So you are watching an anime and here comes a 12-year-old boy in some interesting, religious-looking robes and...wait, this pre-teen is supposed to be a Catholic priest? But, 12-year-olds can't be priests! That isn't typical Catholic priestly attire, either, that robe looks like it's made of 100% pure awesome, and... oh look, he's pulling out guns and shooting up a demon. And there's a hot, glasses-wearing nun sidekick casting magic spells.
Well, there really is no explanation other than you've just seen a case of Anime Catholicism.
If you know anything remotely about Catholicism, or western religions in general, then when this trope shows up, you'll know it. Suddenly every priest will be a badass, the clergy will be completely populated by hot, young men and everything about the structure, hierarchy, history or religious beliefs will obviously be completely wrong to even people who aren't Catholic and are only peripherally aware of what the Catholic Church is about.
Japan (and other countries that produce derivative media, such as Korea and China), not having a large population of Christians note , neither especially know nor care about the total accuracy in depiction of the Church or Church-based organizations in their writing. When it shows up, the Church is predominantly there to provide a sense of magic or mystery (the beautiful Catholic architecture is also a plus) to the setting or backdrop of the story, with priests more akin to wizards or mages and the importance of correctness being secondary, and more than likely not even factor into their priorities.
Here are some common elements Anime Catholicism tends to use to "spice up" actual Catholicism:
Artistic License Religion or more specifically Artistic License Traditional Christianity
Cast Full of Pretty Boys and girls
Basically the bottom line is that the Rule of Cool, Rule of Sexy or any of the other "Rules" often trump accuracy in how the church is depicted. Keep in mind most of this is also applicable to Crystal Dragon Jesus versions in Fantasy Anime and Manga. This Trope has nothing directly to do with Kirisuto-kyō sects but may intersect it.
Compare Christianity Is Catholic, Crystal Dragon Jesus, Creepy Cool Crosses, and Nuns Are Mikos. Also compare Fantastic Catholicism, which is the western version of this trope. See also Japanese Christian.
- 07-Ghost is a Crystal Dragon Jesus version which would almost be indistinguishable from Catholicism except that in addition to God they worship 7 'ghost/angel' things. (Also, everyone is ridiculously young and good looking, wearing over-elaborate vestments, they do magic, wield weapons, act quite immorally and are involved in a huge conspiracy.)
- Played with in Black Lagoon: The Ripoff Church is heavily Catholicism-flavoured, but its changes in 'doctrine', what with the gun smuggling, drug smuggling, people smuggling, cursing, drinking and nuns with heavy weapons, are so extreme there's very little chance the author intended it to be a stand-in for any real-life religion. Especially since the La Baile de la Muerte arc all but states outright it's a CIA listening post intended to keep watch on Roanapur.
- Blue Exorcist lives and breathes this trope. It is a Shounen supernatural/Religious Horror, series with Exorcists after all. It does avert "Catholicism" being the only religion mentioned by having The Lancer and a couple of his friends be Buddhist monks.
- A Certain Magical Index: In a broader sense than just Catholicism; the 'Index' of the title belongs to the British Puritans. The series barely portrays religion correctly if at all. For starters, 'Magic' is synonomous with 'Religion', as almost all magic users are either part of, or were once part of, fantasy versions of real-life religions. Then we have characters like Stiyl Magnus, a 15 year old chain-smoking priest, or Kanzaki Kaori, a Kung-Fu Jesus version of a saint. In season 2, nuns fight while wearing miniskirts.
- Chrono Crusade features the Order of Saint Magdalene, a demon-fighting church organization full of gun-toting, spell-casting teenage nuns.
- D.Gray-Man features the Black Order, which is technically under the control of the church and not the actually part of it. It manages to ticks off half the list, including the crazy wardrobes, unrealistically young and good looking priests, priests having magic, acting as a task force, and women sharing the same roles as men. The actual church proper is only ever mentioned very vaguely and in passing, and various aspects of Catholicism are more or less just tossed around at random. The crazy wardrobes are justified in-story as being deliberately outlandish to provoke Akuma (who can hide as humans) into attacking first.
- Exorcists are not actual priests, but people capable of using Innocence, which are weapons left over from a long-destroyed civilization that fought against the series' Big Bad, the Millennium Earl. Due to the fact that the Exorcists are hopelessly outnumbered, the disregard for gender roles and age is a matter of practicality and sensibility, not just avoiding accuracy for aesthetic purposes. The only actual priests seen so far in the series are rather accurate portrayals of actual Catholic Priests in terms of appearance, age, clothing, and rank.
- Ghost Hunt includes a teenage Catholic priest who helps banish actual ghosts.
- Averted, somewhat, when Monk specifically states in Vol. 10 that John must be disobeying the Church, as there is no way such a young priest would be allowed to roam Japan, exorcising whatever he pleases. It's implied that John must have a personal, secret reason for facing ex-communication.
- Hellsing: Has a unique subversion in that the Protestant Reformation is not only actually acknowledged as happening, but the main characters are all working for the Anglican Church instead of the Roman Catholic Church, with a lot of the historical tension between English Protestants and Irish Catholics actually coming through. But otherwise a mild case with Yumie and Heinkel (a nun who has a split personality, one of which is a demon and wields a katana to slice up heathens, another who is female but is referred to as a priest, respectively), and the Church is also seen to have a number of other militant factions that can be mobilized in brief notice to invade a sovereign nation with no interference from the international community.
- In Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere one of the factions claims to be the Catholic Church complete with a leader they call the "President Pope".
- In Hungry Marie, the Sagimiya family admits that the necromancy they practice is against the rules of the Church, but even then Father Sagimiya has clearly not been celibate as is required for a priest, and this may go back generations.
- Kaitou Saint Tail is a Catholic schoolgirl, her base of operations is a Catholic church, her informant Seira is an "apprentice nun", and all the victims that she helps are also Catholic. Given that they're in a predominantly Shinto country, it's odd that no one seems to notice. Her informant is also blatantly breaking the rules of confidentiality regarding the confessional, which is something real clergy could get a lot of trouble for. And nuns have no access to confessional secrets, only male priests do and they can't even share them amongst themselves (the anime solved this by having troubled people confiding in Seira trying to have some comfort).
- Though in a late volume of the manga the author does at least admit she found out too late that only nuns who have taken their vows may wear a habit.
- Downplayed in Magical × Miracle, but still present. The priests are technically too young to be priests, but only by a few years. The outfits are also wrong, at least for Glenn, but the Archbishop's robes seem to be accurate. As for holy magic and fighting evil... Francis seems to know martial arts, and Glenn knows some basic protection magic, but that probably has more to do with Glenn and Francis being Glenn and Francis than Glenn and Francis being priests. Other than that, the series is actually fairly accurate in depicting Catholicism, excepting, of course, the Jesus Taboo.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: The Maxwell Church Episode Zero, where Duo lived for a period of time (after his Street Urchin gang got caught stealing food.) The other kids were all adopted out, but Duo kept being brought back because the would-be parents couldn't handle him. Fr. Maxwell and Sr. Helen acted as parents for Duo, and generally acted more like a Shinto priest and Miko in charge of a shrine than an actual priest and nun.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion, in addition to the faux-Christian title, throws elements of Catholicism at the screen more or less completely at random, often getting the context hilariously wrong. The most egregious examples probably lie in the names of the obligatory giant mech suit analogues, but honorable mention should go to "the spear of Longinus" assembling voltron-style with the main character's mech to form a giant cross-shaped kamikaze superweapon thing, which makes about as much sense in terms of Catholicism as it does in context of the story (so... none whatsoever).
- Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Garterbelt is supposed to be a priest, however that doesn't stop him from being involved in S&M activities, being foulmouthed, using firearms, and showing some Rage Against the Heavens from time to time. Also, he acts more as a commander officer for P&S, giving them their orders to neutralize the ghost.
- As for Panty And Stocking themselves... well, let's just say they are less than virtuous in their duties as angels.
- It may be debatable if Garterbelt's behavior is a good example of this trope since some catholic priests (and even popes) have done stuff like that, and even worse, in Real Life. (Except giving orders to angels, of course.)
- Sailor Moon has something of a subtle example in the episode of the anime where Diana turns up. While the nun everyone believes Artemis is "having an affair with" recites a standard Catholic prayer and seems to be saying things that a real Catholic nun would say, no one bats an eyelash at the idea that a nun would break her vows of chastity to have an affair with anyone—let alone a talking cat. (Though this is more an error on the characters' parts - the nun herself brings up the vows while protesting Tigers' Eye's advances).
- Averted in Samurai Champloo. Set during the Edo period, the show accurately portrays the view of the Japanese on Christianity as complete heresy. A Christian village is hidden from the outside world to avoid persecution, and the Sunflower Samurai, Fuu's dad, left his family to protect them from persecution as well. In another episode, a European warns Fuu to never show her skull pendant to strangers, as the cross symbol inside would give her away.
- Soul Cartel: The story of Faust and the functionality of heaven and hell are rewritten entirely. For one thing, there's reincarnation, and the Angels that keep demons from escaping from hell are known as Azraels. Yes, that was plural. It's established that people die and go to the underworld as souls, and work towards being reborn. Inside the underworld there are a large number of devils, and Mephisto from Faust was one who wanted to tempt the eponymous character with his contracts and Faust himself claiming that he would be able to resist. It was a contest between man and demon, with God as the judge. And Mephistopholies is a borderline Super-Deformed child with long red hair. The actual story follows a young Korean boy who's caught in Mephisto's rematch with the now-reincarnated Faust, as Mephisto takes a liking to him, claiming that he will be his next target and asking him to act as the judge of this contest, because he claims that God unfairly intervened and ruined his chances when he was about to win.
- Also, later in its revealed that part of the reincarnation process includes the option for human souls to train to become Azrael-class angels themselves. The nine rings of hell are actually the nine levels of the under world, with the bottom serving as the origin of all evil in the universe and Satan's personal home. The Angels also have what are essentially boarder patrols and immigration offices that make sure that demons and spirits don't cross into the different levels without permission.
- Justin from Soul Eater has all the trappings of a Catholic priest, but is casual, young, and ironically a demon weapon, able to transform fully or partially into a guillotine.
- Trinity Blood has a female cardinal, a child pope, impossible robes, vampire hunters, magic users, and most of the cast seems to be under the age of thirty, with about a fifth of them under the age of twenty.
- Vassalord: The author essentially took all her favourite B movie elements and lumped them together, resulting in a series about a Catholic gay cyborg vampire who hunts other vampires for the church.
- Plenty of Yuri Genre anime set in all-female Catholic schools, and don't have Romantic Two-Girl Friendship-kind, conveniently ignore how the Church and Christianity, in general, are notorious for being Heteronormative Crusaders. In fact, while they have tried to soften it in recent years the church considers it a mortal sin (i.e. will send you immediately to eternal damnation if not forgiven).
- One particularly infamous example is Maria-sama ga Miteru, on top of having a Sempai Kouhai system that only exists in their world, using rosaries as necklaces even though that is pretty taboo. So much so that MariaHolic (indirectly) called them out on this by explaining that rosaries are for prayer and not jewelry.
- In Sengoku Basara, Xavism, the resident stand-in for Catholicism (specifically Jesuits) is essentially a Parody Religion more akin to the Church of Happyology and treated as a wacky cult created by a foreign missionary to make himself rich and to spread his weird philosophy through military force. Whenever they manage to convert others, it's generally played for laughs. However, given the care and detail the series gives to history in general (i.e. none), it ends up fitting right in.
- The Ormus Church of Xenosaga is essentially the Catholic Chruch IN SPACE!. It is headed by an individual known as the Pope (Bowdlerised into the "Patriarch"note in the English edition), is comprised of cardinals, and its military wing is called the "Inquisition". Even the two Popes/Patriarchs seen in the series have Catholic papal names implying a continuity with the historical line of popes: Julius XIV and Sergius XVII.
- Bloodborne is a particularly subtle example: the game makes heavy use of gothic architecture and quasi-catholic trappings, and features priests and nuns (though they aren't called that.) The Jigsaw Puzzle Plot obscures the clues that the religion of the Healing Church is closer to Shinto than Catholic; it has no clear leader, no specific deities are worshipped, with churches serving as stand-ins for Kami shrines, and a huge emphasis is placed on blood, water, and the purity of both, with the beast scourge a metaphor for spiritual uncleanliness. The clergy are also armed to the teeth or have turned/are turning into monsters left and right.
- In Hatoful Boyfriend, Higure Anghel is Catholic and can send the player character a crucifix at Christmas. He believes he's the reincarnation of a Fallen Angel, still fighting evil despite his sin. At one point he goes to some kind of non-Catholic shrine and freaks out either because he can't choose what charm to buy, or because he believes some sold-out arrow charms are holy weapons he needs to claim. Reincarnation isn't a thing in Catholisism, but it is actually part of this universe's afterlife.
- In the Nasu Verse, the Roman Catholic Church wields powerful magecraft on par with the Mage's Association... though it's really only effective if you believe in the faith. Not only that, there are some members of the church who engage in rather questionable behavior, like an Executor having a fetish for anal sex or a priest who attempts to summon all the evils in the world for his own amusement. There's also apparently no rule against priests marrying or having children.
- Both examples cited follow the Eighth Sacrament, which permits those so consecrated to stray away from the rules of their religion as long as one thing, the name of the Almighty, is protected. Everyone else follows the regular laws.
- Then we have the Tohsaka family: they are known to be Catholic since the first missionaries arrived to Japan and have stayed so during the Tokugawa persecutions, but the only hint they are Catholics is the trust they have in the aforementioned Executor and his father (also priest and retired Executor) and Rin wearing a cross in her usual outfit.
- It should be noted that Ciel may be a member but she made it very clear that she is not a believer; the Church recruited her based off of her usefulness.
- Princess Evangile averts this trope, surprisingly. It depicts Catholicism in a realistic and positive way despite also being an H-Game that uses Catholic Schoolgirls Rule.