The Catholic Church has existed for close to two thousand years, and nothing steeped in that much history, mystery, and power is ever left alone when it comes to storytelling. It's way too juicy a target not to take advantage of.
Enter Fantastic Catholicism, wherein creators spice up The Church with fantastic elements, making it out to be the coolest, most badass organization around. Most typical of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Alternate History, this trope applies the Rule of Cool to that fusty old Catholic Church, coming out with a Holy Grail full of awesome. See also Christianity Is Catholic for when it's not explicitly stated to be Catholic, but uses elements unique to Catholicism anyways. Compare Crystal Dragon Jesus, where a fantasy universe features a religion with superficially Christian (usually Catholic) trappings. Supertrope to Anime Catholicism.
Common elements used to turbo-charge the Church's awesomeness factor include:
The Church Fights the Supernatural!
The Church Uses Magic!
The Church Has a Direct-Line to Jesus!
The Church Has an Ancient Secret!
The Church Is Full of Badasses!
The Church Rules the World!
The Church Is Technologically Advanced!
Compare Anime Catholicism, which is also Catholicism meets Rule of Cool but has Japanese media tropes mixed in. Unlike Anime Catholicism, Fantastic Catholicism is usually more accurate... at least as far as religious beliefs are concerned if not elsewhere, the main characters are often in their thirties and older and there isn't a particular amount of emphasis on good looking characters. Fantastic Catholicism may also be mixed with social commentary on the church while Anime Catholicism almost never is.
So please, do not add Anime examples unless they explicitly contradict the Anime Catholicism trope. It's a separate trope for a reason: it has an expanded set of qualifications which are very common to anime but very uncommon to Western works.
- The Iscariot Organization from Hellsing is a Catholic Church Militant organization that hunts down vampires and unbelievers and is full of serious badasses, among them Father Alexander Anderson, who uses technology designed to regenerate wounds to put him on the level of the vampires he kills. Iscariot frequently clashes with the Protestant-based Hellsing Organization, a vampire-hunting organization which isn't above using undead to fight undead.
- The Entire Premise of Warrior Nun Areala involves a division of the Catholic Church devoted to hunting down Supernatural Evil, with both Magic-using priests, badass Warrior Nuns, holy relics, super-technology and the resources of the global organization of the Church.
- Chick Tracts claim the Ancient Secret/Rules the World interpretation. According to the (purportedly nonfiction) comics, the Catholic Church is a completely separate entity from Christianity and is responsible for Islam, communism, Nazism, Masonry/Baal worship... the list goes on.
- Hellblazer: While the Catholic Church has a lot of relics and books on demons and exorcism, the actual thwarting of The Legions of Hell is usually up to Constantine (and if Garth Ennis is writing, more than a few Take Thats).
- The French comic 666 combines just about all the subtropes along with a healthy does of America Wins the War. When Hell invades, it falls to an all-American Badass Preacher to save the world using holy relics, ridiculously large guns (and a combination thereof), and nuking Hell isn't even the endpoint of the series.
- The sequel 6666 takes place in The Future (obviously), pitting demons allied with space Nazis against the massive space armada of... the Catholic Church, whose ships look like whitewashed 40K designs.
- The Italian satiric comic Suore Ninja (transl. "Ninja Nuns") maintains a small force of ninja-trained nuns, originally formed centuries ago to deal with an Alien Invasion expected in three years time (that didn't actually come in time-the aliens were measuring based on their years when they announced their coming for war three years later, so they don't show up until the 21st century), and are first seen on-page fighing a Zombie Apocalypse.
- Priest (2011) is an example of badass church priests. The church is pretty much the controlling government and the only people shown are the downtrodden, voluntary exiles, the priests, cops controlled by the church and the controlling priests (magisters). (Also, the Manhwa it is based off of). Where the New Testament never happened. Remarkably, this point could be made of most Orwellian depictions of the Church.
- Van Helsing: The title character works as an agent of the Vatican's Knights of the Holy Order (who are not all Catholic; there are also Muslim and Buddhist clerics shown in the Order's HQ) to hunt down monsters and other abominations. He might also be an Angel Unaware.
- Constantine. The title character is a Catholic demon-hunter who uses guns and magic to send demons back to hell in a world where God and the Devil are in a bet over who can influence mankind the most. Roger Ebert on the movie:
Roger Ebert: Why do movies about Satan always have Catholics? You never see Methodists or Episcopalians putting down demons.
- John Carpenter's Vampires: Of course, when dealing with vampires the cross is the holy symbol of preference. Or not. Roger Ebert on the movie:
Roger Ebert: When it comes to fighting vampires and performing exorcisms, the Roman Catholic Church has the heavy artillery. Your other religions are good for everyday theological tasks, like steering their members into heaven, but when the undead lunge up out of their graves, you want a priest on the case. As a product of Catholic schools, I take a certain pride in this pre-eminence.
- In John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, the Church kept the Devil prisoner in the basement of an out-of-the-way church, alongside proof that Jesus was an alien, and that the Church was meant to be a militant society on guard in case the Devil (also an alien) ever escaped his prison. Unfortunately, the Church became corrupt and started seeking power for its own sake.
- The Dresden Files:
- It depicts the Roman Catholic Church as including a secret society dedicated to fighting various supernatural nasties, as well three Knights of the Cross with holy swords made using the nails from the Crucifixion and more or less confirmed to be Excalibur, Durendal, and the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi.
- The Knights of the Cross explicitly have Contrived Coincidence working in their favor to ensure that they can show up where they're needed when they are needed; Harry's friend Michael Carpenter, a Catholic Knight of the Cross, is described as having power different from Harry's wizard magic, and has done things like holding back monsters and releasing Harry from mind control with his faith. The Knights of the Cross are notnecessarily part of the Catholic church. Michael is, but Shiro was a Baptist, and Sanya claims to be an atheist (though agnostic might be more accurate). The support structure we see for the Knights seems to be made entirely of Catholic priests.
- Also under The Dresden Files: Archangels make occasional in-person appearances.
- In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy series, set in a world where magic is the technology, the Roman Catholic Church not only oversees the ethics and orthodoxy of Sorcerers but counts sensitives and healers among its clergy. The Church licenses all magicians, and is in charge of any cases of Black Magic. Most magical Healers are either priests or nuns. It's an Alternate History Verse where the Reformation never happened.
- The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons. In the first two books, the Catholic Church is widely seen as an eccentric, old-fashioned institution whose time has passed, and is only noted because Catholic priests play major roles. It's only in the second part of the quadrology that the Catholic Church becomes a star-spanning empire whose beliefs would be considered incredibly heretical by any modern standards.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz: After the End, the only remaining pillar of civilization is the Catholic Church.
- Sandman Slim by Rihcard Kadrey features prevalently a secret organization funded and run by the church, which has a crazy Angel at the head of it. They are in on The Masquerade and fight demons and other people who piss them off.
- The Apocalypse Door by James D. Macdonald: The protagonist is an agent for the Catholic Church's secret service, who are all ordained priests and sometimes fight actual demons. The novel also features a nun who is one of the Church's assassins. Both also feature in The Confessions of Peter Crossman.
- Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom has the Forza Scura, a division of the Vatican which trains operatives to fight demons.
- The His Dark Materials series never calls it "Catholic" (because the Reformation never happened), but the Church both rules the world and uses magic.
- Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels. Despite lacking the Papacy, the Western Church is Catholic in liturgy, there's intrigue (sometimes against secular rulers), psionic magic users and fights against them, even powerful summoned beings called by the names of archangels (and most participants think they are in fact Raphael, Gabriel, Michael and Uriel). They don't call their church Catholic, in part because the books are alternative histories set several centuries before Protestantism, and there is Eastern Orthodoxy (mostly in Torenth), Islam, and even Scandinavian paganism in a tiny minority. Most of the action is in the West. In the "Camber" trilogy, you'll find the Michaelines (Order of Saint Michael the Archangel), a fearsome combination of the Templars and the Jesuits, with many members who can use magic. Oh, and many active characters/protagonists are in their 30s and 40s.
- Dan Brown features the church involved in intrigue and conspiracies:
- In Angels & Demons, a young priest fakes an elaborate plot by the Illuminati involving anti-matter to kill various cardinals who are being considered for election to pope, to try to get himself elected pope and suppress the encroachment of science on religion.
- In The Heirs of Alexandria Historical Fantasy series, priests and nuns can be magicians, and the Church apparently includes some non-humans, with one Venetian church having a "water chapel" for undines. This is all hidden from most ordinary folk, though.
- Sergey Lukyanenko
- Rough Draft duology has a parallel world called Tverd ("firmament") where technology appears to be in Medieval Stasis thanks to the efforts of the functionals with the exception of bio-engineering. The Church, based in Rome, of course, is in nominal control over all of the world. However, this control means it's more relaxed and allows minor religions and denominations to exist, knowing full well they'll never get many followers. Instead of Inquisitions, they prefer logical argument and theological discussions. The only thing they are very adamant about is "thou shalt never modify a human being". Since man was made in the image of God, using bio-engineering to modify His greatest creation would be a grave sin and is punishable by death. Modifying any other animal or plant is perfectly fine, though, as was established by Saint Charles Darwin. There is no Pope in this world with the Church controlled by the Council of Cardinals. Tverd is one of two known worlds to successfully resist the functionals.
- Seekers of the Sky duology also has an alternate version of the Church and is described in great detail. Basically, Jesus was killed as a baby, so God chose a human child as His Messiah. The Redeemer used his ability to make anything disappear and reappear to ascend to the Roman throne. He then made himself disappear, as well as most of the iron in the world. Fast-forward to "modern" times. The world is in Medieval Stasis thanks to the deficit of iron. The Roman Empire never fell but now controls most of Europe and parts of the Americas. The Church is powerful and split into two major denominations: the Chuch of the Redeemer and the Church of the Sister (one of the Redeemer's disciples, possibly Mary Magdalene). God's Stepson is the Pope Expy and controls both denominations. Since the Redeemer was not crucified but had himself tied to a pole, the pole is the symbol of the Church with pieces of it considered holy relics. Hell is seen as a frozen wasteland, and The Devil doesn't exist (to say otherwise is heresy of the highest order). Thomas Aquinas is considered a heretic. Killing is not a violation of the "thou shalt not kill" commandment unless it's done 12 times (with a few exceptions) thanks to a literal interpretation of the Redeemer's words.
- Maurice G. Dantec's Cosmos Incorporated blends Catholic metaphysics with Cyber Punk in a world where Catholicism (as well as the rest of Christianity but particular emphasis is laid on the Catholic Church) and a woman is given the power to alter reality by the angel Metatron.
- The book Vampires by John Steakley, has the presence of vampires, and Catholicism-based magic which hurts vampires. Being in or near a Catholic church hurts vampires and makes them hazy in the head; the Vatican has an even more pronounced effect. Priests have special vampire-ass-kicking power and mystical light tends to appear while they're doing their thing. Even regular characters can wield crosses, or halogen lights in the shape of crosses, or silver bullets that were part of a cross and then melted down, and get extra vampire-killing points from it.
- The Holy Dominion in the Destroyermen books is an Empire controlling much of North America on a parallel world formed by Spanish Conquistadors and a May Inca Tec tribe that were brought to this world by the same means as the crew of the USS Walker. The Conquistadors' beliefs ended up intermixing with the blood sacrifice practices of the natives to form a "perversion of Catholicism" (something the books reiterate constantly). The Doms believe that, since Christ died after enduring torture, torture and a painful death must be a requirement to get into Heaven. The blood priests and blood cardinals control the Dominion from both a religious and political standpoint. Their version of the Pope titles himself as "His Supreme Holiness, the Messiah of Mexico, and, by the Grace of God, Emperor of the World" and is kept in perpetual bliss by alcohol, food, drugs, and women (that the current Pope is able to keep his wits about him through all this is incredible). All nobles, priests, cardinals, and even Popes undergo their version of the Last Rites when near death. Naturally, it involves ritualistic flaying. Which is one of the reasons why the heroes take a some delight in killing them quickly and with the least amount of pain (i.e. Boom, Headshot!).
- Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest features a badass nun pursuing a werewolf across the post-Civil War United States who during the course of the book becomes a werewolf herself but manages to control it through a combination of willpower and drugs
- In the Takeshi Kovacs novels the Roman Catholic Church has officially disavowed the setting's otherwise ubiquitous Brain Uploading, as such Catholics who are murdered can't be made to testify and criminals who are sentenced to "storage" are never brought back out. Which leads organized crime to use Catholics as Disposable Sex Workers.
- In an early episode of Angel, Angel sought to help a boy possessed by a demon. Did Angel call Willow or try to cast a spell? Hardly. He sought out a Catholic priest. It should also be noted that when Angel and Wesley enter the church, a nun immediately recognizes Angel as a vampire on sight (a talent not even Buffy had).
- Apparitions is a six part BBC drama about a Catholic priest, who examines evidence of miracles to be used in canonization but also carries out exorcisms.
- Brother Theo and his group of Cistercian monks working on Babylon 5 are very tech savvy. This is an important plot point in several episodes as they help identify saboteurs and conduct espionage against the fascist Earth Gov.
- An background plot point in Netflix's Altered Carbon live-action adaptation (and the original book) is the Neo-Catholics, who believe that having their Cortical Stack "re-spun" (and thus be resurrected if killed) is a sin and affront to God (Final Death should be just that, followed by eternal judgment or reward of your soul) and thus refuse this kind of treatment and consider people who have used it to be The Soulless (and understandably, with the ubiquitousness of Body Surf tech on the setting, people believe them to be crazy kooks). This plot point becomes increasingly important as the story goes on.
- Brave New World supplement The Covenant. The title organization is an order of the Roman Catholic church devoted to fighting evil supernatural creatures. Many of them are Deltas and thus have superpowers.
- In Ars Magica, the Catholic Church's authority over medieval Europe is called The Dominion, and stifles the power of demons, faeries and Hermetic wizards. The devout have a chance of calling on a miracle as well.
- Hunter: The Vigil has the Malleus Maleficarum, "The Hammer of Witches," as the Catholic Church's black bag group. They tend to view supernaturals as monsters that plague mankind, and gain access to holy Benedictions based on the saints.
- The Catholic Church in Infinity is a major political player in PanOceania and maintains militarized space knights in Powered Armor.
- In Nomine allows human servants as well as the angels and demons.
- Warhammer 40,000: The priests are genetically enhanced Super Soldiers in Power Armor, the Nuns also wear Power Armor and mainly use fire weapons and the interstellar Inquisition hunts demons, aliens and heretics and dooms whole planets for the suspicision of heresy. While the actual religion is not neccessarily Catholicism, most elements common to it and the style of buildings fit the bill.
- They're not called Catholic Space Nazis for nothing.
- The Church of Abel in Anima: Beyond Fantasy, even if its central figure is a Crystal Dragon Jesus, has many elements of both real Catholicism and fantastic one as described in this trope, such as organization, dogma (parts of it at least), prosecution of the supernatural, use of (sanctioned by it) magic -considered a gift of God-, and being the most powerful (visible) organization of the game's setting. It has, too, some Anime Catholicism mixed in as well as of the Old Testament version of christianism.
- Shadow Run: The Catholic Church is still the largest Christian denomination in the Sixth World, but was forced to change in light of the Awakening. The Church was at first hostile towards magic and metahumanity, but with the landmark Papal encyclical Imago Dei has officially changed its stance and accepted that metahumans do have souls. The church now classifies magic like any other weapon or tool: it is how it is used that makes magic good or evil. The Order of St. Silvester is a new monastic order founded specifically to promote the beneficial use of magic, investigate magical phenomena, and raise awareness about magic to parts of the Church that still view it with suspicion. The Order is also a front for the New Knights Templar, and Sylvestrine monks supply the Templars with magical support.
- Catholicism has been entirely outlawed and forced underground in Aztlan (post-Awakening Central America), and is persecuted in the elf-controlled state of Tir na nÓg (post-Awakening Ireland). Furthermore, the French and German branches of the Church, along with other more conservative dioceses around the world, went into schism with the Church in protest of Imago Dei and its acceptance of metahumans and magic. In light of its more embattled position, the Church has created new militant orders to defend its faith and its faithful, most notably The New Knights Templar and the New Jesuits.
- Sword of the Stars has similar traits as it's somehow the only major human religion to survive, and missionaries are spreading it to the Tarka.
- The Deacon's Tale book also shows the enormity of the Pope's power. When the SolForce director (who's pretty much the most powerful man in human space) doesn't hurry up to investigate the violent attack on a colony, during which a priest was tortured and killed, the Pope refuses religious services to everyone until this is done. Now imagine what sort of pressure this puts on the director, where a vast majority of people are Catholic. Actually, the director is just about ready to arrest the Pope for treason and damn the consequences.
- In Darklands, you can invoke saints for specific buffs and magical effects.
- In Assassin's Creed video games, the church ("Templars") have a serious organization out to control the world and keep the big secret about The Precursors from entering common knowledge. They use a technology called the animus to extract information about religiously important object (which are lost etch, perhaps), and hunt and kill anyone in their way.
- The Borgias were members of this group, and a Borgia Pope tried to mind-control the citizens of Rome with a magical artifact. The Assassins told him to have a date with gravity.
- In After the End: A Crusader Kings II Mod, Catholicism has experienced a massive surge in the American West, complete with a new Papacy in St. Louis and the revival of the Crusades. There's also two offshoots that refuse to acknowledge his authority as the "true" Pope: The Ursulines of Quebec, who have their own all-female clerical hierarchy, and a Mexican splinter religion that evolved from devotions to the Sacred Heart and the veneration of saints.
- Tall Tales: Father Benedict de Monte is employed by the Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern rebranding of the old Vatican Inquisition. In the story, this body still carries out investigations and combat against threats to the safety or teachings of the Church, though much more covertly than in ages past.
- In the Whateley Universe, the Roman Catholic Church runs a small group (the 'Roses and Thorns') who actively fight demons, dark mages, and such.
- In the Alternate History story Malê Rising, the Catholic Church, under the rule of a militantly anti-modernist Pope, revives the Papal Legion in order to support the Catholic powers of France and Austria-Hungary during this world's Great War in the 1890s. Despite the reactionary intent of the new Papal Legion, however, it soon becomes a hotbed of populism, bringing together men from all over the world under a single Catholic banner; when they return home, they take all manner of radical ideas with them.
- "The Special Clergy" from Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil.
- Interestingly, a real life example of this could be the covert actions of the Church during World War II (They saved an unknown number of Jews and may have passed information to the allies), though not very many people know about that and it may be a bit too controversial for a TV Tropes article. There is also The Pope's Legion (The Papal Zouaves) which was a multi-national force of volunteers intended to stop an invasion by Napoleon and maintain the independence of the Church.
- The church has had many military orders throughout their history, especially during the Crusades period including:
- Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (more commonly known as The Knights Hospitallers)
- Order of Saint James of Altopascio
- Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
- Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (more commonly known as The Knights Templar)
- Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (more commonly called The Teutonic Knights)
- Livonian Brothers of the Sword
- Knights of the Cross with the Red Star
- Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ
- Order of the Faith and Peace
- Militia of Jesus Christ
- Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ
- Order of the Dragon (to which belonged Vlad II Dracul of Wallachia, father of Vlad III Dracula)
- Blood of Jesus Christ
- Alliance et Compagnie du Levrier (Alliance and Company of the Greyhound)
- Emprise du Fer de Prisonnier (Enterprise of the Prisoner's Iron)
- The Catholic Church did actually rule over a significant portion of Italy as The Papal States for over 1000 years. They only ceased to exist in 1870, when they were conquered by the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.
- In theory the Holy Roman Empire was also supposed to be a Catholic superpower, at its greatest extent covering a significant portion of Europe. However, it was never particularly Holy or Roman, was more a collection of minor bickering states than an actual empire, and the Pope had no more direct power over it than any other Catholic country at the time.
- The Catholic Church is also one of the few Christian faiths that still trains exorcists, so movies such as The Exorcist are rather Truth in Television. In the rare cases that a priest from another faith tradition believes that someone is under Demonic Possession (not unknown, but vanishingly rare - and a subject of controversy as to whether it's real at all - in Real Life), they'll ask the nearest Catholic priest for help. That priest, however, will refer the person to the local Bishop or Archbishop, who then will demand a battery of physical and psychological tests to exclude any illness that would produce similar effects to a possession. It is only after that, having exhausted any possible temporal causes, that the person will be allowed to see one of the Church's trained exorcists.