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Corrupt Church

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"That guy probably deserved it. Pay no heed, ye faithful."

"Being in the Church is like driving a bicycle. Upward, you bow, but downward, you tread."
Old German saying

Not even the most religious of places are safe from evil. In fact, the Corrupt Church is often portrayed as much worse than a simple Supervillain Lair or secular Legion of Doom, because when even holy priests and ministers turn to the dark side, they can psychologically manipulate the masses with mere superstition, so what hope is there for society? Tends to be highly influential over political leaders to stress the church's power over everyone.

Major villains from the Corrupt Church can include Sinister Ministers, heresy-crushing Inquisitors, and other typical ambitious villains using a convenient power structure for their own ends. The Creepy Cathedral tends to be their base of operations. If a work is set in the modern day, then the leader of the Corrupt Church will often be a televangelist, in which case the "straw Christian conservative" aspects will be exaggerated. The Strawman Conservative may be a member, or even a leader, in one of these.

If the Corrupt Church is used for satire, the Crystal Dragon Jesus might appear. It may turn out that the god of the church does not approve of their corruption, or it may turn out that God Is Evil and is behind the corruption in the first place. If not God, then expect a Demiurge Archetype to be controlling one of these.

Distinct from the Path of Inspiration and Scam Religion because the Corrupt Church actually started out as a legitimate religion but has Gone Horribly Wrong. Unlike the Religion of Evil, an openly evil religion, the teachings may still be sound, and there may be good-hearted people in it yet — usually laity or low-ranking clergy, even a Good Shepherd — though neither of these can be counted on.

Sub-Trope of The Church. Super-Trope of Greedy Televangelist. Compare with the Cult. Contrast with the Saintly Church. Can potentially overlap with Church Militant, if the church is both evil and badass.

Whilst, there have been (many) corrupt clerics and callous doctrines throughout history, No Real Life Examples, Please! Every religion (or lack thereof) will have both defenders and detractors somewhere out there, and remember: somewhere, your local deity is Face Palming.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Wall Cult from Attack on Titan. They began as an oft-ignored group of zealots that worshiped the Walls as a divine gift but rapidly gained influence and authority after the loss of Wall Maria. They oppose any and all efforts to strengthen the defenses of the remaining Walls and advocate for the execution of Eren. Turns out these efforts are to prevent anyone from learning the truth about the Walls, including that they contain dormant Colossal Titans. All of this is to keep the people trapped inside the Walls from escaping from the frying pan only to spread the fire — the Kingdom of Marley is a fascist country that wants everyone related to the Titans dead or enslaved as cannon fodder. That said, the church leader is also a ruthless jerkass who would rather let everyone behind the second wall die than face Marley.
  • The Religious Order of the Holy See of Berserk are as corrupt and tyrannical as you can expect a religious group with a good amount of power in the Crapsack World of the series to get, made worse by clues that they're actually worshipping the Godhand, the Big Bads of the setting, rather than the Four Elemental Kings. The main activity of its adherents seems to be stamping out "heresy" however they can, with Mozgus being the absolute worst in this regard.
  • The Ripoff Church in Black Lagoon; it's unlikely their smuggling, their gunplay, their money-grubbing, or their hiring of foul-mouthed Hard-Drinking Party Girl Nuns with guns are endorsed by the Catholic church as a whole.
    • Not to mention that the whole thing is a cover for CIA Station Post.
  • The Vatican in D.Gray-Man. The entire upper hierarchy is apparently a bunch of blind-to-the-truth bastards... and are made of a couple akuma, as well. Not the exorcists. Just the Vatican.
    • It is unknown to what extent the Vatican is corrupt, but it is heavily implied that it extends to veeeery high level. And we have yet to see the pope...
  • Dokuro: The Nirvana Church of Creation, a seemingly benevolent religion that uses assassins like Takeo to do its dirty work, and whose founder is corrupt as all get-out, with what he did to Takeo's mother not even coming close to the true extent of his evil.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has the Church of Letoism led by Father Cornello, a priest using a Philosopher's Stone ring to perform "miracles" and fool the citizens of Lior into believing a fabricated religion so he can use them as soldiers to help him take over the country.
  • The Church of the Black Cross in Glass Fleet. The pope murdered the previous king and later stages a coup d'etat against the current emperor. Not to mention that the "black cross" it worships is actually a black hole that will eventually kill everyone if they don't move away from it.
  • The Catholic Church in Hellsing. After Millennium attacks London, they send their army of a couple thousand knights in helicopters to England. Will they aid in the purging of the undead? Well, yes, but they will also kill all English men, women, and children because they're all dirty heathens. This may seem like a "normal" act of zealotry that would not fall under this category, that and Maxwell was responsible for most of this, but even before that, they still have a secret special force of kamikaze priests with guns and swords led by Anderson, an Axe-Crazy Blood Knight priest that kills zombies, vampires, and heathens alike. And don't forget the aforementioned mechanized army.
    • In regards to the Protestant side, the Anglican Church certainly counts as well. Their primary fighting force, the Hellsing Organization, employs an Eldritch Abomination as their trump card and unleashes him upon any monster or human that they view as a sufficient threat to the general populace of England. Very effective, of course, but Alucard can be even more homicidal and bloodthirsty than Anderson when Integra isn't exerting full control over him.
  • In the horror Manga series Kichikujima a corrupt sect of the Vaitican was led by Archbishop Maximillion who had sent Mariko Glaccias into finding the Magic stones but she instead fall in love with Yoshikazu and had family with him.

  • Hieronymus Bosch: In The Haywain everyone tries to get hay from a huge haywain, except for a fat priest to whom a group of nuns is actually bringing the stuff while he is just sitting in his chair lifting his glass. In The Garden of Earthy Delights, the Hell painting shows a pig with a nun's headdress.
  • Francisco de Goya satirised the Spanish Inquisition in his work The Inquisition Tribunal, which shows people under trial. In Witches Sabbath, he shows Satan in the form of a goat presiding in silhouette and moonlight over a coven of disfigured, ugly, and terrified witches.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman comics introduced us to the Order of St. Dumas, a heretical Catholic sect started during the Crusades by the murderous Swiss knight Chartrien Dumas. Dumas went so far as to have his men slaughter emissaries from the Vatican without provocation and declare himself Pope. He also began a tradition of "holy" vigilantism, wherein the title of "Azrael" (a sword-wielding "angel") would assassinate "sinners," often simply as a pretext for seizing their wealth from them. (For centuries, the Order of St. Dumas was — secretly — the single wealthiest organization on Earth.) Fathers prepared their sons to succeed them as the avenging angel, subjecting them to grueling physical training and weird, mind-warping rituals. The heir to this violent tradition, Jean-Paul Valley, moved to Gotham City to attend college and quickly became Bruce Wayne's apprentice. Things went downhill from there...
  • The Elseworld tale Batman: Holy Terror depicts an alternate reality when Oliver Cromwell lived another ten years and turned the Church of England into a brutal theocracy, which arranged for the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne simply because Thomas Wayne treated 'undesirables' such as Jews and homosexuals, as well as conducting twisted experiments on metahumans like Barry Allen to try harnessing their powers for the use of the state.
  • In the comic book The Darkness, there's organization that formally employed The Magdalena, which is heavily implied to be descended from the Inquisition.
  • The Church of the Instrumentality in Marvel's Dreadstar comics, an interplanetary theocracy headed by a cross of Emperor Palpatine and Mongul called Lord Papal.
  • With a more sinister intent, Jack Chick devoted his life to producing hair-raising comic tracts to push his view of Christianity. This was somewhere on the furthest paranoid extreme of American religion, where anything that did not think or act or believe in the same way Chick did represent a Satanic plot to drag people into Hell, even and especially other forms of Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church was one of his monsters — institutional, corrupt, evil, and thoroughly contaminated by Satan.
  • Monstress has the Cumaea. Originally just an insignificant religious organization that worshipped the psychic scientist, Marium, who discovered Lilium and developed the applications for it, they've since grown to become a fundamentalist cult that all but controls the Federation of Man by force. Professor Tam Tam claims that, if she were alive today, the science-oriented Marium would scoff at the Cumaea. And then there's the fact that the Cumaea's leadership are all possessed by Old Gods seeking to free their imprisoned kin.
  • A Running Gag in Mortadelo y Filemón is showing priests heavily sinning (the usual is them eating large banquets) while telling others not to sin (giving a beggar a small coin while telling him that gluttony is a sin).
  • The second volume of Mystery in Space published by DC Comics introduced the Eternal Light Corporation to serve as the token Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy group targeting the book's hero Captain Comet. This group is somewhat unique among the usual corrupt churches of comics, as it is essentially a fusion of a Corrupt Church and an Evil, Inc. corporation.
  • The National Lampoon did the "Son O'God" comic books (drawn by Neal Adams) depicting Jesus as a superhero from a fundamentalist Protestant POV — the archvillain ran the Catholic church, depicted as could be expected.
  • The Grail in Preacher, also doubles as an N.G.O. Superpower.
  • Raptors: According to the Don Miguel, the Church used to hunt vampires but by the time they made their plan to integrate with society, they already have several of their numbers in their ranks. True to that, some bishops and inquisitors are assembled in his council.
  • The Catholic Church in Rex Mundi.
  • The Catholic Church in The Scorpion.
  • Many Sin City churches seem to answer to Cardinal Roark, a member of a psychotic crime family. We do get to see at least one nun who is a decent person so it apparently doesn't extend to all parishes.
  • Urbanus: The local priest is a buffoon who is often drunk from drinking his own sacramental wine and enjoys visiting the local whorehouse on the sly.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The church of the Sangtee Empire manipulated the populace in order to strengthen their role in the empire and promoted an idea that women are revolting and natural reproduction should be replaced by cloning.
  • A recurring X-Men villainous organization are the Purifiers, a Corrupt Church founded on Fantastic Racism; the group literally believes mutants are the minions of Satan sent to conquer the Earth in his name, so they brutally seek out and murder any mutant or mutant sympathizer they can.
    • The Church of Humanity, an offshoot of the notorious anti-mutant hate group Friends of Humanity, also qualifies. This group is itself particularly infamous for a certain Chuck Austen story that focused on them attempting to install Nightcrawler as an Antichrist figure (the notorious exploding communion wafers X-meme comes from this story).
    • On the other side of the human/mutant coin are the Acolytes of Magneto, a supervillain group unique for their stance of exalting and worshiping Magneto as a mutant messiah.

    Fan Works 
  • The Holy Church in Breaking Providence originally started as an information network to help the Destined Hero find and slay the Dark Lord every generationnote , but by the start of the story, had grown in power to equal the royal family and nobility combined. The actual level of corruption for individuals varies from genuinely pious paladins and priestesses whose worst flaw is being covert perverts, to bishops who act more like politicians and only care for personal power, to paladin commanders that try to take entire convents as sex slaves. Even the Pope, who is herself a mostly righteous figure, is a Psycho Supporter of the hero who eventually decides to take over the empire entirely for the hero's benefit. The church as a whole also supports Fantastic Racism, enslaves anyone with an "evil" Job, continues the Destined Hero vs Dark Lord doctrine centuries after it stopped being valid, and in times of hardship, fills it's coffers by letting nobles pay to rape criminals to deathnote .
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, a religion forms around worshipping the Flood. This is just as bad as it sounds.
  • W.I.T.C.H. fanfic Ripples has the Sisterhood Covens, Meridian's official religious body. Nearly all the clergy we meet are either politically corrupt, religious fanatics, or both. Word of God comments that there are genuinely pious members of the Sisterhood, citing for example the Abbess who is killed for refusing to aid Allora's plot against Weira, but also that, as is also too common in real life, these people are overshadowed and pushed out of power by the corrupt and zealous.
  • The Church of Thorns in the RWBY Subreddit fanfic The Great Meta Fic. Based on the RWBY character ship White Rose.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Being set in the 1040s, the Christian Church is accurately portrayed as horribly corrupt. The Catholic branch is firmly under the control of a series of noble Italian families at this stage in history, with the current Pope, Benedict IX, being the singular most corrupt pope in all of history, and the Orthodox branch being effectively part of the Byzantine Government.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • One of the very first examples in cinema was presented in the Communist propaganda movie, Alexander Nevsky. The hideously withered archbishop and the black monk Grigory wish to subject the Russian people to The Pope and the religious Order of the Teutonic Knights goes as far as throwing babies into a bonfire.
  • Ana: Ana hooks up with a corrupt minister named Helen, conning her parishioners through fake miracle cures of her supposedly paralyzed legs.
  • The Neolite sect in Babylon A.D., a combination of New Age cult and high-tech corporate money-making machine. One character says (moments before he's shot by its High Priestess): "Your church is a lie! You're peddling miracles for your own profit!".
    • Their ultimate goal? To have a big enough miracle (powered by science, of course) to get classified as a religion, thus granting them a tax-free status.
  • The Balcony: The person who pretends to be a priest is actually a gas station attendant but seems to aspire to be a part of this.
  • Blood of the Tribades: The religion of Bathor has become a homophobic, patriarchal sect which condemns lesbian vampires and the priesthood has been fatally purging people who they blame for a disease afflicting them. Many of the females have been banished already, with all other male vampires it's stated they killed.
  • The entire point of Clergy was to present all the excesses and moral double standards of the Catholic Church in Poland. The priests from it are at best hard drinking and breaking their celibacy vows with their housekeepers. At best. The institution as a whole is portrayed as a self-serving political machine to generate splendor and money for the handful of the top hierarchs.
  • The second half of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Acid Western El Topo features a corrupt church with an Illuminati-style All-Seeing-Eye emblem, sacramental Russian Roulette, and respectively subjugated and hyper-indulged slave and ruling castes.
  • A major plot point of The Godfather Part III is that the Vatican Bank turns to Michael Corleone to bail them out of their deficit in exchange for business legitimacy. Michael also effectively buys a Church knighthood for $100,000,000.
  • Gold Through the Fire: American Christianity gets portrayed this way. Christians are more interested in money and social conformity than religion. This dismays Peter, a Russian Christian refugee who's actually suffered for his Christian faith.
  • The Great Warrior Skanderbeg is a similar example to Alexander Nevsky due to being a Soviet-Albanian production and as such, any religious authority or figure represented in the movie is invariably corrupt. For example, the Venetian priest is portrayed as The Quisling to the Ottoman Empire, conspiring alongside his masters to sabotage the Albanians.
  • The Holy Office: According to Luis, the Inquisition only persecutes Jews to take their properties.
  • Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., a mockumentary about a Black Southern megachurch pastor whose ministry was destroyed after he was caught cheating on his wife, with the two of them trying to rebuild both their congregation and their marriage.
  • John Wick: The Little Russia church that John storms in the middle of the movie serves as Big Bad Viggo's front with his hidden cache of money and blackmail material.
  • Taken to an almost absurd degree by King Arthur (2004), going so far as to invent a martyrdom for the historical heretic Pelagius and portray Saint Germanus of Auxerre (who died two decades before the film is set) as a backstabbing tyrant.
    • Not quite as absurd as you might think, in the case of Germanus. While the example of Pelagius is a total slap in the face to history, men in Germanus' position — Roman Catholic Bishops of the time the film is set in — weren't above engaging in (by our modern standards) ruthless moves and chess-playing with the lives of men both powerful and influential (and thereby the lives of everyone beneath them or influenced by them) in their flock to ensure the church in the area they were Bishop of remained the sole ultimate authority. Granted, they were much more discreet and subtle in their machinations than Germanus ever was in the film, but much like the Pope of the time, the Bishops were equally ruthless political power players. No act is too ill when you do it in the name of God, after all.
  • Kingdom of Heaven: Nearly every member of the Catholic hierarchy is portrayed as a villain, especially in the theatrical version. However, the director's cut features a fairly sympathetic bishop who stated that "Much is done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable," and reveals that the actions of the priest in France were all against explicit orders.
  • The Orthodox Church is probably depicted as such in Leviathan (2014).
  • The Little Hours: Aside from Bishop Bartolomeo, all of the clergy portrayed are breaking their vows by having sex quite frequently.
  • Luther (2003) — It is a movie about the life of Martin Luther and why he initiated the Reformation. It reveals the extent of the corruption in the Catholic Church in 15th Century Europe (see Literature examples below) in very clear, explanatory detail.
  • The asylum in which young women were imprisoned and abused by nuns and a corrupt priest in The Magdalene Sisters, which served in the film as a microcosm for the hold the Irish Catholic church had on society in Ireland before the 1970s.
  • Marjoe showed us how the trope of a corrupt, cynical evangelist who is in it for the money is Truth in Television.
  • The Temple of Happiness in The Miracle Woman is the greediest, and seediest church, using ignorance and blind faith to create followers.
  • Subverted in The Night of the Hunter: Mr. Powell is not even a real preacher, but dresses and acts like one to gain his victims' trust.
  • Night Train to Lisbon: Amadeu denounces the Catholic Church in Portugal for supporting the Salazar regime.
  • Perfect Creature: The Brotherhood is a church run by vampires though they appear benevolent at first, they have shades of this trope since they teach vampires are superior to humans and banned any scientific progress to keep humanity dependent on their church or finding a way to get rid of them. Turns out they are responsible for the events of the movie, since they are secretly performing scientific experiments to produce more of their kind (since they can't propagate by biting humans and no new Brothers were born in decades) with the Big Bad being a vampire scientist that went mad after being infected with a virus and going a rampage.
  • For a milder version, Polly Harrington practically runs the church in the Disney version of Pollyanna. She meets with Reverend Ford to plan out his sermons, and he always declines to take sides against her, even when he disagrees with her. Eventually, though, the whole town, including Reverend Ford learns to stand up to her, and she makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves The Bishop of Hereford works with the Sheriff of Nottingham to accuse innocent people of witchcraft and devil-worship so he can take a share in the riches seized from them. Friar Tuck eventually deals with him by handing him the bags of coin and shoving him out a window.
  • Salvation Boulevard: Debatable. Pastor Dan does a lot of shady things in the course of the movie, and some of his followers are willing to take even more extreme actions, but he seems sincere in his beliefs, justifying his shady actions in that it advances the cause of the church, and will save more souls.
  • Silent Night (2012): Reverend Madeley skims from the collection plate and hits on young female parishioners, and wonders why nobody is showing up to church anymore.
  • Time Changer: The modern-day church that Russell Carlisle, a 19th-century liberal theologian, attends during his trip to the future, according to his view of Christian morality from his time period, as it has become more of a social club that is less concerned about having its members be exhorted to live holy and righteous lives before God.
  • Virgin Territory: Not less than Boccaccio's work, most clergy in the film appear pretty indifferent to their whole vocation, happily breaking the vows they took by having sex.
  • John Henry Butler in We Summon the Darkness is a stereotypical '80s televangelist who's pocketing money from his parishioners in order to build more mansions for himself. He's also staging a "Satanic" murder spree in order to spur on a religious revival by making his fear-mongering about Satanic cults lurking everywhere seem genuine, thus scaring people back into the church.
  • Lord Summerisle and the neopagan islanders from The Wicker Man (1973).

  • Alien by Igor' Dravin (Чужак, Игорь Дравин): while those monasteries close to the setting's Hell Gate see the signs and know very well where their duties and loyalties belong, other branches and orders within the local Crystal Dragon Jesus church are still fighting for power and influence.
  • Subverted in The Arts of Dark and Light. Much like the real-life medieval Roman Catholic Church, The Church in Amorr is heavily involved in worldly politics, and so draws in its share of opportunists, power mongers, and generally corrupt clergymen—and this has realistic effects both on how it works internally and how it is perceived by outsiders. However, there are also many honest priests who are sincerely devoted to their religion, and do their best to limit the sway of the hypocrites, the serving Pope being notable among them. On the whole, the Church is deeply flawed, but still ultimately presented as a net force for good in the world of Selenoth. One of its most spectacular triumphs in this regard is to help avert the brewing war between Amorr and the elven kingdoms.
  • The Church in the Bardic Voices series by Mercedes Lackey. While there are individual priests/monks/nuns that are truly good people (like High Bishop Ardis of Kingsford), there are many more that are corrupt and venial and gain positions of power to further their own shady agendas (like High Bishop Padrik of Gradford).
  • In the novel Beyond, the church changes its doctrine to fit its political doctrine.
  • The Bible:
    • Earlier than The Four Gospels, in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the ancient Judaic religious system was so corrupt, with prophets prophesying lies, the priests bearing rule by their own power, the people breaking all the commandments except for the Sabbath day commandment of worship (turning God's house into "a den of thieves"), and idol worship happening even in God's holy Temple, that the glory of God decided to vacate the premises with Ezekiel watching, setting up the situation where the Babylonians sack Jerusalem and destroy the Temple.
    • Made famous is how the The Four Gospels depict the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other schools that Jesus criticized. The Pharisees especially are depicted as legalist hypocrites who impose unnecessary restrictions.
      • In an incident in the Gospels, Jesus spent a lot of his time castigating the religious authorities of the day for various offenses — most commonly for using their strict adherence to comparatively minor religious laws as an excuse to consider themselves Holier Than Thou, while neglecting things like ministering to the poor. One of the few times Jesus actually straight-up loses his temper was upon seeing that merchants and moneychangers had turned the outer courtyard of the temple into a marketplace, where they charged ridiculous prices for doves (for the people who were unable to bring their own sacrifices). Jesus promptly chased them out with a whip.
    • Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul spends a lot of time arguing with specific Christian churches who fell to similar heresies - Galatia and Colossae were infiltrated by legalists, Corinth was overtaken by libertines, Thessalonica was troubled with doomsday cults, etc.
  • French science-fiction writer Pierre Bordage is fond of this trope, which he included in many of his works. Often, the protagonists even discover elements proving that the founders of the church were truly inspired people and that the organization they founded simply went horribly wrong, sometimes out of sheer fanaticism.
  • Burden of the Emperor series by Iar Elterrus (Бремя Императора, Иар Эльтеррус): the most successful conspiracy against the Empire heavily involved the church, including the death of the Emperor. An old document testifying to the peaceful demise of an imperial dignitary in a monastery several centuries ago leads to a massive revision of the church history. The church was actually slowly, carefully, and deliberately pushed from Saintly Church into this trope with a good helping of Absolute Xenophobe on the side.
  • Evangelical Christianity in America is this in Christian Nation as they slowly take control of the government, going so far as to abolish the separation of church and state and declaring a "holy war" on the last holdouts of American democracy and freedom, eventually calling themselves Church Of God in America. They also use surveillance technology such as the Purity Web to keep tabs on the populace in the hopes of keeping them under their control.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton, one arose, once, while Menelaus slept in cold sleep.
  • Barbara Hambly, in the Darwath trilogy and The Windrose Chronicles, provides particularly egregious cases. In both, the generic "The Church" has no discernible reason for existing other than to make Our Heroes miserable, as it has no connection with the real life of the rest of the population, and no visible theology other than "wizards are evil".
  • The Trinitian Church in Daybreak on Hyperion is pretty complicit in helping to undermine kingdoms that share the same faith to bolster the ambitions of the Imperium.
  • A few decades later, Boccaccio's Decameron presents numerous examples of the corruption of the Catholic Church and its churchmen, starting with the second story of the first day. In that one, an honorable and upstanding Parisian Jewish merchant named Abraham is constantly beseeched by his Christian friend and fellow businessman Jehannot de Chevigny to convert to Christianity; to decide whether he should do so, Abraham goes to Rome in order to observe the Church hierarchy — which causes Jehannot to go Oh, Crap!, as although he's portrayed as kind of an idiot, he knows full well how corrupt the Church of his time is. However, upon returning to Paris from Rome, having observed the terrible habits of the Pope and his court, Abraham declares he will become a Christian reasoning that if the Catholic Church can withstand all this corruption at the top and still boast millions of pious followers, it must be the true religion, or at least have something supernatural going for it.
  • The Church of Ente Isla in The Devil is a Part-Timer! turns out to be one. Their plan was to raise Emilia as a Tyke-Bomb and secretly sabotage the war effort so that the fate of the world fell on the shoulders of their chosen "Hero". Then after Emilia defeats Satan, the Church quietly gets rid of her (by faking a Heroic Sacrifice) so that they can take the credit and political influence. They even used Inquisitors to act as their own personal secret police and eliminate anyone who stood in their way. Though High Priest Olba is the chief architect of this, the other higher-ups aren't much better.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Small Gods revolves around the Church of Om, which has become so dogmatic that only one person in the entire religion, a simple-minded acolyte named Brutha, still has actual faith in the god Om himself. Everyone else worships not the god, but the bureaucracy of the church (and does so out of fear)note . Since gods on the Discworld are sustained by belief, this has very negative consequences for Om himself.
  • Dante's The Divine Comedy depicts a number of corrupt churchmen from Dante's time in Hell (including several popes), and one in Purgatory. Overall, Dante presents an extremely unflattering opinion of the 14th-century Catholic Church... which was, by all accounts, very accurate.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, the Hetawa has been controlling Gujaareh by turning the elite into magical drug addicts.
  • The religion founded by Paul Atreides in Dune Messiah. Even its objects of worship (Paul, Alia, Leto II, and Ghanima) thought it was corrupt.
    • Paul also admits to being forced to destroy and sterilize a number of resisting planets because it was necessary to avoid antagonizing his followers.
  • The Elenium: Downplayed with the Elene Church, which made a marked (albeit not entirely successful) attempt to put itself on the level after its corruption incited several schisms. Although one of the major villains is a Sinister Minister who fell in with a debauched Elder God of Evil and who comes close to becoming leader of the Church, most of the Church is more honest and the Good Shepherd Dolmant ultimately leads it to reclaim its good name.
  • Elmer Gantry: While there are honest clergy in the book, Gantry himself is portrayed as basically a Con Man who's in love with the sound of his own voice and is in the religious life for money and women.
  • The Church of Pardal in part three of David Weber's Empire from the Ashes trilogy exists for the sole purpose of keeping technology at a pre-industrial level. It was originally created to enforce a quarantine against the spread of a really nasty bioweapon virus, but it has lasted and dominated the planet of Pardal for at least 9,000 years.
  • The Church within The Executioner and Her Way of Life is a world organization with the goal of killing Strays, people summoned from another world after four of them caused irreparable destruction to their world. It turns out that one of said Strays was really the one responsible for eliminating the others, which the Church covered up and took the credit. Even more, at least one of them is seeking to exploit the power of the Strays for personal gain.
  • Part of an Ol-Zhaan's duties in Kindar society is the role of priest, worshiping and cultivating the sacred Wissenberry vine, keeping the Perfect Pacifist People from learning too much about things like hatred and anger, and making damn sure the dissidents and their progeny are kept sealed below the ground to starve...
  • Sylvia Pittston, the preacher at the local church, gets the people of Tull to turn berserk and go after Roland in Stephen King's The Gunslinger. This is foreshadowed by Alice who says her religion is poison.
  • Cosmic Unity in the science fiction novel Heaven by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. Starting with the idea that inter-planetary war would be so destructive everyone must join together to form a, well, cosmic unity, it has become a fundamentalist group bent on assimilating everyone, preaching tolerance to all differences as long as everyone consents to become exactly the same under the church. They combine a genuinely Orwellian attitude with some subvertingly literalistic applications of the original compassionate doctrines of their founders.
  • The Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale is a Christian fundamentalist theocracy that came into existence after the US government was replaced by a group of religious fanatics. While on the surface the leaders propagate piety and "traditional values" (such as the brutal oppression of women and the demonization of sex), in reality they rely heavily on the presence of the black market and enjoy participating in forbidden activities such as lesbian orgies.
  • Karse in the Heralds of Valdemar series is a theocracy. At first everything was fine, but then it became corrupt and stayed that way for close to a millennium until Vkandis Sunlord decided to make his displeasure known, and a Bolt of Divine Retribution later, rearranged the Church.
  • Several examples in Marcus Pitcaithly's ''Hereward'' trilogy: Prior Herluin, Abbot Thorold, and Bishop Odo, among the most notable. (The Saintly Church has its representatives too, but not so many.)
  • The institution of the Magisterium in His Dark Materials. Distinct from the "thinly-veiled Catholic churches" of fantasy because it's not veiled at all; it is simply the Catholic Church in another dimension. It is one where John Calvin ruled as Pope from Geneva... The last one, because they dissolved the position following his death, opting for a more decentralized structure. Doesn't help that they're not actually worshiping the Creator of the Universe, just the First Angel, whose spiritual successor, Metatron, was really, really hoping to lead a multiverse-wide Super Inquisition under the guise of each universe's Magisterium/Church equivalent.
    • It's worth noting that although it's the antagonistic force in the first novel, the Magisterium isn't inherently evil — just misguided. The General Oblation Board, one faction of the organization mostly dealt with in the novel, however, is close to Always Chaotic Evil.
    • Curiously, in the film version of The Golden Compass, it is by no means clear that the Magisterium is a church (or how the "dust theory" is incompatible with its doctrines). Nobody involved in it seems to do any preaching, praying, or worshiping. It seems to be simply a heavy authoritarian government. Studios demanded it. However, the robes are a giveaway, there's religious imagery on the door Iorek smashes through. Its members wear priestly uniforms and speak of "heresy". It might be more sinister by not explaining why it's incompatible.
  • The US President keeps a preacher on the cabinet in Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land, and follows his policy recommendations. There being pagan aliens in Kennewick, Washington, to kill, the reverend doesn't see the problem with 100:1 casualty ratios, so long as the American Christians outnumber the pagan aliens 300:1.
    • "Jesus is love." Singularity annihilates seven inhabited planets.
  • The Initiate Brother has two, with both the two main monastic orders falling short of what they should be. The Brothers are often more interested in protecting their order's political power and influence than in doing good, positioning "spiritual advisors" (i.e. manipulators and spies) with as many rulers as possible. The Sisters don't have similar power but are riven by infighting, factionalism, and personal ambition. Part of the protagonist's future job will involve spreading a more genuine version of the religion — aided by the original scrolls of Botahara, which non-corrupt Brothers have been gradually smuggling away from Jinjoh Monastery for that purpose.
  • "El Inquisidor De Mexico": Duarte says nobody can live safe in a country where the Church overwhelms consciences and funds itself with the treasure of those it calls its enemies.
    • Subverted by the epilogue showing Rome urging Sara to be freed and converted, whereas Madrid urges her to be burnt at the stake. The shift of blame from the Catholic Church to the Spanish government was probably more relevant in newly-independent 1830s Mexico than it was in The Cavalier Years New Spain.
  • Valentin Ivashchenko likes this trope, as the depiction of the local Crystal Dragon Jesus church including an Absolute Xenophobe clergy practicing Fantastic Racism towards other sentients and The Inquisition inside the church varies very little between settings. The most sympathetic description includes an inner conflict in the church.
  • In The Katurran Odyssey the island of Kattakuk's lemurs are run by a theocracy, with their aye-aye priests claiming to stand in for the Fossah and demanding what little offerings of food can be made during a famine, under the threat of divine punishment. They eat them themselves, of course. Uncovering their deceit is what kicks the plot, with the Fossha's Chosen One being banished for finding the truth.
  • Kronk has the government church, Romaprot, which offers a wide variety of religious traditions, all of which require confession to the "God Machines" which pass on all information to the government.
  • In The Laundry Files novels, religious people trying to contact God have been known to contact ... a different God entirely, and this trope happens when they willfully fail to notice the difference. The Apocalypse Codex, in addition to the televangelist cult that forms the Big Bad of the novel which thinks mind-control parasites count as "conversion" and is trying to wake the Sleeper in the Pyramid in the belief he's Jesus, mentions of a Calvanist sect in the Scottish islands that believed "Elect of God" was synonymous with Deep Ones.
  • Lazarillo De Tormes: The entire work seems to be a critique against the Spanish Church's hypocrisy at the time, with two of Lazaro's masters (the Cleric and Papal Bull Vendor) being corrupt clergymen. Many scholars have suggested that this is why the book was published anonymously, with the writer (correctly) expecting the Inquisition to come out against it.
  • Enigma Babylon One World Faith in the Left Behind books is this, composed primarily of the Roman Catholic Church combined with various sects of Christianity that does not adhere to fundamentalist theology along with other religions believing that their doctrines can be found somehow compatible with each other. It is considered the Book of Revelation's "the Whore of Babylon" personified and was dissolved with the death of its leader Pontifex Maximus Peter Mathews at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
  • In Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God trilogy, the Redeemers are a cruel, corrupt religious order. They take the evils of the historical Catholic Church to the extreme and show no positive traits as a group aside from some traces of their "Messiah" (not very subtly, The Hanged Redeemer) actually having taught something quite different. The Antagonists, corresponding to the Protestants, are a splinter sect at war with them but might well be as bad; not much detail is revealed about them as of the second book.
  • H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvanof Otherwhen has the church of Styphon, which controls the manufacture and distribution of gunpowder. The head priest focuses on the political nature of the church and privately muses that he doesn't believe in any of the rituals or tenets of the church, because if he did he wouldn't be head priest.
  • The Rus church in the first novel of William R. Forstchen's The Lost Regiment series appears to be a mix of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Old Slavic pagan beliefs. The priesthood, especially the head of the church Rasnar, schemes of restoring his church to the power it once held over both the boyars and the Rus people. He convinces Boyar Ivor's bastard brother Mikhail to try to kill his brother and take control over the city-state of Suzdal. The attempt fails thanks to the 35th Maine, but Kasmar's fellow priests in neighboring city-states stage an attack and capture two Yankee soldiers. They are then tortured by a priest for information on the use of muskets, with the priest shooting one of them in the head just to test the weapon. By the end of the novel, Rasnar and many of his priests are either dead or stripped of their position. Instead, Rasnar's Number Two Kasmar, who has always believed that the church should serve the people not the other way around, becomes the head of the church and frequently puts on the black robes of a simple priest, only donning the gold robes of his position for grand announcements.
  • Post-Apocalypse novel Malevil has the Parish of La Roque. It's really little more than a four-man oligarchy operating under the leadership of a fake priest. They tricked the townspeople into giving the priest control over the supplies, then became abusive and cruel under the guise of the "parish council".
  • The Church of the Light Spirit in Maoyu is deliberately perpetuating the war in order to retain authority and undermine the southern kingdoms that are more difficult to control.
  • The Christian Church in The Mists of Avalon is depicted as misogynistic, authoritarian, close-minded, and just generally nasty. Of course, the pagan religious leaders, especially Viviane, are often antagonistic and overzealous to the point of cruelty, but Christianity is definitely given the harsher treatment.
  • The medieval Catholic Church, as portrayed in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Eco, an accomplished medievalist, delivers a decidedly unflattering image of an eminent abbey that has become a festering nest of petty politicking, depravity, cloak-and-dagger subterfuge, and outright religious lunacy. Just about the only clergyman treated somewhat favorably in the entire novel is Brother William — and he's a closet heretic.
    • Keep in mind that, in the time period that The Name of the Rose is set in, the Papacy and the monasteries were engaged in a civil war which only ended because of shady power-brokering. And Adso, Severinus, and (to a degree) Salvatore are all treated favourably... but Salvatore's another heretic. And a Psychopathic Manchild.
    • Ubertino da Casale and Michele da Cesena (both historical figures) also get a positive portrayal.
    • Bernard Gui is also real, and the scene where he breaks Remigio is lifted almost verbatim from his actual Inquisitor's Manual (where it is given to illustrate interrogation dodges used by the Waldense.)
  • Zig-zagged in No Good Deed... Farther Garnerius, the Abbot of Friuli Abbey, has been playing politics behind the scenes to increase his influence against the Prince-Bishop of Bremen. However, Father Ehrhart of Alsfeld Monastery expresses his disdain for members of the clergy who abuse their positions.
  • Release That Witch: The Church's public side consists of witch hunts and heresy trials, all of which are brutal and merciless towards women and the poor. The majority of the church are guilty of using witches as human resources to create chemical toxins, which are then fed to their believers to turn them into mindless violent supersoldiers (the more successful of which display no trace of their identity whatsoever), and plotting to usurp all four human kingdoms. And that's not even getting into what the higher echelons do: rape and torture witches from birth into becoming Ax-Crazy suicide soldiers exempt from human laws to terrorize the public, mass-poison multiple cities to indoctrinate the survivors, and they've kept the threat of the apocalypse under wraps under the deluded belief that they can handle a demon invasion all by themselves. And the original message of the church — worshipping the witches — has been utterly destroyed by centuries of re-edits and spiteful ambition.
  • The Reluctant King: Tarxia is ruled by its clergy, many of whom have grown very corrupt over the centuries since their theocracy began. Gambling and whoring are now common among them, despite this violating the laws.
  • Older Than Print: Reynard the Fox:
    • In Ysengrimus Ysengrim the wolf is a greedy and easily led astray priest. He tells people: "Commit whatever sins you please: you will be absolved if you can pay." Near the end of the story, his skin is stripped off and thrown to a pig.
    • In the Dutch/Flemish version, Van den Vos Reynaerde the local Catholic priest is married. One of his testicles is later bitten off by Tybald the cat. His wife is highly disappointed by this and cries that she will have to miss their sweet game from now on. Reynart just jokes that the one remaining will be sufficient to keep on doing on it.
  • The Rifter: The Payshmura both perverted religion and committed crimes against nature by tearing spacetime to use the Grey Space, killing the Rifter, creating issusha’im, and so on and exacted tithes that starved the population, imposed brutal laws, and supported social inequality. But their religion is represented as having a degree of truth to it, just greatly misused. There are also characters who provide examples of how it might go right, like Samsango, a simple man who lives in the spirit of the smiling, benign aspects of Parfir, or notably the unshakable faith of Ravishan/Kyle.
  • The Church of the Three Heroes in The Rising of the Shield Hero. The High Priest takes advantage of the crisis with the waves, as well as the King of Melromarc's personal beef with the Shield Hero to demonize him and have the populace treat him with scorn. Later, they use the incompetence of the Sword, Spear, and Bow Heroes as an excuse to kill them, and then overthrow the government to take control of the kingdom, which not only succeeds in uniting the Four Heroes against him but also is the only time that Naofumi and his archnemesis Malty join forces for a common goal, due to Malty, of all people, being horrified at the true extent of the High Priest's plan.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Rogues in the House," when the priest Nabonidus accuses Murilo, Murilo counter accuses:
    "I have no more cause for shame than you, you vulture-hearted plunderer,” answered Murilo promptly. “You exploit a whole kingdom for your personal greed; and, under the guise of disinterested statesmanship, you swindle the king, beggar the rich, oppress the poor, and sacrifice the whole future of the nation for your ruthless ambition. You are no more than a fat hog with his snout in the trough. You are a greater thief than I am. This Cimmerian is the most honest man of the three of us, because he steals and murders openly."
    "Well, then, we are all rogues together," agreed Nabonidus equably. "And what now? My life?"
  • The Church of Origin in Roll Over and Die. The rank and file are good and decent people genuinely trying to make the world a better place, but the upper echelons are corrupt as hell. Known to the general public, they have conspired with the nobility and royalty to outlaw any and all medical treatment that does not involve their own healing magic as "heretical," purely for the sake of maintaining a monopoly, dooming countless people to suffer and die under easily treatable ailments that their healers can't deal with because the effective medicine is outlawed. Clergy members who try to circumvent this and allow the herbal remedies to be used can find themselves illegally being dragged off to a Kangaroo Court to "be excommunicated." Flum and a young acolyte Sara find hard evidence that the church is involved in Godhood Seeker human experimentation and that the most heinous of the atrocities laid at the feet of the Demons were in fact false flag operations, purely to get convenient true believers and test subjects. Even the "god" they want to release is implied to be an Omnicidal Maniac that wants to wipe out all life.
  • Used Again by David Weber in his Safehold Series. The Church of God Awaiting started out as a Path of Inspiration, but it's metamorphosed into a Corrupt Church by the time the main story starts. Not only does the Church function as essentially an ego trip left over from the planet's original colonizers, but at the beginning of the first book they're flagrantly accepting bribes and actively searching for a reason to try and destroy a country that they think is getting too powerful, and at the end of the book they've essentially made the country all the more powerful not only due to driving nations away from their influence by forcing them to commit to a war that they didn't want, but said war also caused the death of the nation's king, uniting the people not only in grief but in sheer unbridled rage at them.
  • Brandon Sanderson:
    • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: The Obligators are an odd example. Though nominally a priesthood, they function more as bureaucrats and politicians, being much more interested in administering The Empire and playing political games with the nobility and each other than tending to people's spiritual needs. Turns out that their god couldn't be happier with them — he cares more about running an empire than about true faith, and designed his religion accordingly.
    • The Stormlight Archive: Played with.
      • Thousands of years ago, the Vorin church formed the Hierocracy, a theocracy ruled by the priests. They taught that religion was a mysterious, supernatural thing beyond the understanding of normal people and that everything should be left to the priests. They justified their rule with prophecies and mystical promises from the Almighty. They even tried to conquer the entire world for its own good. Eventually, an Alethi warlord later known as the Sunmaker raised an army against the church. When he interrogated the priests, he discovered that there were no prophecies; everything was a lie. Vorinism was shattered into the Devotiaries, small sects of priests dedicated to worshiping the Almighty in one specific way. The priests were replaced with the ardents, slaves who learn and teach religion but leave enforcement to the nobles. The ardents help people choose a Glory and a Calling and let them advance themselves in the Almighty's eyes on their own. Anything more is expressly forbidden.
      • One of the big flaws in the Devotiaries is that if the nobles decide to ignore religious rules, there is nothing his ardents can do about it. Highprince Sadeas, for example, uses slaves as cannon fodder, going through them at a horrific rate. This is against Vorin rules on treatment of slaves, but he's powerful enough that he can simply ignore the rules. Worse, his way is effective, and the other nobles start imitating him.
      • Despite the fact that using ardents for politics is forbidden, some nobles have started using them as catspaws in their games. Again, there is nothing the ardents can do about this.
      • Queen Aesudan is unintentionally at the center of one of the worst corruptions of modern Vorinism. She is in charge of Kholinar while her husband is off fighting for vengeance on the Shattered Plains. She is very worried about her place in the Almighty's plan and has many ardents to help her. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the ardents have discovered that all they need to do is lavish her with praise, and she will return the favor with expensive food, gifts, and other luxuries. A new ardent is horrified at both the material and spiritual cost and resolves to do something about it. This new ardent publicly denounces the queen's many failings, and the queen orders her executed. The next day, the city riots.
    • Elantris: It is well-known that the Wyrn (high priest) of the Shu-Dereth faith is more interested in using the church to grow his secular empire (the Wyrn is also the reigning Emperor of Fjordell), but the two Shu-Derethi encountered in the book both take their religion seriously, Hrathen is a true believer, Dilaf is frothing-at-the-mouth fanatic.
  • The church in Callisoria, a land in Maggie Furey's Shadowleague books, though it improves once disaster strikes and Gilarra replaces the old Hierarch.
  • Sharpe:
    • The series is loaded with corrupt churchmen. Usually crazy Roman Catholic fanatics who think the French armies who have invaded and despoiled their country are the lesser of two evils when set against their Protestant English allies.
    • In one of the Sharpe series, the problem is a bigoted and blinkered Protestant couple who are dead set on evangelising true religion (theirs) to the Satan-deluded Catholics in Portugal. Sharpe is tasked with escorting them in a country where their form of Christianity and their way of preaching it makes them less popular or desirable than the French.
    • In fact, Bernard Cornwell loves this trope. All throughout the trilogy and even during the height of Arthur's Golden Age in The Warlord Chronicles, corrupt Christian Churches are a major source of trouble, spreading corruption, and civil unrest. Of course, they're just one source of trouble, as crazy Pagan fanatics and various people with no ideology besides gaining wealth and power also cause all sorts of problems.
    • Cornwell has acknowledged this in interviews — he was raised as a member of a very straight-laced (and very small) sect of English Christians called the Peculiar People, who, whilst as far from a corrupt church as one can get, were at the vanguard of what Cornwell calls "the Fun Prevention League". Indeed, his whole career (writing about a violent, fornicating warrior) is something of a Take That! towards the pacifist Peculiars.
  • Kidnappings, forced conversions and marriages, and vigilantes hunting down and killing those who try to escape? Welcome to the Mormon Church, circa the Sherlock Holmes story "A Study in Scarlet".
  • Song at Dawn The Church of Nabornne operates more like a business than a salvation organization because it is more focused on money made than souls saved. Part of that business is the production of paper and knowledge of reading/writing and many of Dragonetz' subordinates are certain that the church will kill him for threatening that business with his private paper mill.
  • The Faith of the Seven in A Song of Ice and Fire, has its fair share of corrupt clergymen, especially in the upper echelons (generally the rank-and-file clergy are much nicer, apart from Septon Utt). The Most Devout and the High Septon are basically in the pocket of Tywin Lannister, not to mention being extremely hypocritical (frequenting whorehouses and feasting while the city starves). In A Feast For Crows, a new High Septon puts a stop to this sort of thing, although even he is prepared to ignore the allegations of incest (one of the deadliest sins in the Faith) surrounding the parentage of King Tommen I Baratheon in return for the Faith being allowed to reconstitute its old private armies.
  • The Church in Spice and Wolf is considered essentially an unfairly privileged business enterprise by the various merchants seen in the series, and practically everyone is willing to turn a blind eye to things the Church opposes, and even help its enemies, as long as there is no immediate threat of being caught. Since the Church considers being deformed a capital offense and happily uses its power to make a profit at the expense of others, these opinions seem quite justified.
  • Used like crazy in Robert Westall's short story The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral. Choice quotes: "When the Church had power, it went on like a ravening beast." "Where do you think the money [for cathedrals] came from, in a country where half the people nigh starved to death every winter? The money came from the workers, and the workers' children starved. Every stone must be a death, nearly. To the glory of God." The story's main plot is about Really Creepy Supernatural Horror Stuff up on one tower of said Muncaster cathedral.
  • The Swampling King: It's clear that the church cares far more about temporal power than actually following their own religion. They sponsored the Outer Duchies Rebellion, then denied it when it was clear the rebels were going to lose.
  • Swan's Braid & Other Tales of Terizan: The clergy of the god Cot'Dazur, who's just beginning to get worshipers in Oreen, are very power-hungry. In order to get Cot'Dazur more worship, therefore increasing their power, they have all other gods' icons stolen as these are the focus of people's beliefs.
  • The Temple of the Goddess in Three Dark Crowns conspires to kill Queen Arsinoe and Queen Katharine, two candidates for the throne, so the candidate they control, Queen Mirabella, becomes reigning queen and their puppet. The one planning it all also plans to kill any attendants that try to interfere or that even are in the way. Their plans leak and they try to permanently silence Queen Arsinoe before the contest even begins.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The land of the Religious Feudalists is ruled by one of these, who terrorize the populace living in fear that they'll be condemned for heresy and whose clergy prey on young people they find attractive. Arrival of the Tourists will usually change things, but not before at least a couple people they know are burned alive or crucified for "heresy".
  • While many of the rank-and-file clergy and believers of the Unionist Church in Wicked are harmless, the bishops and higher-ups are in league with the Wizard and using the faith to justify all kinds of persecution and social oppression in Oz. The oppression and inquisitorial practices don't end when "Oz the Great and Powerful" is run out of town.
  • Thomas Cromwell views the Catholic Church as this in Wolf Hall. His Dissolution of the Monasteries, one of Henry VIII's more controversial policies, is shown in a more positive light than usual because from Cromwell's point of view the institutions are not only more likely to be corrupt than not (abbots who keep whores and the hilariously fraudulent trade-in "relics" are mentioned prominently), but not even Biblically sound according to Cromwell's Protestant views.
  • During the eponymous World War Z, the Russian Orthodox Church took over the job of executing infected, as the officers, especially those who had gone through the decimations, often found themselves pushed over the edge by having to kill their men — or got decimated themselves. Eventually, either the church started abusing its power or the government took control of it; either way, Russia ends up as a totalitarian theocracy.
  • In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, the Green Robes are a Religion of Evil plus this. They practice Human Sacrifice, but they influence the Lottery of Doom that is supposed to select the victims, usually avoiding off-worlders and in the opening, picking the hero and his mentor to seize something they own.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 4400: Flashbacks show Isaiah growing disgusted at his televangelist father raking money in from all his poor parishioners, especially when it was far more than they could afford to give away. He turned against this but then was sent into the future.
  • America Unearthed presents the Catholic Church or at least wings of it as this.
  • Played for laughs in the Blackadder the Second through "the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells", whose job consists entirely of loan sharking. Throughout the episode he's featured in, the bishop makes plain his fondness for whores and torture. When Blackadder orchestrates an elaborate scheme to blackmail the bishop (by framing him for an act outside of the church's condoned list of perversities) he is condemned by the bishop as a complete moral degenerate and offered a job in the church for it.
    • In the first season, Edmund's brief stint as Archbishop of Canterbury also reveals a little corruption in the church, mostly of the indulgences and fake relics sort. Oh, and the favours of nuns, mostly sold to other nuns.
  • The Borgias might as well be called "Corrupt Church: The Series". Set during the reign of Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia, the series is a sensationalised but relatively accurate depiction of the Renaissance-era Catholic Church.
  • Brother Justin Crowe, in the HBO series Carnivàle has two of these. First, his traditional Methodist church in Mintern in Season 1 is kind of sketchy, as its members are racist, with the occasional pedophile thrown in for good measure. In Season 2, he forms the Temple of Jericho, dedicated to his pursuit of darkness, which expands into a city-sized encampment, called New Canaan.
    • This is more like a Church of Saint Genericus, as he is shown giving communion on the tongue Catholic style. (And is obviously modeled on Father Coughlin, the Catholic "radio priest" of the era.)
  • The Company You Keep: The pilot features a very wealthy, corrupt pastor who runs a megachurch and launders money, being clearly far more interested in getting rich than helping anyone in his congregation.
  • Cursed: The Catholic Church is portrayed as mostly a force of evil in the series. It's convinced that Fey are really demons who must be killed without mercy, with an entire order called the Red Paladins tasked in doing this. A few exceptions exist, however, such as Abbess Nora and some of her nuns who don't agree with this. Nora is killed for heresy after it's revealed she gave sanctuary to Nimue, who's Fey.
  • Discussed by Dracula in Episode 2 of Dracula (2020), who reminds Agatha that for centuries the cross has been used by the church to scare peasants into obedience. He blames his own fear of the cross on the fact that, when drinking the blood of these peasants, he also absorbed their fear for the cross, and thus he can't wait to feed on some atheists. This is a lie, however.
  • Subverted by Reverend Kingston Tanner in The Following. He's a wealthy Southern televangelist who runs a megachurch and uses Joe Carroll's latest rampage as a publicity stunt, but he's ultimately shown to be a good (if flawed) man who truly does believe in God, loves his family and finally dies by Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The Frankenstein Chronicles: One part of the Anglican Church is portrayed this way. The Dean of Westminster orders the murders of priests who oppose his plan to sell church land which would result in the poor who live there being thrown out. He then has the murderer himself killed to tie up loose ends.
  • Game of Thrones: While already corrupt in the books, the Faith of the Seven underwent an Adaptational Villainy. Members of and clergy are generally shown as pawns of the Crown. The first High Septon was fat and well-fed in a time of poverty and starvation, the second High Septon seemed amiable enough until Season 5 shows him to be a regular at Littlefinger's brothel and a total hypocrite. They are so bad that a fundamentalist movement comprised of the Sparrows rises against the Faith. They've proved to be worse.
  • Luna Nera: The Bishop is secretly a practitioner of black magic who wants to destroy the pagan witches and steal their knowledge.
  • Played with in Medici. In their youth, the Medici brothers scheme, bribe, and blackmail to make a former scoundrel the Pope, with the understanding that he shall patronize the Medici bank. However, Eugene IV goes on to become a Good Shepherd, described by Cosimo as the first truly holy man he's ever met.
  • The titular Gemstones on The Righteous Gemstones are a family of crooked and extraordinarily wealthy televangelists, introduced as owning a gigantic estate, a theme park, three private jets (named the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), and a megachurch that's built more like an arena, all paid for through the tithes of parishioners. The patriarch Eli is driven by greed, thinking nothing of opening a satellite church in a neighboring town despite the protests of local churches there, but he's a saint compared to his sons Jesse and Kelvin, the former a debauched hypocrite who is caught and filmed snorting cocaine with strippers by people trying to blackmail the family, the latter a layabout slacker in an Ambiguously Gay relationship with an ex-Satanist who he "saved".
  • Sliders: In "Prophets and Loss", an Evangelical Right so evil and powerful that it has outlawed all science and performs chemical lobotomies on "rationalists" claims to control an interdimensional portal to heaven. The heroes notice that it looks awfully similar to their own portal... but it doesn't actually go anywhere; it's just an incinerator tied to a special effect so that the church can vacuum up assets from the gullible and kill them. The Chief Oracle even describes herding unbelievers into these ovens as "the final solution." Take That!, Jerry Falwell!
    • In "The Chasm", the Temple of the Chasm worships and sacrifices people to, what was created as a psychoactive theme park ride.
  • The Ori from Stargate SG-1's last seasons. The teachings were good, the interpretations and the purpose of the Ori themselves... well, not so much.
    • Among their more heinous acts is a Prior molding a story to have a different ending than the Ori's holy book in order to justify destroying a village.
  • The writers clearly meant to portray the Fellowship of the Sun from True Blood in this way. However, given that even the friendly neighbourhood vampires tend to murder people now and then, YMMV on how fair this is.
    • Suicide bombing kinda gives it away.
  • Supernatural has a couple of examples:
    • In Season 1, the boys go to a faith healer who is legitimately healing people, but it is not through the goodness he presents. His wife has a grim reaper under a spell, and for every person healed, another person dies.
    • In Season 7, Godstiel stops by a church where the minister is preaching an anti-gay sermon. Godstiel outs him as both gay and a hypocrite before smiting him.
    • In Season 9, an evangelical podcaster named Buddy Boyle works to convince his followers to become vessels for angels. He presents it as god's work, when in fact the angels are an example of Light Is Not Good, and being a vessel is a terrible burden that most often leads to suffering and death.
  • The Tudors has a rare Reconstruction of this in Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Venal? Check. Ambitious? Check. Very lax in his own religious observance? Check. But also very, very good in what he does. It's quite clear that the religious dressing of his office is just that; he has his job because he's the best. Very much Truth In Television, too.
  • Part of the plot of the second season of Waterloo Road features the leader of a creation ministry trying to take over the titular school.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Parodied in Scenes from a Hat with "Posts you'll never see on a church bulletin board."
    Ryan Stiles: No collection this week!?
    Brad Sherwood: Hey, Satan's teaching a Tae Bo class!
  • TV miniseries of World Without End presents the Catholic Church as very corrupt, especially the Priory, under Godwyn and Philemon. The priests constantly burn "witches", refuse to stop the plague, and tax poor people into poverty. The church is so corrupt to the point that the main character, Caris, displays some Agnostic beliefs at one point.

  • The Temple of Aria in Doom Breaker is one of the major religions and a major money lender. Any adventurers that couldn't pay for their medical expenses ended up as slaves until they pay their debt.

  • Mercilessly and hilariously skewered in Genesis' 1991 song "Jesus He knows Me" from We Can't Dance, which had the members playing corrupt televangelists and singing about it.
    On the cover of the magazine, there's no question why I'm smiling
    You buy a piece of paradise, You buy a piece of me
    I'll get you everything you wanted, I'll get you everything you need
    Don't need to believe in hereafter... Just believe in me!
  • There's also a corrupt church in some of the songs from Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime.
  • In Limp Bizkit's "The Priest".
  • Iron Maiden's "Holy Smoke" is all about Jesus returning to Earth and delivering one long "The Reason You Suck" Speech to greedy televangelists.
  • Motörhead's God Was Never On Your Side "They claim to heal, but all they do is steal, ABUSE YOUR faith, cheat, and ROB"
  • "Make Money" by Trevor Morris of the TV show The Whitest Kids You Know essentially depicts the Catholic Church as a massive business and essentially equates the Pope to a crime lord.
  • Ozzy Osbourne, "Miracle Man". Both this song and Iron Maiden's one reference disgraced televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.
  • Skid Row has a song from their second album, Slave to the Grind, entitled "Livin' on a Chain Gang." It contains the following verse:
    A conman's intuition can wash your sins away.
    Send your contribution; he'll save your soul today.
    What does he know? Has he been through hell and back?
    He takes the cash, and he drives it home in a brand-new Cadillac.
  • Cake's "Comfort Eagle" uses this metaphor ("We are building a religion / We are building it bigger / We are widening the corridors / And adding more lanes") to discuss the music industry ("He says now do you believe / In the one big song / He's now accepting callers/ Who would like to sing along").
  • Christian rock band Daniel Amos were frequently critical of televangelists and any other ministers who used their position for material gain or who mixed their own rules into the Gospel message.
    • The album ¡Alarma! had the title track ("A wise guy in the sky invites you to a guilty party / Won't charge you at the door / But sure knows how to get your money") and "Colored By" ("When someone with charisma tells me 'Don't wear shoes' / I tell them 'Go back, where did you get that?'").
    • The follow-up, Doppelgänger, was an even more thorough critique of televangelists. "New Car!" and "Angels Tuck You In" mocked the Prosperity Theology that they preached; "Do Big Boys Cry" portrayed them as hypocrites who never admit to wrongdoing; and "Autographs for the Sick" portrayed them "counting dollars in the afterglow" while utterly failing to help anyone with their ministries. "I Didn't Build It for Me" described a real-life incident where a televangelist used his followers' donations to build an obscenely lavish ministry headquarters — then tried to claim that it was really for the use of all Christians, and besides, God told him to build it.
  • The Brooklyn Synagogue, which is run by Chief Rabbi Kai, opposes the Messianic main character of !HERO: The Rock Opera.
  • The Dear Hunter's overarching plot heavily involves one of these. The fact that the priest is a Sinister Minister who moonlights as a pimp is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Twilight Histories tends not to present religious organizations in a very positive light:
    • The Catholic Church in “The Black Scourge” has all the corruption and nastiness of the pre-Reformation church and then some. Specifically, the Pope got tired of playing cat-and-mouse with the Holy Roman Emperor, has him assassinated, and claimed the throne for himself. The now Emperor-Pope declared himself humanity’s sole link to God, and that humanity would be forever cut off from Heaven were he to be killed. He and his minions gleefully engage in all manner of torture against anyone they deem heretics, or otherwise threats to their power. There’s also the priest who kidnapped Native American boys with intent to molest them.
    • “Hannibal One” gives us The Cult of Ba’al. They practice human sacrifice, use drugs for their rituals, and use intimidation and threats of violence to keep dissonant members in line.
    • The priests of the pharaoh in “May His Kah Endure Forever” trick the people of Egypt into giving tribute to the deceased pharaoh. They pocket offerings for themselves and use the pharaoh’s necropolis as their private palace.
    • Subverted in “Mask of the Plague Doctor” where the lone Catholic priest we see attempts to serve as the voice of reason as tensions run high due to the plague.
    • The religion in “Court of the Giants” supports a strict caste system that discriminated against the more ape-like hominids.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh in Blades in the Dark. In a bit of a twist, it is the world's worst kept secret that the Church is pretty much an Apocalypse Cult that grew too big for its own good, and the only reason the Powers That Be keep them around is that they have too much influence to take down.
  • The last Kingpriest of Istar in the Dragonlance setting. Under his reign, the faith of Paladine became increasingly tyrannical and fanatical, to the point where the Knight Templars that made up the clergy began resorting to brutal Mind Rape to ferret out "evil thoughts" among the people. It finally reached its apex when the Kingpriest tried to overthrow the gods and take their power for himself despite the gods repeatedly trying to warn him that what he was doing was wrong. Eventually, the Cataclysm took place, destroying the reign of Istar and causing it to sink to the bottom of the ocean.
    • The original modules based on the Chronicles trilogy show just how depraved the clergy has become when ten of the highest-ranking priests (twelve in the updated 3rd Edition module) offer themselves in service to Takhisis. She takes their corrupted essences and turns them into the King of the Deep, a nightmarish sea monster that the Heroes of the Lance must destroy to help the sea elves of Istar.
  • Some parts of the church of the Silver Flame in Eberron, a Dungeons & Dragons Setting. The faith itself is good, but many of its members are either corrupt or Knights Templar (both literally and figuratively).
    • Also, the Neutral Good sun god Pelor from Greyhawk has a popular Epileptic Tree that he is actually evil.
    • The Lawful Neutral/Lawful Good god Pholtus, also of Greyhawk, isn't exactly evil, although it's known for being intolerant of other faiths and very strict in its doctrines. The faith is also split into several feuding branches, one of which is a group of murderous religious bandits. It should be said, though, that his faith is also one of the most ardent opponents of the living demigod Iuz and his demon empire, and they're downright mild compared to the devil-worshipping remnants of the Great Kingdom, where the state religion was dominated by the worship of Hextor, god of tyranny and the "Herald of Hell."
    • The churches of the gods Helm and Torm in the Forgotten Realms had both become corrupted before the Time of Troubles. Once the deities actually saw for themselves what their clerics were doing, they immediately set about cleaning up the ranks of their faithful, dictating new rituals and duties as penance to make their followers atone.
    • The Blood of Vol in Eberron combines this with Path of Inspiration. The church was set up by Vol for her own purposes. Much of the dogma, on the other hand, pre-dates Vol and can be defended as, if not good, then at least not evil. Effectively, it is a Path of Inspiration in terms of organization and a Corrupt Church in terms of ideals.
      • One of the latest R.A. Salvatore novels has Artemis Entreri return to Memnon in Calimshan to take bloody vengeance on the corrupted priests of Selûne who were responsible for making his life a living hell as a child.
  • The swords and sorcery expansion for Grave Robbers from Outer Space has a corrupt religious official as one of the attack cards.
  • KULT has Chokmah and the Black Madonna. And really, every single religion in the world is established to maintain the Illusion, and although the lower ranks are mostly sincere and pious, the leadership of nearly every religious organization consists of Lictors and other inhuman creatures that hate and fear the humanity.
  • The Ministry of Paternoster from Mage: The Awakening somehow straddles the line between Path of Inspiration and this trope. On the one hand, the Seers of the Throne did set it up in an effort to make organized religion heavily dogmatic, so that Sleepers would be discouraged from picking at the strands of the Fallen World. On the other hand, they bought all their own hype and do believe the Exarchs should be worshiped as divine emanations; it's just they believe the Sleepers should also be kept ignorant and blind, and that a Sleeper worshiping one of the Exarchs would be the utmost in profanity.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering plane of Ravnica, two of the guilds, the Orzhov (a pontiff of which is pictured in the page image) and Selesnya very much apply. The former started off as an ancestor venerating religion honoring traditions, and the latter as a religious commune intending to create peace and unity. Now the former's the epitome of an evil, corrupt church so much that they practically worship money more than anything else, while the latter are a brainwashing cult that takes care of dissenters with their "quietmen" and makes the population submissive via their Conclave Song. Nonetheless, there's still a relatively nuanced portrayal of both guilds, with heroic characters in both.
    • The Church of Tal and its condemnation of magic and spellcasting were revealed to be a sham, with the "divine miracles" performed by its clergy actually being White Magic spells. A non-too-subtle jab against the evangelical groups decrying Magic as satanic in the '90s.
    • In Amonkhet the God-Pharaoh is worshipped higher than the plane's actual gods, and the entire society is a theocracy built as to establish a role in the afterlife through deadly trials. In truth, the God-Pharaoh is Nicol Bolas, an evil planeswalker who just wants a supply of zombies. Anyone who finds out is locked in sarcophagi and thrown into the desert.
    • Ixalan has the Church of Dusk, which is about as wholesome as you can expect a parallel of historical conquistadores that also happen to be vampires to be. In the interest of fairness, their basic motivation, to retrieve the Immortal Sun as to grant eternal life instead of eternal undeath, is somewhat pure, but cards show that many of its members also pursue riches and glory and have no issues abusing their power. It's ultimately revealed at the climax of the Ixalan storyline that their beliefs about vampirism's purpose have drifted from what their founder, Saint Elenda, originally intended them to be, and when she is awoken, she is horrified to find out how the church has twisted her message and sets out to force a reformation.
  • Most of the Martian faiths in Rocket Age are deeply political organisations designed to maintain power over the populace, with constant power struggles both within and without.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, this is a contentious issue both in and out of universe:
    • At first glance, the Ecclesiarchy (and to a lesser extent the Cult Mechanicus) appear to be this, seemingly being massively corrupt and choking morasses that between them keep the Imperium in a state of religious zealotry combined with technological stasis and ignorance. From today's perspective, they initially appear to ruthlessly suppress atheists, agnostics, and other modes of religious or scientific thought through a space Inquisition, either for their own gain or simple ignorance.
    • However, this is not necessarily the case. As has been shown again and again, free-thinking and religious tolerance, and anything other than rampant xenophobia can (and according to the Imperium's internal and external materials inevitably WILL) lead to a horrible, horrible fate involving gates to hell opening up as mad cultists dance in the gore stained entrails of human sacrifice, and/or alien horrors slaughtering humans or enslaving them at best, courtesy of the Crapsack World's Chaos Gods and ruthless, merciless alien factions.
    • Even with all of that in mind, some elements of the Ecclesiarchy (and possibly the Mechanicus) are corrupt in the more conventional sense. Excessive tithes are just the beginning note , along with some of the stuff real-life clergymen have been accused of indulging in, despite their vows and planet's laws. Fortunately, the Inquisition tends to stamp down on these.
    • Ambiguity of the general setting aside, this trope is very much exemplified by Goge Vandire and his Age of Apostasy, which was so bad it caused the second biggest civil war the Imperium had ever seen.
    • In-universe the mere existence of the church is a corruption; when the God-Emperor they worship was ruling directly he enforced a Flat-Earth Atheist philosophy and reacted harshly to anyone trying to make him a god.

  • In Androcles and the Lion, the Emperor, though elevated to divinity, believes in the Roman gods "no more than... any educated man in Rome." Indeed, all that educated Romans have to do with their religion is making token sacrifices to Diana or Jupiter, and that lets them stand on the outside of the arena where Christians who refuse to burn the incense are thrown to the lions.
  • Cardinal Wolsey is portrayed as corrupt and venal in Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII.
  • The Jew of Malta has Christians, Muslims, and Jews as characters, and all of them are shown to be equally selfish, two-timing, and corrupt, with the Christians triumphing over Barabas and the Turk by being more backstabbing and ruthless than both of them. As Machiavelli outlines in the prologue:
    Machiavel: I count religion but a childish toy
    And hold there is no sin but ignorance.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed has the Templars, many of which are officials of the Catholic Church. This fits with the Renaissance setting, as the Church was very corrupt at the time. Also, their religious nature in the first game is largely a sham, and in the following games they barely even give it lip service. It is also even revealed that Templars know there is no religion but use religion as a tool to control the masses. Of course the same also applies to their sworn enemies, the Assassins who in Real Life were an Ishmaelian sect of Muslims. The said Pope incidentally is the Big Bad of the second game, while in Brotherhood his son has taken the reins. It doesn't help that the Borgias were particularly active in the Renaissance-era Church.
  • In the The Bastard of Kosigan series (Neverwinter Nights modules), the Catholic Church as it exists in the game was initiated by Archangel Gabriel so he could have complete totalitarian control over the entire world, not just his majority faction of the immortal precursor humans ('angels') instead of the free will faction ('demons'), led by Elisa Than ('Satan'). The two factions have been at war seeing who could manipulate the political and religious scene of the world to turn more humans to their side.
  • BioShock 2 has The Rapture Family. Run by Sophia Lamb, who wishes to bring about helpfulness to all in Rapture. However, this is nothing more than a front so Sophia can have complete control of all the ADAM to experiment on. And once her "Utopian" better known as her daughter decides to go against her, she then tries to kill everyone by sinking them.
  • The Founders' religion with its leader "Father" Zachary Comstock in BioShock Infinite. It's built on lies and slander every prophecy is revealed to be powered by quantum physics, every racist slander is an excuse for the founders to justify their own criminal acts against minorities, with Comstock as Crystal Dragon Jesus. Unfortunately, Comstock is senile and now believes in his own religion, up to the "burn the world" part.
  • The Healing Church of Bloodborne. Founded by heretic scholars from Byrgenwerth College with the secret intent to research ascension to godhood via Old Blood, they spread the blood ministration techniques across Yharnam. Initially, they were successful in helping many people... infecting most of Yharnam with Old Blood, which they only later realized was the prime vector for the Beast Scourge. Knowing full well it was their own fault, the Church organized massive witch hunts and openly encouraged the Torches and Pitchforks approach, which only helped the infection spread further. Hiding their experiments and the fact the worst monsters were actually their own clerics, the Church kept on trying even as it fractured into the Choir and the School of Mensis and everything around them sank into a nightmare realm. The low-level initiates do have many decent people but at heart, the Church was basically a fraud to use Yharnam's citizenry as guinea pigs.
  • In Breath of Fire II, the old Dragon God religion has been supplemented by an ecclesiastical movement called the Church of St. Eva. (Funnily, the talking Dragon idols that save your game actually grouse about this.) What's unusual is the Church's helpfulness during the early stages of the game: in fact, the hero was raised in a church, the son of a priest. The mysterious "St. Eva" a.k.a. Father Evans is actually the evil demon god Deathevan, a secret kept guarded from all but the truest believers a la Scientology. Not all of the church's agents are evil, just misguided.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Hordes of church knights are sent to their deaths in a vain effort to conquer a Death World filled with every supernatural creature with a grudge, not realizing that the reason for their impossible quest was because their founders made a horrible mistake that they refuse to admit. In the sequel, over half a million knights are sent to fight Dracula, which only drives him more unhinged and insane as he kills them all. Then Guido, Satan's spawn, worms his way into the church of Castlevania City and turns it into a Satanist Cult dedicated to burying martyrs of evil alive, which burst out of statues to fight off intruders with demon magic.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: The monastery that discovers the Scythe of the Celt, thanks to The Corruption.
  • Very much so in Dante's Inferno, if the various Popes in Hell and the Large Ham bishop in the cutscenes are any evidence on the matter. Also, the main character himself starts off as a Villain Protagonist serving under the Church's orders, before going on the path of his redemption.
  • The Church in Darklands is not corrupt, but is a rather mercantile enterprise, and expects sizeable "donations" for any services rendered. However, village priests are generally decent and hedge-priests and self-proclaimed "holy men" are far more likely to be mercenary and corrupt than "true" Church officials.
  • Dark Souls III has the Deep Church, a religion worshipping Aldrich. They are basically an extremely evil version of Medieval Christianity, with big, ornate cathedrals, a large priesthood headed by a Pontiff, and Evangelists who spread the word out to other areas. There are also references to witch-burning, as the Evangelists will try to "cleanse the bastard's curse" via immolation. According to the Archdeacon's Robe, the Deep Church used to be the Way of White, until it descended into the Deep thanks to Aldrich.
  • In the world of Dead Space, Unitology has spread to millions of people, and at least half the people on the Ishimura were Unitologists. What do the higher-ups ask for in return? Just your money and your power, and did we forget to mention your dead body? There were text logs in the game stating they have built entire fleets of ships meant to carry dead bodies. Oh, and did we forget to mention that the holy relic they worship is the source of an evil virus that turns you into hideous, fleshy, tentacle-covered sins against nature? Yeah.
    • Unitology was built from the ground up to be a Path of Inspiration. By Earth Gov. Unfortunately, with all the various sects arguing about what they stand for, there's no control from the Earth Gov anymore and the most insane sects now have access to the most dangerous biological hunters in the galaxy. Which pretty much ends the series on a downer note.
  • Although the Order in Deus Ex: Invisible War is pretty benevolent, it's still a part of the Illuminati conspiracy, as the branch that controls spirituality. The secrecy if the conspiracy is so prevalent that the next highest leader to Her Holiness (actually Nicolette DuClaire, daughter of Illuminatus DuClaire) High Auger Lin-May Chen, didn't even know.
    • Also, the violent rift that formed between the greed-based WTO and the humility-based Order (two parts of the same whole) was not only foreseen, it was intended. They're actually working together.
  • The Order of the Sword from Devil May Cry 4, who worship Dante and Vergil's father Sparda, is eventually revealed to be led by people seeking demonic power. Arguably not a Path of Inspiration as the Medieval Stasis of the host island suggests it has been in existence for a good while yet and only this batch is evil.
  • Diablo:
    • The Zakarum chose the Guardian Tower where Mephisto was sealed as the place to build their capital of Travincal in the Diablo universe. This trope is the consequence of their actions; the player-controlled Paladins from Diablo II and the Crusaders from Diablo III are still divinely-empowered guardians, but everyone else became Mephisto's pawns, to the point of demon summoning circles being openly etched into the Khanduras fortress under the Zakarum cover story of protection runes, and pretty much every one of the high priesthood having become out and out demons by the time you storm Travincal in Diablo II.
    • The Templar Order of Diablo III tortures and brainwashes new recruits into believing that they used to be criminals and sinners, and have been cleansed so that they can fight for the powers of good. In the Reaper of Souls quest The Templar's Reckoning, it's revealed that the corruption of the order goes straight to the top — and that the Grand Maester of the order plans to do this to every citizen of Westmarch and beyond to make them Templars.
    • In one particular bounty hunt against them, they're busy torturing commoners in the middle of an undead-infested field. The only thing worse than their literal ignorance of the demonic forces around them is how the demons fight alongside them, showing the player just how completely deluded they have become.
  • In Dishonored, ever since the death of the empress, the Overseers from the Abbey of the Everyman seems to have become corrupted, pretty much enacting martial law and rounding up anyone that might be thought as heretics. The High Overseer intentionally breaks every one of the seven strictures every day as his own little joke.
    • Also worth mentioning is that the Abbey is blatantly a social institution and reviles the only god that it recognizes. Granted that said deity (the Outsider) is provably real, but the Abbey's claim of protecting its believers falls apart pretty fast when the Outsider shows himself as neither good nor evil and would rather munch popcorn and empower key players than enforce a specific outcome. By implication, the Abbey was full of shit from the beginning; make of that what you will.
    • Also, The Outsider is one in a long line of scapegoats who were created by the Church of the Everyman's precursors. They couldn't accept that the Void would do things for no reason and gave random street rats incomprehensible powers for the sole purpose of having someone to worship and then blame.
  • Dragalia Lost has the Ilian Church being a mess of corruption and backstabbing. An apocryphal document known as the Scrolls of Perdition, which claims that the Goddess Ilia is the mother of the Other, has split the Southern Grastaean Church into warring factions of Conservatives (those who refuse to believe that the goddess gave birth to the world's ultimate evil) and the Perditionists (those who believe all of Ilia's children must still be given respect, even the most vile ones capable of destroying the world). The North Grastaean church in Grams is even worse, with the rich nobles forcing the poorer citizens to pay for the honor of praying above their station to the goddess and allowing Templars to publicly murder them if they don't pay up.
  • Dragon Age:
    • While the Chantry of Andraste doesn't actively harass and mistreat Fereldans, (actually, it's quite nice and pleasant), it is the main reason behind many, many social and racial problems and wrong-doings throughout Thedas. Due to the fear of Blood Magic, nearly all Mages are to be feared and despised, leading them to be rounded up and imprisoned in the Circle, supposedly for their own protection. Elves are often seen as second-class citizens and forced to live in Alienages, where they are subject to much racism from humans. The Chantry likewise repaid the Dalish Elves' assistance in helping Andraste free Thedas from the Tevinter Imperium, by later branding them heretics for not worshipping the Maker and leading an Exalted March against their new homeland, reducing them to wandering nomads. Not to mention the Chantry's method of ensuring the Templars remain loyal is to addict them to Lyrium under the excuse that it'll make them more powerful, despite knowing that it can lead to paranoia, emotional instability, and full-blown psychosis.
    • Despite nominally being a Big Good in Kirkwall, the refusal of the Grand Cleric in Dragon Age II to deal with the problems of mages and templars was seen by some as acceptance of Templar abuses and got to the point where Anders decided to blow up the Chantry in an act of rebellion, resulting in an all-out war between mages and templars. Likewise, her lack of action towards some of her fanatical underlings and their crusade against the Qunari led to the city being attacked, the Viscount being killed, and Meredith controlling the city in the wake of the power vacuum. This evidentially didn't teach the Grand Cleric her lesson about inaction and she still refused to act when it came to mages and templars, setting up the explosion.
  • The Church of the Goddess, in Dragon Quest VIII is disastrously corrupt — despite two of the major clergy, the Lord High Priest and Abbot Francisco — being benevolent, selfless true believers, the structure of the church is thoroughly rotten — demanding money from the faithful in return for absolution, rising through the ranks based chiefly on bribery, and using the church's martial arm to further personal aims... This results in the heroes' quest being stymied at several points. It is implied that much of this corruption has cleaned up, or at least has begun to be cleaned up, by the end of the game. Also, Demon Lord Rapthorne's floating fortress was hidden inside the Goddess monument all along. Nobody seems to comment on this.
  • In EarthBound (1994), Happy-Happyism seems to exist only to enable a leader to abuse the power of the Mani Mani Statue, which eventually ends up enabling Pokey.
  • In Elden Ring, the Golden Order seems at least from outside appearance beautiful and noble, with associations with gold, life, and the World Tree, as well as being headed by a literal Physical God - however, the more you go along in the game, the more you discover the faults in the Golden Order's ideology: namely that its God Empress Marika seems to arbitrarily choose who does and doesn't belong within her Order and allowing the slavery, expulsion and exterminations of races that are 'without grace'. This even includes her own children, as at least two of her sons were born Omens - a sort of magical genetical deformation - and coldly cast them down into the sewers of the capital city. Not even mentioning the fact that the way that her theology managed to spread is through subjugation of every rival group in the Lands Between. Goldmask, a sage of the Golden Order and Actual Pacifist, theorizes that the faults in the Order, the 'fly in the ointment', is that the gods are too fickle and led by emotions to rule in logical ways and that the 'good and great' always want an absolute evil to contend with.
    "How easy it is for learning and learnedness to be reduced to the ravings of fanatics; all the good and the great wanted, in their foolishness, was an absolute evil to contend with. Does such a notion exist in the fundamentals of Order?"
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the Tribunal Temple, a Dunmer (Dark Elf) church whose members worship a trio of flesh-and-blood gods. Curiously, the Temple used to be an undeniable force of good when the Tribunal deities consistently lived and worked amongst their people; performing acts of charity and defending Morrowind from Imperial, Akaviri, and Daedric invaders. However, once they retreated into seclusion due to no longer being able to recharge their divine power with the Heart of Lorkhan and being forced to conserve their power, the mortals took over running the church and things became corrupt very quickly. Now, most of its members are stuck-up, elitist jerkasses, especially the high-ranking officials, and their Church Police, the Ordinators, are arrogant, condescending fanatical bigots who consider even speaking of the Nerevarine or wearing their armor to be capital offenses. It seems to have gotten better by the time of Skyrim — the dissidents who said 'aren't you guys taking things too far?' to the aforementioned excesses were validated by the events of Morrowind, and then ended up coming up on top the chaos of Vivec's disappearance and the Red Year, forming the much less corrupt "New Temple."
  • Though confined to a single house of worship rather than a widespread institution, Oublie Cathedral in Eternal Darkness is this trope in spades. Going back to the 9th century, its clergy has been replaced by demons in disguise who worship the Big Bad. This is particularly highlighted in the cathedral's second level, when Paul Luther discovers that the demons have been publicizing a fake relic held at the cathedral in order to lure pilgrims as sacrificial victims.
  • The Church of EZI from the PS3 version of Eternal Sonata could also qualify, with the church itself being hidden in an icy mountain, accessible only in Encore Mode, inhabited by crazy nerds who not only worship what is supposedly the god of music and laughter among other things when it turns out to be a weird tiki statue that is also the game's hardest superboss, they also merchandise the thing like crazy, creating useless/creepy items such as crackers that make children cry, ruined string phones, and pajamas that induce nightmares when slept in.
  • The Evil Within: While the local church isn't directly orchestrating the horror plot, the Big Bad keeps them around as cannon fodder, mostly because they were insufferably Obviously Evil. Not only was their head priest a repeat embezzler, but you find bioweapons experiments underneath the church that seem unconnected to the Big Bad's own twisted experiments.
  • In the Evil Goddess timeline in Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, there is the Septerion Club. The Septerion Club is headed by Sherman, who, having returned to the new timeline with his memories intact after the party defeated the Vile God, is hoping to bring to the world his idea of a perfect brand of justice in a world in which the Vile God no longer holds sway. Unfortunately, his idea of a perfect brand of justice is prosecuting everyone who was formally a member of Dorfa, now exposed as having supported the revival of the Vile God. Those that they don't persecute, they force to buy their special brand of wine at a ridiculous cost and indenture into servitude those who can't pay it. Fang is disgusted by this and vows to unravel the group's ambitions and begins trying to recruit former Dorfa members as an Enemy Mine. The Septerion Club is also supported in battle matters by a group called the Justice Society.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X: The Church of Yu-Yevon is an oppressive, violently Luddite organization that unknowingly (and in some cases knowingly) perpetuates the cycle of Sin's death and rebirth. The head of the church as well as Yunalesca are Unsent, undead monsters that the Church is ostensibly trying to eradicate. The church is hypocritical as well. They heavily use machines while telling their followers that using machines is highly sacrilegious. This is done out of fear that people may discard the teachings of the church and are able to find a way to kill Sin off for good, which would make the entire church collapse. This is why the Al-Bhed are viewed as the enemy by the people worldwide.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has a church in Ishgard that acts as both a military power and political figure and it has led a war against dragons for a thousand years due to, according to history, a dragon attacking the king and his knights during a parley. Everyone in Ishgard prays to their deity and to the church for safety and hope during the war. It turns out that the church is not as benevolent as everyone would think. You discover that it was King Thordan I who attacked the dragons first and did so to eat a dragon's eye in order to gain more power. This perpetuated the war for a thousand years and this secret was safely guarded by the church ever since then with Bishop Thordan VII, who then plans to use the dragon eyes to become a god and rule Ishgard (and possibly the rest of the world) with an iron fist, believing that power and suppression are needed to create everlasting peace. After the events of the main story where the truth is finally revealed and the figures responsible were removed, the reveal of the truth shook the foundation of Ishgard and weakened the trust in the church, which causes those who are still heavily faithful to the church to lash out against the people that want Ishgard to be for the people rather than the upper class. Aymeric and the player character manage to get both man and dragon to reunite in peace once more and helped create a government where the church is still needed but is no longer the sole influence.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics: The Church of Glabados is just one of the many Chessmasters in the game. They intend to use the Lion War to seize political power, uniting Ivalice under themselves, and to take advantage of the "Zodiac Brave" tale to gain the approval of the commoners.
      • Mullonde's Knights Templar are worse. Initially intended to be the new Zodiac Braves for the church's plot, it turns out the Zodiac Stones contain demons, and the leading knights (willingly or not) become their new hosts. They intend to summon their leader, who also happens to have possessed the church's founder back in the day.
      • It turns out that the Church of Glabados was founded on entirely false premises, with their "god" actually being a demon. Even the leader of the modern church knows none of this. The church just ended up corrupt to the core anyway.
    • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates: The Crystal Temple gets progressively more oppressive over the course of the game and is responsible for all the bad things that happen to Yuri and Chelinka. It probably wasn't always corrupt, but now it's run by the Big Bad.
  • The Holy Church of Seiros in Fire Emblem: Three Houses definitely has its darker side. While the system of Nobles that its head Rhea has implemented has kept Fódlan running for a good long while and has been somewhat successful, it has also led to a very problematic society where many people solely place value on the crests-bearers in noble houses and treat those who possess none like garbage, with some of those families even casting out their own simply for not bearing one. The Church and Rhea herself are also far from as benevolent as they appear to be, as while they are more than willing to offer shelter, protection, and favor to those who follow the doctrines set by the Church, heretics and those who defy the Church's authority are given severe punishment, usually death, depending on their crimes against them. And this is all within the MAIN branch of the Church. Rhea is also very aware of the protagonist Byleth's own past and personally keeps it from them in hopes of using them to selfishly revive her"mother" Sothis, and depending on the route you take, can either realize her faults and reform the Church into a more reasonable system by the end, or be the final enemy you need to put down by the end of the story. The "Crimson Flower" route takes this to the extreme, as Byleth joining Eldegard after being asked to kill her by Rhea drives her over the edge and she becomes hell-bent on killing Byleth and reclaiming Sothis's heart within them.
  • In Grandia II, the Church of Granas has been hiding the fact that in the Battle of Good and Evil, Granas was killed. At one point in the game, the Church intends to burn down a village and kill its inhabitants in order to purify it. Also, the pope becomes the reincarnation of the evil god Valmar. Seriously.
  • Greedfall: Thélème, especially the Ordo Luminaris, is obsessed with reclaiming their 'holy land' of Teer Fradee and converting its native population by any means necessary. For the zealots, this involves coercion, subterfuge, torture, mass murder, and even one count of Pedophile Priest, all while pretending to follow the Thou Shalt Not Abuse rule. The governess of the city is secretly a wild hedonist who has a major gambling problem but is fairly reasonable in comparison.
  • The White Mantle of Guild Wars may have saved Kryta from the Charr invasion and helped maintain peace following the monarchy's collapse, but their gods are actually amoral spellcasters who require their followers to sacrifice innocents.
  • In the fan-made remake/re-imagining of King's Quest II, King Graham is helped by a group of sketchy but friendly monks. He finds out the hard way that, even though they keep up the pretense of running a monastery, long ago they had become a cult of murderous, black magic-practicing werewolves who are manipulating Graham in an attempt to destroy Count Caldaur, the one person on the island who can stop them.
  • In La Pucelle Tactics, the smaller Church of the Holy Maiden, from which the protagonists come, is not corrupt, but the larger Church of the Divine Mother has actually been taken over by a demon bent on corrupting and eventually destroying humanity and demons alike.
  • The Bardus Church, from The Legend of Heroes IV: A Tear of Vermillion. It becomes clear that the church is a force for good, however, for a great chunk of the game, you're dealing with a very corrupt Church Official. In-game, NPCs do see the church as corrupt due to Abbot Avarice's greed. This is also part of the reason the Octum Apostles formed in the first place.
  • Played straight with Father Gernot from Pentiment, though most of the individual monks and nuns are decent people and some openly disapprove of Father Gernot's actions.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (not in the same continuity as above) and by extension, the Trails Series as a whole, meanwhile, is notable for just how hard it averts this trope in comparison to its genre. The Septian Church is an unabashed force for good, and the vast, vast majority of its clergy are true believers in the goddess Aidios. Most simply wish to contribute positively to their communities, and the Church even aids the heroine's party at several points in the First Chapter. In fact, a clergyman is a playable character in the Second Chapter, and although he's willing to commit assassinations for the sake of the church, he's still unquestionably a man of good faith. He's even made the protagonist in The 3rd, along with Childhood Friend and nun Sister Reis. The primary counterexample of this, Weismann, the Big Bad of the Liberl arc, was kicked out of the Church for being a Sinister Minister before the story began. The D∴G Cult of the Crossbell Arc goes to the other extreme, being an outright Religion of Evil.
  • One of the older examples in video games, Lunar: Eternal Blue features Althena's Cult/Althena's Chosen, (depending on the version,) a religious organization ostensibly dedicated to the setting's Physical God, Althena. But while Althena is known as a goddess of love and beauty, worshipped through song and dance, Althena's Chosen is mainly interested in gaining wealth and power. It turns out that dark god Big Bad Zophar had already subverted the entire church of Althena into a cult that is secretly on the forefront of reviving him to full power. Essentially a variant where the setting's version of Satan has taken control of his rival's own church and using it against said Goddess.
  • The mysterious Church in Mica: Apoptosis is led by a Cardinal who kidnaps and presumably tortures a teenage girl, and shoots a constable who thought of him as a friend.
  • In Path of Exile, the church of Innocence has become this in spades, between its fanatical templars, brutal punishments for any infraction, large-scale human experimentation, and attempts by multiple leaders to Take Over the World or ascend to divinity. Innocence is one of the few gods who proves sane and benevolent once he's no longer using High Templar Avarius as an avatar, implying this is solely the result of mortal corruption.
  • This is basically the entire plot of Resident Evil 4, where a Spanish church uses a parasite to infect the President's daughter and send her home, resulting in terror and tragedy after she inevitably mutates into a creepy monster thing and most likely kills the President. Fortunately, a hero is there to save the day.
  • The Divine Church from Romancing SaGa 3 is a rather odd example. On one hand, a decade prior to the events of the game, they were responsible for orchestrating a war with the desert kingdom of Naj solely to get ahold of the Divine Tower located in the Northwest area of the sandlands, which ended up with the kingdom destroyed and the ruling dynasty exiled. Harid, one of the playable characters, was an heir of said dynasty and has resented the church since then. On the other hand and in the proper game, it is an inoffensive organized religion and all the crimes are painted to be responsible for a sole rogue element within the church: Maximus, a former pirate and now the leader of the Pidoona branch of the church who is hell-bent on acquiring all the relics of the Royal King to Take Over the World.
  • The monks from Senpou Temple from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice have strayed from Buddha's teachings and indulged in horrible experimentation to unlock the secret of immortality. Said experiments usually involve Creepy Centipedes and fusing them with various, often unwilling subjects. Wolf can pay them a visit and discover for himself how corrupt they have become, as some of the monks have become immortal abominations, host to various centipedes and crickets; he can also come across several semi-feral Centipede Men abominations (whom the monks may have been responsible for creating), and the Divine Child of Rejuvenation reveals that she is the only survivor of many children who have been experimented upon. How many? Look at those pinwheels. Those thousands and thousands of pinwheels. THAT many.
  • The Messians in the first Shin Megami Tensei games. They are absolutely faithful to God and his archangels... which does not stop them from being a bunch of bastards.
  • The Order in Silent Hill. Most Order leaders you see in the games are sincere at least, but then there's Father Vincent in Silent Hill 3. He claims to sincerely believe in the Order's God, but he's also honest about the fact that he's just in it for the power, so much so he constantly interferes in Claudia's plans to try to bring about a global paradise by incarnating God on Earth, just so the status quo won't change.
  • Tales of Berseria: The main villains of the game are the Exorcists of "The Abbey". The church was a benign religion that existed before the Exorcists came, but then the Abbey placed their deity Empyrean Innominat as the new being of worship at its center. While the leaders of the Exorcists are the Big Bads, it is somewhat subverted and played with as most people in the church aren't all that bad; some are actively shown trying to help the citizens of the world. Additionally, the church isn't "corrupt" in the traditional sense. They really do practice their core philosophy, the leadership merely never outright tells the people of the horrifying lengths they're planning to take it.
  • Tales of Symphonia: The Tethe'allan branch of the Church of Martel. The Pope is a bigoted, racist bastard who is willing to imprison his own daughter because she's a half-elf. He quickly declares the heroes to be plotting the destruction of Tethe'alla, and his Papal Knights become recurring enemies. Of course, the whole religion is also a Path of Inspiration, but that doesn't stop the Pope from turning its benign public face into a corrupt institution as well.
  • Subverted in Tales of the Abyss, where the main villains are the Church Militant. As it turns out, however, they're just one of two factions that are warring for power: one of which is led by a Fat Bastard who wants to start a war Because Destiny Says So, while the leader of the other is the actual Pope equivalent who just wants to bring peace and harmony to the world. Further subverted when it's revealed that the Church Militant is actually working against the wishes of the religion as a whole by aiming to destroy the local deity. That said, there are a lot of implications that the Order of Lorelei has a lot of rot in it, and improving it into a true Saintly Church is an explicit goal of one of the heroes by the end.
  • In Tears to Tiara and the sequel Tears to Tiara 2, the Holy Church is one, taxing, enslaving, and sacrificing people.
  • The Church of Freeburg in This Is the Police deals drugs and requests that you, the police chief, help them out by having your officers violently murdering "degenerates" and rival drug dealers. When you send detectives to investigate their wrong-doings (starting with a Pedophile Priest, no less), the game considers them no different than the other criminal gangs in the city.
  • Lodism in Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle 64. Originally founded as a Crystal Dragon Jesus religion, by a Prince Lodis said to be the mortal son of the leader of the gods. The religion has been twisted into an oppressive system, enforcing a caste system and working to take control of the Lodis Empire (which became a theocracy after a coup engineered by the church).
  • The protagonist of Water Womb World believes that the Catholic Church is harboring corrupt inner forces who are conspiring to hide the truth of humanity's aquatic origins from the public. After finding an abandoned dive mask engraved with Christian imagery, the protagonist suggests that the Church may be eliminating other researchers looking for evidence of the Garden of Eden in the deep ocean to prevent the theory from spreading.
  • The Church of the Eternal Fire in the The Witcher series. Not only is it founded by a madman in order to stave off a supposed apocalypse, it's also blatantly anti-magic, racist, and very corrupt. While it does attempt to do good in the form of the Order of the Flaming Rose, which hunts monsters and protects the common people, their rule in the city of Novigrad is essentially a theocracy, where witch hunters prowl the streets and burn people at the stake daily. Even at the beginning of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, they blame the war with Nilfgaard on nonhumans, magic users, and witchers instead of on Nilfgaard, which began the war without provocation. It's also seen that their witch hunters prowl the countryside in Velen, hanging people seemingly at random. While they do try and protect the common people from magic users, most magic-users in the setting are relatively benevolent, except for the manipulative Lodge of Sorceresses, with many even serving as advisors to rulers in the Northern Kingdoms.
  • The Scarlet Crusade of World of Warcraft was formed to protect the Light and destroy the undead plague upon the land. They took in people who had lost family to the Scourge and offered them a new life, battling their enemy. Unfortunately, its founders were charismatic and completely insane, so paranoia and fanaticism were the name of the game. Unless somebody wears their colors, they're automatically assumed infected with the plague and are killed on sight. What most likely ensured their fall into Corrupt Church status was their incorporation of the disguised demons Balnazzar and Mal'Ganis as high-ranking officials. By the time they've reached Northrend to attack the Scourge, they're actually using demonic magic and thinking it's a blessing of the Light!

    Visual Novel 
  • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Angie comes from an island that worships a god named Atua. Right off the bat, we're told that Atua requires blood sacrifices, though they're said to be non-lethal. It's also implied that either brainwashing or manipulation is used to get new members.
  • The worship of Oyashiro in Higurashi: When They Cry did not originally have horrific and blasphemous-to-Shinto cannibalistic rites.

  • The world of Demon Fist is controlled by a Church which thinks little of obliterating towns for even minor rebellions, and in particular is interested in the protagonist to duplicate his fusion of human and demon for their own use

    Web Original 
  • Felix Clay of Cracked claims in 4 People Who Really Are Making the World a Better Place recognizes this perception of the Catholic Church before explaining what Pope Francis has been doing to fight this.
  • Dice Funk is an anthology series with each season switching cast and story, and yet this manages to be a recurring theme. In Season 1, one player character is secretly on the run from a sect that wished to marry them off to the most advantageous suitor, whereas in the second season, a different set of corrupt church leaders, Sheriff K and Mayor Moreno, are actually on the player character's side, banding together to save both the world and their beloved daughter.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Clergy of Mardük originally promoted freedom of choice but became twisted when its deity Mardük was consumed by madness. The Church of the Memory of Cardia, which originally promoted order and stability, has also been acting not-so-nobly lately as it persecutes and tortures anyone linked to either demons or the Clergy of Mardük.

    Western Animation 
  • Alfred J. Kwak: The Archbishop of Great Waterland seems to be interested only in his personal gain. He initially remains on the sidelines when Dolf prepares to take over the country (citing the fruitful affiliation between the crown and the church), but openly supports his new regime after receiving a hefty bribe.
  • Castlevania: It'd be easier to list the number of times the Church didn't fuck up in a colossal way or pin the blame on the wrong people just for being different which is exactly once when Trevor commissions a local priest to consecrate some holy water during the nightly demon raid. It also didn't help their reputation with the fact that the Catholic Church in Wallachia was directly responsible for Dracula putting a death sentence on the human race when they burned Lisa at the stake for being a so-called "witch"; in truth she was a scientist, but given the anti-science and misogynistic attitudes typical of that sort of Christian, that's something the Catholic Church refused to acknowledge. Taken to the logical extreme when a group of demons attack the Bishop in the church. The Bishop — who happens to be the one who ordered Lisa's death — tries to invoke God's protection, but the lead demon claims that God is so disgusted with the Bishop's actions and attitudes that He has forsaken the church and withdrawn His protection.
  • Disenchantment: In Season 2, Episode 2, when Bean and Luci search for Elfo's name in the Book of Dead, which contains the names of all people ever sent to Hell, Bean notices there are quite a few popes in it.
  • Padre Serrano's church in Seis Manos turns out to be a front for his cartel, selling drugs and weapons. It's a bit more complicated than that, though. Serrano is actually the rival of Season 1's main villain, the jefe El Balde, and has been running drugs to keep him from taking over the town of San Simon. Once he's killed, there's no one to stop El Balde from taking over.
  • The South Park episode "Red Hot Catholic Love" has Father Maxi go to the Vatican to discuss priests molesting children. There he finds the Cardinals all are molesters and they claim the "Holy Document of Vatican Law" does not prohibit the behavior. Even worse, the "highest authority" the Vatican answers to isn't even God but a giant queen spider from another dimension. The Vatican arguably becomes even more corrupt when William Donahue overthrows Pope Benedict (though at least Jesus is quick to deal with him). To make matters worse, The Vatican's agents have such tremendous power that they are able to flaunt it without fear of reprisal, even to the point of dragging naked little boys around on leashes as their "pets."
    • Other episodes of South Park also depict various religious institutions, like Scientology and Protestantism, to be corrupt. Mormons however are generally portrayed rather positively.


Video Example(s):


Pope Alexander VI

The Renaissance era is a haven for all sorts of corrupt people and none more so than the very pope himself.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / CorruptChurch

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