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An Evil Empire, Government Conspiracy or even a Corrupt Corporate Executive has sinister plans. Where will the hero find an ally? In The Church.

A Turbulent Priest is a member of the clergy who will resist the plans of somebody with power. Usually their fight is with a secular authority who threatens the Church or general morality, but struggles against other clergy attempting to subvert what the Church stands for is just as viable a foe.

This trope can be depicted in both positive and negative light. If the Turbulent Priest is portrayed as in the right, his opponent is usually interested in money or power, and will quite gladly engage in animal cruelty and other immoral behaviour to get it. If he's in the wrong, the Secular Authority is generally trying to improve society, and the Priest is afraid of change. The Trope Namer (see below), is actually quite neutral by most understandings.

How the Turbulent Priest conducts himself depends on his rank and standing. If he is the equivalent of a Monk or Parish priest, he may offer sympathies to the hero. If the work is set in The Evil Empire or similar, expect him to be part of La Résistance and usually given more freedom than the average citizen, because the Church retains some power and would not like to see its clergy picked on. If the Turbulent Priest is a bishop or other high-ranking member of the Church, expect him to publicly decry the plans, and encourage resistance. If his beef is with one person, sometimes questioning whether his soul is as safe as he thinks is an effective deterant. Both styles may overlap with a Badass Preacher or a Church Militant.

Named for Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent most of his tenure arguing with King Henry II over his plans to exercise increased Royal Control over the Church in England, leading Henry II to utter the quote at the top of the page. There was no real right or wrong side from a modern perspective, as Henry saw clergy abuse the Ecclesiastical Legal system to escape secular punishment, and Becket seeing the sovereignty of the Church threatened. Interestingly, what Henry actually said about Becket is not exactly known.

Examples of Turbulent Priest include:

Anime and Manga


  • Subverted in the movie Black Death. The young monk is the only man who recognizes most witch-burnings are the result of hysterical superstition, and initially sides with the villagers against the knights. Then he finds out it's a Village With A Dark Secret...
  • The Tower Guardian Dumont in Tron is a Cool Old Guy who maintains the only free I/O Tower on the system, despite Master Control's persecution of User-Believers. He's on the verge of the Despair Event Horizon, but Tron and Yori convince him to help. After he's captured and facing certain de-rez for his actions, he is remarkably sarcastic and defiant, declaring that Master Control "started small, and will end small!"


  • Having at the core of its plot a schism between a Corrupt Path of Inspiration and the nation it tried (and failed) to destroy, there is a number of such characters in the Safehold series, such as Charis Archbishop Maikel Staynair and members of the reformist movement within the Church of God Awaiting known as the Circle.
  • Friar Tuck in the Robin Hood legendarium.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire features the "Sparrows", pious knights and peasants who become increasingly angered at the unmitigated atrocities (and general immorality and corruption) occuring across Westeros, eventually leading them to force the installation of one of their number as the new High Septon, who starts out as rather openly condemnatory of the leadership of the realm. Cersei Lannister attempts to placate them by authorizing the restoration of the Church Militant.

Live Action TV

  • Jake in All the Small Things introduces sweeping reforms in his church in order to make it relevant to the local community. Needless to say, the traditionalists in the choir and on the parish council aren't happy.

Real Life

  • Thomas Becket, as described above.
  • Pope John Paul II actively encouraged the Solidarity movement in Poland, which resisted Communism. Some people credit the man with being a major part in Communism's non-violent downfall.
    • And he was far from being the only one. Father Jerzy Popieluszko was an activist preacher involved in Solidarity movement, and murdered by the secret police.
  • Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, was one of the main figures in the revolution that brought Philippine dictator Marcos down.
  • Two examples from the Catholic Church: One, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns helped save the torture records in the Brazilian dictatorship and store them abroad for later use (as evidence against the torturers, hopefully, but, at the very least, as a registry of that dark period), besides providing aid and abode for those that resisted said dictatorship. He actually managed to copy all or most of the records in a measly 24 hours as well by using the structure of the Church (and against the wishes of its conservative side, which meant he had to do it subtly), making it a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Two, some bishops of the "Sul-1" branch of the Church tried to interfere in the Brazilian presidential elections in 2010, using abortion (changes to abortion laws weren't really being discussed) as an excuse to attack a candidate, ignoring the rules the Church itself set regarding interference in politics in the process. It got bad enough that the Pope became known to some people as the losing candidate's most effective campaign volunteer. Needless to say, this got some Brazilians quite irked at the Church.
  • Marco Arana in Peru interacting on the behalf of natives against mining companies and other such forces. He even founded a political party! However this involvement in politics got him expelled from the church. Other priests have also gotten involved but not the same extent.
  • A number of priests, Catholic and protestant, were this to the Nazis. Many preached against the party's actions from the pulpit, while others hid those bound for the camps in their orphanages and abbeys.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • The Archdeacon of the Cathedral in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame interferes with Judge Frollo's more morally questionable acts, such as drowning babies and violating the sanctuary law.
    • Amusingly, the original Frollo was both a more moral person...and archdeacon of Notre Dame. It's like Disney split him in half and made him fight himself.
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