Explain: Monty Python's Church Police?

What is the deal with Monty Python’s “Church Police”? Throughout their illustrious career, they have frequently portrayed a character dressed as a “Bobby” (British cop) with a cross atop his hat. This character also appears in a George Harrison video directed by one of the Monty Python guys. Is this their way of mocking the Catholics (as they so often do)?

The Catholics? Not especially; the Pythons mocked all forms of organised religion. Often it is a daffy and ineffectual C of E vicar who is the target of their satire.

Kid (after being fingered by God as the one who killed the Bishop of Leicester in response to a prayer by the Church Police):

“It’s a fair cop, but society’s to blame”

Church cop: “Right. We will be arresting them too. Now, we shall conclude this harrest with an 'ymn.”

RC or C of E. How can you tell?
It’s tattooed on the back of their necks.

It was one of their many absurd humor ideas. Mashing up the police with the church was a funny idea.

Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition these days.

Don’t forget "The Bishop!!" Although it isn’t in that clip the insurance sketch right before it contains one of my favorite lines, “You opted for our Never-Pay Policy…”

Really unfortunate turn of phrase.

Exactly. It wasn’t just a religious matter… it wasn’t just a a matter of law enforcement… it was both! So of course you need the Church Police.

Sorry, but I’m still lost…did my question get answered? Please bear in mind that I am not Christian, so please be clear. Who are the church police, or what is Monty Python trying to say with this sarcasm? They hate religion setting rules or limits, thus religious leaders are like cops? (The Catholics specifically pop into my mind since Monty Python clearly pokes fun at Catholic beliefs on sex in “The Meaning of Life”.)

And, please translate: What is “RC” and “C of E”? Related to this, no, I did not understand Monty Python’s joke about “tattooed to the back of the neck”, either. To what does this joke refer? Spell it out for me because I am just not getting it. Thanks!

I thought the line reads: “It’s a fair COURT, but society’s to blame” …no?

Nope, “it’s a fair cop” is Brit slang for “I did it.”

If you’re going to look for actual MEANING in most of Monty Python’s sketches, you’re in for a frustrating time. It was largely deliberately absurd. There is no such thing as ‘church police’. It was just an absurd idea they had and because it was so absurd (but treated as a commonplace within the sketch) it was hilarious.

It was mostly spoofing Church of England (C of E), not Roman Catholics (RC). Catholics don’t have the somewhat absurd range of clerical ranks that C of E does.

As far as the tattoo on the back of the neck, that’s what the mother in the Dead Bishop on the Landing sketch says when she asks the husband what diocese and he says “How can you tell?” Sort of like how they tattoo dog’s ears for ID.

No, it’s neither sarcastic nor biting social satire, it’s essentially playing on the inherent absurdity of a church (implicitly the CofE, which is generally viewed as well-meaning, does some good, but is mostly trying to be all things to all men and therefore ineffectual and of marginal relevance to most people’s real lives) behaving like (equally absurd) cliché comedy police. It’s silliness for its own sake.

There are no church police.

Not at all. The reverse, in many ways. The Church of England is the official church in England, with Bishops taking seats in Parliament, yet they are seen as having very little power or influence over the people, perhaps that’s where the joke really is.

Roman Catholic and Church of England. The Church of England is officially Protestant, but has many Catholic practices/rituals, depending on individual priests. The CofE is called a ‘broad church’, which allows for much variation in practice. It is seen by some as ‘Catholic Light’. Sometimes. So I’m guessing the tattoo on the back of the neck thing is both a comment on the differences between the two churches not always being that obvious, and the crazy idea that a priest would have a tattoo.

To expand for Jinx, ‘cop’ is obviously slang for Police, so ‘it’s a fair cop’ is what a criminal might say for getting arrested for a crime he has committed. In comedy land, in any case.

In fact, “cop” in that sentence means “capture”, “catch” or (more specifically in this instance) “arrest”, and is the word that “copper” (shortened to “cop”) as slang for a policeman came from.

From the Latin capere: seize.

Now, write that out 100 times. If it’s not done by sunrise, I’ll cut yer balls off.

Yes, sir! Right, sir! Hail Caesar, sir!

Connie Booth says this, quickly, in Holy Grail after being deemed “A witch!!” From the time I first heard that line in the theater in '76 it was probably 15 years before I found out what the hell she even said, let alone what it means (it’s a completely unknown phrase in American English).

The genesis of the whole ‘Church Police’ bit is a character casually saying, “There’s a dead bishop on the landing”. This isn’t any sort of commentary or criticism on religion, it’s merely a classic, Python-esque, zany turn of phrase. And after discovering that one character says, “I’ll call the police”, then another asks, “Shouldn’t you call the church?” and then a third suggests, “Call the Church Police!” to which the first character simply replies, “Alright” and then just yells out, “THE CHURCH POLICE!!” and they quickly burst in.

It’s all just fast-paced word play (the sketch itself is actually called Salvation Fuzz)…