙che's Operation: Mindcrime is one of these; he is a corrupt televangelist who sleeps with nuns.
- Ozzy Osbourne's "Miracle Man", a Take That toward Real Life Sinister Minister, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, with whom Ozzy had a feud in the eighties.
- Space's Neighbourhood has this to say of the local preacher:
"In 666 there lives a Mr. Miller, he's our local vicar and a serial killer."
- Daniel Amos: Several songs from the albums ˇAlarma! and Doppelganger lambaste televangelists and other preachers who con money from their audiences.
- Chief Rabbi Kai in !Hero: The Rock Opera, working together with Dirty Cop Officer Devlin to take down Hero.
- ECW wrestling manager The Sinister Minister: It's his friggin' name!
- James Mitchell, the man behind this gimmick, did much the same act in TNA under his real name.
- Brother Love, the evil televangelist/manager.
- The Undertaker, while leading the Satanic cult-inspired Ministry Of Darkness.
- The Jackyl, New Age-inspired charismatic cult leader with an unmatched flair for brainwashing and mind control.
- This is a common characterisation of the Rev Green from Cluedo.
- High Cardinal Krozen from Eberron, senior cardinal of the Silver Flame and the most powerful individual in Thrane.
- Reverend Ezekiah Grimme from Deadlands. A humanitarian to boot. The game ultimately comes clean and reveals he's not even human; he's an Abomination, basically a demon that walks around in the real world in the good Reverend's shape. Has been ever since the real Reverend Grimme was murdered and eaten by his starvation-maddened flock, back before Lost Angels was really founded.
- From the same game, there's Professional Killer "Deacon" Jim Miller. Unlike the real Miller, who was called "Deacon" just because he attended church and didn't smoke or drink, this version is an actual Methodist deacon when he isn't out bushwhacking people for money.
- In Magic: The Gathering, Elesh Norn, Praetor of the white-aligned faction of New Phyrexia, leads her faction as Grand Cenobite (which is equivalent to the position of Pope) of the Religion of Evil called the Machine Orthodoxy.
- Any cleric, inquisitor, or antipaladin in service to one of the setting's Religions of Evil is liable to be this in Pathfinder. Grundmoch from Legacy of Fire is an interesting example in that he's a Chaotic Evil troglodyte cleric of Rovagug, yet will actually ally with the PC's against the Adventure Path's greater antagonist, Zayifid.
- There are a few monsters in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game that suggest this, but the most obvious example would be Darkbishop Archfiend. (Seriously, that guy is Obviously Evil.)
- More than a few Space Marine Chaplains in the Warhammer40000 setting have fallen to one of several dark sides. Hell, even the loyalist Chaplains are trained with the express purpose for violent xenophobia.
- The DarkAngels senior Chaplain Asmodai has a couple screws loose, and not in a funny way. He's a bitter, anti-social jerkass and an in-universe “Stop Having Fun” Guy. And while a Dark Angel Chaplain is expected to brutally torture captive traitors in order to make them repent and thus redeem their souls, Asmodai sorta stopped reading after the words "torture captive traitors".
- The Word Bearer Chaplains sort of wrapped back around in an odd way, and eventually landed on Religion of Evil. Ironically, the Word Bearers invented Chaplains in the Imperium, yet were the first to fall to Chaos.
- The regular ministers in the Imperium aren't any better, they advocate in hunting down heretics and mutants, with no regard on weather their targets are innocent or guilty. They also have no problem in overtaxing and conscripting the lower masses on Imperial worlds for their own gain, any one who disagree's risks on being marked as traitors and heretics.
- Zoser, the high priest in Aida, and his mooks are slowly using arsenic to kill their pharaoh.
- Henry VI has the Bishop of Winchester, later Cardinal of Winchester, who orders his half-brother's death in an attempt to secure the crown and is noted by all other characters to be a depraved and power-hungry man.
- The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster has the Cardinal, the Duchess' brother (Webster was more into plots than names, it seems). He conspires to have his sister killed and her kids murdered, partly in order to preserve the family honor and partly to get his hands on her wealth. He also pulls strings to have ill-gotten lands deeded to his mistress.
- Cardinal Lucius in Anno 1404. Big Bad of the campaign and a hard difficulty A.I. in Continuous Mode.
- Kotomine Kirei of Fate/stay night, whose appearance and voice actor practically screams 'sinister' despite being the overseer of the Grail War and Rin's guardian — and sure enough, he ends up as the Big Bad of the first route, the one responsible for much of the grief in the second, as well as being the Final Boss in the third, even though in this route he is not as evil as in the previous routes. In Fate/Zero, he also usurps several stronger villains and ends up as the Big Bad yet again.
- As detailed in Heaven's Feel, his entire reason for becoming a priest was to try and live a good life in spite of his own twisted psyche. He hoped that by doing good he would become good, but realized he was simply too broken when he witnessed his wife's death... and only regretted not being responsible for it. He really wants to know why God created him.
- In Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes, Mitsuhide poses as Tenkai, a monk who acts as adviser to the cowardly and easily manipulated Hideaki. Even in this guise, he barely tries to hide his sadistic nature and is still as Obviously Evil as he was in previous games.
- There is often at least one in Fire Emblem games. One is the primary antagonist in Seisen No Keifu, another is the Anti-Climax Boss of Thracia 776, one is a miniboss in Rekka no ken, and one is a primary antagonist in Sacred Stones.
- The Tellius games (Gamecube & Wii) have the Begnion senators, who are also religious figures.
- However, the series also has a tendency (at least since Fuuin no Tsurugi) for the highest-ranking religious figure in the game to be benevolent, and in a couple of games, playable. One notable example from the Tellius game is Sephiran, who is the one responsible for the ressurection of Ashera and who wants everything to end, but who could also make a Heel-Face Turn and joins the heroes in the final battle against Ashera (though, good luck with that).
- Pastor Richards in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City VCPR radio station. He plans to build a giant statue for himself and his concubines, and needs your donations to do so.
- Girolamo Savonarola in Assassins Creed II who not only is an extremist preacher like his real-life counterpart, but also is willing to use the Apple of Eden to subjugate Florence and spread his agenda. However he's portrayed more as a Well-Intentioned Extremist rather than pure evil like the Templars (who he technically opposes).
- There's also Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI, and his son Cesare, a cardinal, both given a Historical Villain Upgrade (which isn't to say the real ones were good.)
- The Archbishop Lazarus in Diablo.
- Father Karras, the extremely hypocritical and self-centric founder and leader of the Mechanists, from Thief II: The Metal Age, is both a Sinister Minister and a Mad Scientist.
- Sister (later Mother) Petrice from Dragon Age II is a total Smug Snake who outright admits to pulling a number of half-assed machinations to rile the people of Kirkwall up against the Qunari. She succeeds, but will only live to see it if you help her, which she...doesn't exactly encourage.
- Vincenzo Bianchi and Cardinal Genovese from the Ben Jordan games, both high-ranking Vatican officials.
- Preacher in the Twisted Metal games. However, as he is loath to admit, he's not an ordained minister — no church would accept him. He's murderous, and like almost every other player character in Black, he was interned at Blackfield Asylum prior to the events of the game. He believes a demon lives inside of him, forcing him to kill; turns out he's just schizophrenic.
- In the 2012 reboot, though, he's significantly less sinister (at least in the sense of being evil, since he's still really creepy and mean looking). He just wants to take out Calypso, whom he sees as the Devil himself.
- The Minister in The Backwater Gospel, who turns the town against the tramp and commands them to stone him to death for allegedly bringing The Undertaker to the town.
- The Veloci Pastor is about a priest who turns into a dinosaur and eats people on the streets before targeting criminals.
- One of the applicants to the Evil League Of Evil on the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog DVD is the Perverse Puppet The Reverend.
Not to be confused with the master of puppets
I'm the Plush Preacher, Father Felt, the Pastor of Muppets
I'm the Miniature Minister of Sinister stuff
The Priest made of ping pong balls, mischief and fluff
- Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett in Netflix's Orange Is The New Black isn't an actual minister, but she acts as one for several inmates. An intolerant zealot, she's one of the few inmates (if not the only) that becomes less sympathetic when her backstory is revealed. She's in prison for murdering an abortion clinic nurse who criticized Pennsatucky's large number of abortions. She only became religious after the religious started supporting her and donating to her legal defense because they mistook her crime for an act of pro-life protest.
- The early 90's X-Men had a wedding between Cyclops and Jean Grey that seemed to go fine, until the minister who performed the ceremony was later revealed to be a disguised Morph working for Mister Sinister.
- Depending on the Writer, Reverend Lovejoy on The Simpsons can range from a Straw Hypocrite to a mild example of this Trope. For one thing, his sermons vary from, at best, dreary recitations of more opaque parts of the Old Testament, to the occasional "fire and brimstone" scaremongering about Hell — and very little of the love and joy that his surname suggests. He's been known to give sermons on the evils of gambling on the same week Bingo is going to be played on Tuesdays, an implied gambling convention called Monte Carlo night on Wednesday, and having a retreat at Reno, Las Vegas on Saturday. He's also implied to drink heavily, and purposely has his dog "do his business" on Ned Flanders' lawn. Then we get to the really bad stuff he's known to do. He favors burning books that oppose Christian idea, often blatantly ignores what the Bible says (interpreting what's "sinful" his own way), and has more than once tried to burn his own church down as an insurance scam. Worst of all, he's horribly intolerant of any other religions. The gravest examples: when Lisa converted to Buddhism, he called her "Marge Simpson's devil-daughter"; he once got into a fist fight with a Catholic priest, told Marge that she might as well "do a Voodoo dance" for Abe Simpson when he asked him to give him the last rites, and helped kidnap Bart to keep him from converting to Catholicism. Naturally, he blames this all on Ned Flanders, claiming Ned's complaining made him stop caring. ("Fortunately by that time it was the eighties, and no one noticed.")