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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 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.

Common elements used to turbo-charge the Church's awesomeness factor include:

The Church Fights The Supernatural!

  Often the Church will fight and destroy all manner of unholy creatures (or creatures they have deemed as such), either overtly, or covertly in a Mildly Military sub-organization of the church. Demons, Vampires, Werewolves and ravenous spirits seem to be the most popular villains, but when the Church is fighting Fey creatures, witches and other things that are nice or cute, then it's a sign they are being portrayed as Well Intentioned Extremists. See: Church Militant.

The Church Uses Magic!

 Usually existing hand in hand with the above element, if the church isn't actually hunting down magic users, (or sometimes even if they are), there will be magicians and the like in the church, often backed by the awesome power of God. Sometimes the Magic is Religious, other times The Church just seems to have come off a recruiting drive, focused on populating the church with super-powered wizards and witches.

The Church Has A Direct-Line To Jesus!

 Far from just praying and allowing circumstances and the Holy Spirit to guide them in determining God's will, this Church need do nothing so roundabout. Angels, Saints, even Jesus himself may routinely materialize before clergy or certain people, and try to guide them on the right path or act as mentors or Guardian Angels. God probably won't show up, but the Big Man will definitely be mentioned by beings who know him personally and act as his messengers.

The Church Has An Ancient Secret!

 Not only is the church in on The Masquerade, they started it. That or they have some other secret, such as having a great artifact in their possession that used to belong to Solomon or Abraham or Jesus or Saint-Somebody, which has incredible magic power or strange abilities. Other times they might be hiding something that would decrease their validity and power in the world, such as disproving God or Jesus, or otherwise making their version of Christianity seem to be incorrect.

The Church Is Full Of Badasses!

 The Church has a lot of gun-toting, sword-swinging, kung fu fighting Badasses. Maybe they are part of that magic fighting organization mentioned earlier, but if not then they may be out to punish sinners, fight for the glory of the church and otherwise protect people, or get rid of heretics. These badasses usually work as lone warriors or small groups, and may be part of a higher order or sub-organization in the church, which may be either overt or covert.

The Church Rules the World!

 The church actually rules the world as The Empire, or has otherwise become a super-power on level with other countries, and may even have taken over a large area of land for themselves and have a cool new name with the word 'Holy' in it somewhere. If there is a King, or President, he will be a figure head, the Pope is the real guy in power. When this happens there's a pretty good chance of The Church being corrupt bad guys, but that doesn't make them any less cool.

The Church Is Technologically Advanced!

 For some reason, the church always has the best toys. Presumably they have a lab somewhere filled with guys in white labcoats, chugging out holy-hand grenades, with all that money they seem to have from tithes. Either way, the Church is invariably better armed, financed and geared-up than any other organization out there. This may also result in the church venturing out into space. All those aliens to evangelize, you know?

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 much more accurate at least in terms of religious beliefs are concerned, not to mention main characters in their thirties and older are common occurrences and there isn't a particular amount of emphasis on being good looking. Fantastic Catholicism may also be mixed with social commentary on the church while Anime Catholicism never is, at least not on purpose.

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.

Examples of Fantastic Catholicism include:


Film

  • Priest. The movie that is. That is another 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).
    • Priest. 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 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.

 Why do movies about Satan always have Catholics? You never seen Methodists or Episcopalians putting down demons.

  • Priests are the cleric of choice when confronted with demonic possession (The Exorcist) or vampirism (although some Hammer films would go with a corrupt Orthodox priest instead).
  • Roger Ebert [on the movie John Carpenter's Vampires]

 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.

    • The book Vampire$ by John Steakley, on which that movie is based, has nothing supernatural in it besides 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.
    • Additionally, of course, when dealing with vampires the cross is the holy symbol of preference. Or not.

Literature

  • Dresden Files 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.
    • It should be noted, though, that the Knights of the Cross are not, per se, 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). That said, 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 should be noted that this isn't quite the same Roman Catholic Church as in most of these examples, as it's an Alternate History Verse where the Reformation never happened.
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons has similar traits.
  • 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.
  • Don Camillo would also be an example: A BadAss Priest, a Bishop playing the Eccentric Mentor and a crucifix which talks to the priest in a sense of Pals with Jesus, all the time squabbling amongst each other and being a comparison to national struggles of the catholic church by showing the Truth in Television struggle against communism.
  • 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.
  • Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series never calls it "Catholic", however 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 triology, 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.
  • The various Dan Brown Novels, such as The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, which feature the church involved in intrigue and conspiracies, the first involving a plot by Opus Dei to eliminate the last surviving member of the bloodline of Christ, hidden by the Templars, with a crazy albino assassin-devotee. In the movie version it's implied the girl has healing hands. In Angels and 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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 recognizes Angel as a vampire upon seeing him!
    • Which may have something to do with why crosses and only crosses repel and injure vampires.
  • Apparitions is a six part BBC drama about a Catholic priest, who examines evidence of miracles to be used in canonisation but also carries out exorcisms.

Tabletop RPG

  • 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.

Video Games

  • The game 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.
  • 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.

Webcomics

  • In Bibliography has the "protectors against supernatural forces" variety.
  • In the Whateley Universe, the Roman Catholic Church runs a small group (the 'Roses and Thorns') who actively fight demons, dark mages, and such. Not all the Roses and Thorns are Catholic, though. The new one has a demon mark on her. Or, to clarify, the new one actively worships a demon! (This is not the first time such has happened, and other Roses or Thorns can be agnostic as well.)
  • Sister Claire lives in a nunnery that knows that God's supernatural power has been invested in the world, can be used for various purposes like kung-fu, or misused by witches. We don't talk about the psychic twin nuns.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • 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, although the best known are the Templars they were not the only ones, other military religious orders include:
    • The Knights Hospitallers
    • Order of Saint James of Altopascio
    • Sovereign Military Order of Malta
    • Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
    • Knights Templar (Duh)
    • 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)

(See Wikipedia for more details.)

  • The Catholic Church is also one of the few Christian denominations that still trains exorcists. In the rare cases that a priest from another denomination 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.
  • The Church is Technologically advanced, after a fashion -- far from being death on science, the Church has always had a hand in science. [1] The Vatican has two state-of-the-art observatories (one in Italy, the other in the United States), and the scientist who conceived of the Big Bang Theory was Fr. Georges Le Maitre, a Jesuit. The only time the Church really injects itself in a negative sense into science -- and, no, the Catholic Church does not teach a literal seven-24-hour-day creation that took place some 5,000 years ago or a necessary incompatibility between evolutionary processes and a Creator -- these days is when it runs against moral teachings, such as embryonic stem-cell research[2] (note that the Church heartily endorses adult stem-cell research).

Notes

  1. Galileo's punishment was not, as commonly believed, because the Church thought heliocentrism was a heresy -- if that were true they would have smacked down Copernicus a century earlier -- but instead because Galileo was making an enormous Jerkass of himself by not holding off on publishing some of his documents to be sure they were free of other things that might have been doctrinally iffy.
  2. The Church believes human life has value regardless of legal/philosophical 'personhood', so Catholics believe embryonic stem cell research is basically Powered by a Forsaken Child.
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