"You have betrayed your god. You have defiled His temples with the unworthy and sold His divinity to beggars…"
- – note nailed to the door of Cardinal Xandus
Temple Tendency refers to two related but different things. In both cases, it refers to the Temple of the Saviour Emperor, the original Imperial cult when those early Ecclesiarchs began to abuse their powers, leading to the Age of Apostasy (and, more specifically, to Goge Vandire's Reign of Blood), which ended with the Thorian Reformation, in which the sect named the Confederation of Light supplanted the Temple.
Having a "temple tendency" is a saying within the Ecclesiarchy to refer to those members who reflect a pre-Reformation style, whether in the tone of their sermons, the kind of dress they wear, or even the layout of their chapels.
Over time it became a euphemism for greed or desire for worldly power that was unbecoming of a priest of the Ministorum. Generally, it's used as a warning, before the aforementioned members are declared heretics.
The Heretical Group
There is also a legitimate heretical group called the Temple Tendency. It's made up of the former members of the Temple of the Saviour Emperor, who believe that the Confederation of Light was fundamentally wrong and want to undo Thor's reforms. The Temple Tendency see themselves as the true and pure worshipers of the God-Emperor of Mankind and believe the Ecclesiarchy are guilty of perpetuating a tainted lie and are a heresy of the highest order.
The Temple Tendency has three main objectives:
- Preservation of the True: Considering that the "True" are few in number who are mostly linked by bloodlines and oaths of fealty, the first and most pragmatic objective is to ensure that they are not discovered. The close links between members could mean that the entire network could come crashing down the moment one of them is positively identified. The Temple Tendency therefore makes it its business to be as inscrutable as possible, performing baffling and extreme acts of misdirection to ensure that attention is not placed on the Temple itself.
- Return of Might and Majesty: The Temple Tendency wishes to restore political and military power back to religious authority, as it was in the time before the Reformation. Considering that most agencies have remained largely secular this would mean overthrowing the entire Imperium, which is a virtually impossible goal in itself. However the Temple Tendency still works to subvert Imperial Adeptus and the Ministorum wherever they can to slowly but surely gain influence they can wield.
- Return of the Temple of the Saviour Emperor: The ultimate end-goal for the Temple Tendency is to restore their former status and dispose of the heretics of the Ecclesiarchy.
Many Imperial Governors and similarly high-level officials are secretly part of the Tendency, at least in regions where their influence is strong. Despite their efforts, neither the Ecclesiarchy nor the Ordo Hereticus of the Inquisition have been able to stamp it out- the group has been able to hide itself by infiltrating parts of the Ecclesiarchy itself.
The Tendency has managed to infiltrate the Redemption, with a view to using them as unwitting cannon-fodder for their plans, though they haven't yet managed to exert influence at the cult's highest levels. For their part the Redemption itself is unaware of the Tendency's existence, but considering that the Temple of the Saviour Emperor embodies the sorts of excess that the cult believes is sinful, they would probably chew them out with a chainsword if they ever came into open contact with one another.
One group the Tendency will not infiltrate is the Adepta Sororitas, who they have a deep loathing towards; Which is to be expected considering that it was the actions of Alicia Dominica that ended the line of Ecclesiarchs from the Temple of the Saviour Emperor (conveniently forgetting the fact that Goge Vandire was beyond batshit Konrad Curze insane and had it coming). The Temple Tendency take every opportunity they can to enact their revenge on them, and will even go to uncharacteristic lengths to thwart and harm the Sisterhood.
The Temple Tendency is mostly an organisation arranged by bloodlines, but is largely decentralised. It is funded by donors from noble families who rarely know each other, but are linked through the interant priesthood that moves between them.
Those priests are referred to as Shade Priests or Vandirian Apostates by the Inquisition, but they simply refer to themselves as the "True". The Shade Priests lead double lives as travellers, merchants or pilgrims, which gives them the cover to move from location to location and minister to the local faithful. They are usually the illegitimate children of the noble families, taken at an early age and taught the doctrines of the faith in secret, but occasionally they might be a subverted member of the Ministorum itself.
In addition to ministering to the noble families, the Shade Priests sometimes have authority over assassination cells made up of secret members of the faith from various backgrounds. These cells are given free reign to roam and work against the Ecclesiarchy wherever the opportunity arises, so long as the veil of secrecy is maintained. Whether they are aware of any upper workings of the Temple Tendency is debatable and many cells will work alone, choosing and executing their targets without any further encouragement. The freedom to kill when they choose is considered by the Tendency to act as a sort of proving process, presumably to sort out the competent killers from the enthusiastic fools, after which the Shade Priests will take them on board and give them more focused tasks.
The Shade Priests are overseen by the Pontifices, who are shadowy figures that mirror Ecclesiarchy cardinals, they have authority over each subsector who answer to a single High Priest of the True who oversees the Temple at the sector level. The Calixis Sector Pontifices have lost contact with branches of the Temple Tendency outside of their sector, so it is unknown whether the agency has any higher authority above them such as a mirror-Ecclesiarch or if it exists as independently operating cells.
The Temple Tendency has a number of hidden chantries located in various locations often wherever they are sponsored, be it in the basement of a noble family estate or in the depths of a void trading vessel, oftentimes the chantries were once the original sacred places of the Temple of the Saviour Emperor carefully preserved and protected from prying eyes. Despite being hidden in secret locations, a lot of wealth gets thrown into their construction so that they act as a gilded reminder of the greatness that the temple used to have and wish for again. These temples are protected by Chantry Guards who are an echo of the Frateris Templar, long since forbidden by the Reformation decree.
The Chantry Guards themselves are fanatics drawn from the military retainers of the faithful noble families. Rendered mute by the voluntary removal of their vocal cords so they cannot share the secrets of the cult. They "speak" in an ancient sign language that is said to date back to the origins of the Imperium itself. (Note: the Sisters of Silence and the Space Marines both used varying forms of battle-sign during the Great Crusade). The Chantry Guards are equipped with some of the best arms and protections available, with gilded plate that is the equivalent of best quality carapace armour, are implanted with synthetic muscle grafts to improve their capability as warriors, and chem-gelding to render them immune to temptation and coercion.
It says a lot about the "might and majesty" that the Temple wishes to return to if the Chantry Guards are only a mere echo of the foot soldiers of the Temples standing armies back in the day (additionally, the Seraphim of the modern Sororitas were said to fight in the "ancient way" of the Daughters/Brides of the Emperor, indicating they were more common than they are now and giving more hints as to the wealth and power of the Temple in its glory days)