While Voltaire's Candide parodies the theory of optimism as promulgated by Wilhelm von Leibnitz, it also satirizes the Catholic Church and its religious orders. Here are some examples of his satire on the hypocrisy of the religious orders:
- In Chapter X of Candide, Cunnegonde has been sold to a Hebrew, Don Isaachar. But, Cunnegonde resists the overtures of Isaachar; one day when she attends Mass at church, the Grand Inquisitor sees her and desires her. He offers to buy her from Isaachar because, he says, she should not live with a Jew. One day, in order to ward off earthquakes, Lisbon authorities order an auto-de-fer, in which sacrificial victims are burned, and Isaachar is one of them.
This episode portrays the hypocrisy of the clergy as the Grand Inquisitor is, first of all, in charge of torturing people; then, he lusts after the beautiful Cunnegonde and buys her from Isaachar for every other day of the week. Finally, he has Isaachar burned to death. Needless to add, this behavior is hardly proper for a man of the cloth.
- Then, in Chapter XI, Cunnegonde has had her money and diamonds stolen. The old woman strongly suspects "a reverend Franciscan who slept in the same inn with us last night." For, he came in and out of the inn twice, and he left the inn early. Stealing is a sin in the Catholic Church, so the friar is certainly hypocritical.
- In the next chapter, Chapter XI, the old woman explains that she is the daughter of Pope Urban X and the Princess of Palestrina. (Now, Urban X is a fictional name because Voltaire did not want any negative feedback since the pope has an illegitmate daughter.) Of course, priests have taken vows of celibacy, so this is hypocritical behavior, as well.