"Deep in prayer my cross to bear,Stole this shepherd's heart."
I kneel upon the floor.
Temptations of a Catholic priest aren't easy to ignore.
But I can not control myself
It rips my soul apart!
For one small sheep among my flock has
—Stephen Lynch, Priest
Very simply, this is when a priest is depicted as or accused of being a pedophile or child molester. Given the implicit trust associated with the profession, this is typically portrayed as the ultimate betrayal of innocence and a Moral Event Horizon for everyone involved. Due to the cultural impact of the late twentieth-century child molestation scandals in the Catholic Church, Catholic priests are by far the most likely to be involved in a molestation accusation in modern media, although other religions are not immune.
Depending on the tone of the work and whether it regards the church as inherently good or evil, the initial accusation may be treated as an aberration of a single sick individual, or may lead to the uncovering of a corrupt or actively malevolent church hierarchy. Taken to the extreme, the church is nothing more than a Wretched Hive of child abusers using their religion as a shield. By contrast, in a comedic work, the trope may be Played for Laughs as a stock joke without exploring the Unfortunate Implications.
The accused need not even be guilty; the simple accusation of pedophilia/molestation is usually enough to set off a Paedo Hunt, which a Genre Savvy villain may take full advantage of as a Red Herring to cover up or distract from their crimes. Another way this trope can be used on a non-villainous character is that he has joined the church not only to get an excuse to remain a bachelor, but also as a way to fight against his urges and remain chaste.
No real life examples, please; First, this is a rape trope, and All The Tropes does not care to squick its readers. Second, this is a trope about how characters are depicted in media. Please don't use this page to smear the reputations of real people. If you have evidence of this taking place in Real Life, tell your local police department, not us.
- Invoked in The Five Star Stories with Bishop Iller, whose Fatima partner, Ananda, is made to look like a Cute Shotaro Boy.
- Somewhat inverted in Osamu Tezuka's MW. As a teenager, Garai sexually abuses the 9-year old Yuuki Michio & later becomes a priest to atone for his sinful past.
- Adam Blade in NEEDLESS. Never actually *does* anything with/to little girls and played very much for laughs.
- Played for laughs with Garterbelt of Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt. He's awfully fond of Brief and organizes a naked marathon for high schoolers for the sake of getting his jollies on. suggests that he was actually trying to keep an eye on Brief, whose dick happens to the key to hell.
- We can even see him singing a song about his big and black sausage in the ninth episode, selling sausage in the beach.
- In the Black Butler anime, the leader of the Pure Church is implied to be one, which is why they were getting Ciel cleaned up.
- In one issue of Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem investigates one of the president's consultants and learns he is associated with a church that is being used as a meeting for predatory child molesters. He arrives in the said place just in time to save a girl of becoming another victim of the priest who runs it.
- The Church of Mary Vestal Slut, specifically. Which adds another disturbing layer to the whole shebang, considering the child molesters considered kids "pre-sexual human beings" and wanted to legalize pedophilia.
- The corrupt bishop from V for Vendetta.
- One of the 15 Portraits of Despair in Endless Nights is about a priest (not explicitly a Catholic priest) who gets booted out of the church, forcing him to start his life over, because he's accused of being one. He isn't, but it makes no difference to the outcome.
- Although, as the title implies, there is ambiguity about whether or not the accused character is actually guilty of this.
- Hand of God
- Sex Crimes and the Vatican
- Our Fathers
- Twist of Faith
- The Boys of St. Vincent
- Song for a Raggy Boy
- Bad Education
- Scary Movie 3
- Spotlight, based on The Boston Globe's "coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in 2002."
- A deleted scene of In Bruges would have subverted this. Ray assumes that the priest he killed was a pedophile, because his boss is protective of children. However, Ken says that he was just opposing their boss' land grab.
- The second X Files movie had a character wanting atonement who was helped into becoming a psychic visionary, implied to be done by God.
- In the sequel to Blood Feast, John Waters plays one. As he puts it, "So in other words, typecasting."
- Le souffle au cœur (Murmur of the Heart). Laurent, 14 and a half, is in confession when his priest and teacher makes a pass at him. Laurent asks to go back to class. The priest, annoyed, gives him an excessive penance: thirty Hail Marys. The priest seems to have a reputation for making passes at the boys. However, during the private lessons he later gives a convalescent Laurent nothing much, if anything, happens.
- In Lindsay Anderson's if..., a middle-aged chaplain and mathematics teacher at a boys' boarding school seems to take an interest in Jute, a pretty new boy in his class, probably 13 years old. The chaplain is skewered by Anderson's satire, as are most of the adults in the film.
- The 2006 documentary feature Deliver Us From Evil tells the story of a priest who for 20 years was reassigned to many parishes in Northern California before he was caught and convicted in 1993. He was deported to his native Ireland in 2001 where he . . . well, see the entry regarding the 2006 episode of the BBC series Panorama under "Live Action TV" below.
- The Least of These features Father Andre James (Isaiah Washington) being transferred to a small, out of the way boarding school after the disappearance of a former priest. As the movie proceeds, much darker things are revealed in both the cases of the disappeared priest and his own past.
- How Not to Write A Novel has a notice that characters should be careful not to touch young children in case they come off looking dodgy -- "Priests shouldn't even touch a boy to rescue him from a burning building."
- Septon Utt from A Song of Ice and Fire. The fact that he is the only member of the Brave Companions who is even close to sympathetic really says a lot—at least Utt feels guilt over what he does, while the rest of the Brave Companions revel in their vileness.
- Padre Pederastia from The Illuminatus! Trilogy, at least by name. Not explicitly stated to be interested in young boys.
- Jewish example: Carol Matas, best known for her young-adult novels about the Holocaust, wrote The Primrose Path, about a teenage girl sexually abused by her rabbi.
- Padre Damaso from Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere can be considered as someone along this line. He is Maria Clara's biological father.
- Father Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds is a vague example of this. Although nothing happens between him and Meggie until she is in her mid-20's, it is strongly implied that he has had feelings for her since he met her, when he was 28, and she was 10.
- Michael Cordy's novel The Miracle Strain has a priest who rapes teenage girls. They're young enough that it counts as a sex crime in the US, though maybe not in other countries.
- Subverted with Brother Nhumrod from Discworld's Small Gods. Though it's implied that by the strictly literal definition of pedophile he qualifies, after Om accuses him of being a pederast, it's mentioned that while he might occasionally have "disquieting thoughts" in his head, he makes sure they stay in his head rather than him acting on them.
- He could just be plagued with intrusive thoughts, but that probably isn't the intended implication.
- From how Nimrod's thoughts are described it seems as though he's subject to unwanted sexual thoughts of just about every possible variety
- Henry de Montherlant's Les Garçons has a priest in his 30s deep in unrequited love with a 14-year-old pupil at the boys' school where he works. The priest's attractions and emotions are directed at boys of of 12-15.
- Roger Peyrefitte's Les amitiés particulières (Special Friendships) is also set in a Jesuit school. One of the teacher-priests seems to fancy 14-year-olds Georges and Lucien, suggesting that they switch pyjamas and the like. Eventually he is caught entertaining one of the boys in his study at night and kicked out of the school. Another of the priest-teachers loves 12-year-old Alexandre and has him sit on his lap.
- Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Free Fall has the Vigilantes take on a group of pedophiles, and one of them is a deacon, which is not exactly a priest, but pretty darn close! Under The Radar has the Vigilantes take on a polygamist (considered synonymous to "pedophile" in this story) sect in Utah, run by a Prophet named Harold Evanrod. While Harold is probably not supposed to be a priest, he might as well be!
- Alberto Moravia's 1951 novel, The Conformist has Lino, a defrocked priest who attempts to molest 13-year-old Marcello near the beginning of the book.
- Surprisingly few episodes of Law and Order SVU, but enough. Although, when it happens, it's usually of the "Church is lousy with pedophiles" variety. One episode featured a priest who murdered a transgender hooker; it is quickly determined that he was molested by a priest. They find two pedophile priests in his church, and another victim molested by a different priest.
- An episode of the sitcom The War at Home had the youngest son convinced that the local priest was a pedophile, so he attempts to seduce him so he can report him to the cops.
- Grace's backstory in Saving Grace features one of these.
- One episode of Bones features a priest who was killed because he was suspected of being one of these. (He wasn't.)
- Father Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds is a vague example of this, as mentioned in the Literature example above.
- A suspected one was the victim of a vigilante in the Criminal Minds episode "A Real Rain".
- Rampant pedophilia in the Catholic Church made Bobby Donnell of The Practice turn his back on the Catholic faith.
- Misfits references this, and actually has one of the characters announce: "when I was growing up in Ireland, if the Priests weren't fiddling with you, you were one of the ugly kids." Although said character is notoriously prone to making ridiculous, insensitive and untrue statements, so it's probably best to take his words with a large grain of salt. Also, while the Priest featured in the show was a Complete Monster (he was a thief, a rapist, and was falsely proclaiming himself to be the Second Coming of Jesus) he wasn't actually suggested to be a pedophile. For what it's worth.
- Surprisingly, mostly averted in Father Ted of all places. Still mentioned a few times, though.
- Ultraviolet. In the episode "Mea Culpa" a 12-year old boy kills a priest and the team is sent to investigate if the killing is vampire-related. The priest in charge of the team, Pearse Harman, gets annoyed when ex-cop Michael Colefield thinks it's child abuse-related, lampshading the paedophile Catholic priest cliché. Subverted at the end when it turns out the priest was innocent and vampires were involved, yet Harman cynically allows the public to believe the priest was a paedophile to maintain the Masquerade.
- The Atheist Experience (and The Non-Prophets podcast) regularly criticises Catholic priests and Protestant ministers for this behaviour.
- Frontline has had a few episodes about pedophiles in the clergy:
- The 2009 episode "Judge And Jury" revolves around a young woman who accuses her parish priest of raping her. Frontline runs the story with a rebuttal from the priest, but edits it in such a way that it makes him look unreliable. The priest ends up committing suicide offscreen, and when Frontline interviews the woman again, she quickly destroys her own credibility by claiming to have been abducted by aliens.
- In the 2007 episode "Hand of God", a documentary filmmaker from the Boston area tells the story of his brother who was molested as a boy by the parish priest. The priest was reassigned many times whenever it seemed that the truth was about to be revealed.
- The subject of the Blue Heelers episode "Vow of Silence".
- A few months after the film Deliver Us From Evil (see "Films" above) was released, a reporter and camera crew from BBC documentary series Panorama caught up with the pedophile priest profiled in the movie. Following his deportation from the United States, he was shown trying to get close to children yet again, all without the knowledge of the locals of his previous conviction for child molestation. (According to The Other Wiki, a few weeks after the episode ran, he slipped out of Ireland. He turned up in The Netherlands in 2010 volunteering at a local parish under a pseudonym. A few months after that, he was found in Ireland to have kiddie porn on his laptop and several storage devices.)
- Referenced in an episode of Blue Bloods dealing with abuse of designer drugs by students at a Catholic school. After the headmaster stonewalls Danny and Jackie's request to search the school with drug-sniffing dogs, Frank goes to the bishop to get the headmaster overruled. Among Frank's lines in that scene is one that goes something like, "The Catholic Church cannot be seen covering up another scandal."
- "Priest", by Stephen Lynch is a song of a priest barely trying to resist his urges.
- Rammstein's "Halleluja" is about a priest not trying to resist his urges.
- Tim Minchin blasts pedophile priests, and the ones who cover for them, in "The Pope Song."
- Sinead O'Connor has campaigned for years about exposing pedophilia in the Catholic church, and often incorporates the fight into her music and performances.
- Apocalyptica's I'm Not Jesus.
- God Has A Plan For Us All by Angtoria
- Crying For The Moon by Epica
- "Devil in a Midnight Mass" by Canadian band Billy Talent
- Preacher Man by Inkubus Sukkubus
- Pope on a Rope by The Meatmen (though only one verse refers to it)
- The Bad Religion song Sinister Rogue contains a mention of this, among other attacks on the Catholic church.
- Given how Darker and Edgier White Wolf tends to be, this is surprisingly averted in Hunter: The Vigil with the head of the Inquisition. He's outrageously corrupt in other ways, such as being addicted to vampire blood, and having a Will and Grace relationship with Satan's daughter, and is in fact homosexual, but while he does like them young (being Really Seven Hundred Years Old, they have to be), he instead likes them legal, consenting, and...pitching.
- The Bishop of Basingstoke in Jekyll and Hyde (who is Anglican rather than Catholic).
- Pierre Bonflèche, one of the many Complete Monster officials populating Varicella.
- Operation: Pedopriest, a political flash game inspired by Sex Crimes and the Vatican, that has the Villain Protagonist try to protect pedophile priests from the police.
- Father Paul Rawlings in Clive Barker's Jericho is called this by SS-Commander Fräulein Hanne Lichthammer. This is never elaborated upon, but as a powerful psychic, Lichthammer has access to a person's darkest secrets (like Church's Rape as Backstory).
- The South Park episode "Red Hot Catholic Love" shows local priest Father Maxi as just about the only non-pedophile priest in the entire Catholic Church. (He has been shown makin' it with at least one adult female parishioner though.) Then again, Father Maxi is in a different place on the corruption spectrum in pretty much every episode in which he appears.
- In "Hell on Earth 2006," all the Catholic priests are shown leading around naked boys on leashes. No one appears to notice or care even when they are in public.
- Parodied in Drawn Together when all characters were making an inscenization of what can happen if Xandir tells his parents about being gay. Wooldoor was playing pedo priest.
- Inverted in Xavier: Renegade Angel: The kid was the one molesting the priest.
- Daria has a non-Catholic example with the
priestminister at Erin's wedding, who spends most of the reception talking with teenage Quinn about how important "love" is. She doesn't seem to understand what he means; her escort does and tries to kick the minister's ass.
- In American Dad, Stan admits to being molested by a priest in summer camp. And later admits that he was the one who initiated it.
- In Family Guy, Peter commented that they were going to keep drinking until they brought up repressed memories of being molested by a priest. Only Cleveland is shown to have recovered on.
- Wikipedia lists and details many cases of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
- In 2002, The Boston Globe's unraveled cases of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic Church priests in the Boston area. The coverage inspired the 2015 film Spotlight.
- In September 2014, the Vatican arrested former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was "accused of paying for sex with children while he was a papal ambassador in the Dominican Republic."
- * Father Andre is not the Pedophile Priest himself. In fact, he actively discourages even light sexual shenanigans, as we see in one scene where he chooses to dine in the main hall with the boys instead of in the private dining room with the older priests; he also takes the opportunity to confiscate the dirty magazines one of the boys brings to dinner, dumping them right in the trash and calling out one of the boys who was looking at them, without even looking over his shoulder.
- although if you do read any truth into it, there's some serious Fridge Horror to be had (it's highly unlikely that Nathan was one of the aforementioned "ugly kids"!)