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I read somewhere a sentence which said about a political leader that he is the "holy something" whose actions cannot be questioned.

The context was to describe that even though this man does bad things, due to his power people are afraid to question his actions. I can not remember the correct idiom, so please help. If you know any similar idiom that can be used in such a context, that would also be great.

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    Holy would ordinarily be used only of a leader whose source of power is his religious status; is it possible that the word you saw or heard was wholly = "entirely"? Or is it possible that the phrase addressed the leader's statements, not the leader himself, calling them something like "Holy writ" or "Holy scripture"? – StoneyB Jun 20 '16 at 15:11
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    In my country, there are only nine such people: the supreme court justices. Which county's political leader said that? – Mazura Jun 20 '16 at 16:29
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    Were they being referred to as the "holy pope"? With the idea that they're not the pope, but to imply a similar (alleged) inability to be wrong. – SuperBiasedMan Jun 20 '16 at 17:03
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    "Holier than thou" definitely does not fit the definition in your question. Not even a little bit. People are not afraid to criticize people who are "holier than thou"; in fact, that attitude tends to provoke criticism. – T.J. Crowder Jun 21 '16 at 16:19
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    Sysadmin, moderator, ... – Kaz Jun 22 '16 at 5:10

12 Answers 12

9

Did you mean "Holier-than-thou"?

  • marked by an air of superior piety or morality
    • having or showing the annoying attitude of people who believe that they are morally better than other people. (MW)
    • excessively or hypocritically pious (Vocabulary.com)
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    @bhats that idiom does not mean what you put in your definition: holier than thou is someone who thinks he's beyond reproach, but it has nothing to do with his effective power. – P. O. Jun 20 '16 at 18:01
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    @P.Obertelli It also means that the subject is prone to criticizing others for their shortcomings, while ignoring his own. Often associated with hypocracy. – jpmc26 Jun 21 '16 at 0:46
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    @jpmc26: Or hypocrisy. :) – Andriy M Jun 21 '16 at 12:06
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    This answer is incorrect, holier-than-thou is attitude of someone who thinks he's morally above his surroundings and expresses this believe in an annoying manner. – Tomáš Zato Jun 22 '16 at 14:15
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    Who is the thou in "holier than thou"? Have a good look at the etymology and usage of the phrase. This is diametrically opposite to what's needed. – Kris Jun 23 '16 at 12:49
49

is considered beyond reproach

beyond reproach Blameless, faultless, as in Jean's conduct at school is beyond reproach. The phrase employs the verb to reproach in the sense of "censure or rebuke," a usage dating from the early 1500s.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer


reproach — [...] reprochen "to rebuke, reproach," from Anglo-French repruchier, Old French reprochier "upbraid, blame, accuse, speak ill of," [...]
etymonline.com

EDIT: Originally this answer was simply beyond reproach though, as commenters said, this implies subject is in fact perfect, hence added the prefix "is considered" as suggested by @jasper

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    Above reproach vs. Beyond reproach : ngram – Mazura Jun 20 '16 at 15:43
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    I think "beyond reproach" implies that the subject is in fact perfect. That is not what is being asked here – Andrey Jun 20 '16 at 16:13
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    No one is perfect (except those nine people ;). This is always a figure of speech. – Mazura Jun 20 '16 at 16:33
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    @Mazura A figure of speech, yes, but its connotation is positive as Andrey suggests. This would be a compliment; it wouldn't imply the person is guilty of much wrongdoing. – jpmc26 Jun 21 '16 at 0:44
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    @jpmc26 I agree, it does have a bit of that connotation. However, it is a very flexible term and by changing the sentence structure or the context you can easily use the term to more exactly what you mean. If you're worried about the forced part, for example, you can make it "people are supposed to consider him beyond reproach" or "his words are to be considered beyond reproach" – Jasper Jun 22 '16 at 10:30
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Above the law:

(idiomatic) Exempt from the laws that apply to everyone else.

[Wiktionary]

Your example:

The politician is above the law and people can't question his actions.

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    why the downvote? That's an idiom that applies to the definition given. +1 – P. O. Jun 20 '16 at 16:24
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    Definitely the best answer given the connotations that the OP is looking for. – rw-nandemo Jun 20 '16 at 17:00
  • Mandatory Southpark reference: youtube.com/watch?v=T-jXe0x4YdM – nathanchere Jun 22 '16 at 14:11
  • I had wanted to mention this point too in my earlier comment, in fact: Start by seeing the definition of an idiom: "a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light )." (Google) -- Helpful inclusion of "idiomatic expressions" is not wrong on the part of dictionaries. – Kris Jun 23 '16 at 13:59
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    @Kris That entirely depends on how you define an idiom. If you are a pedant, it might not be an idiom, I agree. But, for learners, they may not know what "above the law" implies. That's what the idiom dictionary is for. – user140086 Jun 23 '16 at 14:17
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There's an idiom that involves religion and could apply to your case:

Sacred cow

from Wiki and Collins

"someone or something that has been accepted or respected for a long time and that people are afraid or unwilling to criticize or question" (emphasis, mine)

With "Holy" there's Holy Cow, but that does not apply to your definition; it is just an exclamation to avoid blasphemy –from a Christian centric point of view– though it might be blasphemous for an Hindu.

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    I think this is probably what they were thinking of with the "holy" thing. – Max Williams Jun 20 '16 at 16:22
  • Tangentially there's Holier-than-thou for someone who thinks he's superior to others (but is not necessarily). – P. O. Jun 20 '16 at 16:27
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You may say that the politician in question is an untouchable:

  • a person who is beyond reproach as to honesty, diligence, etc.

(Dictionary.com)

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    Living in the US, I've never actually heard the phrase untouchable used in a positive way, only in documentaries talking about the Hindu caste. – rw-nandemo Jun 20 '16 at 16:58
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    @rw-nandemo - 1) OP is looking for an idiomatic expression which has a negative connotation by definition. 2) en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Untouchables_(film) – user66974 Jun 20 '16 at 17:06
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    "Untouchable" apparently originating from the law enforcement agents from the 30's and "untouchable" referring to a caste of Indian society are entirely separate words; the former has zero negative connotations and the latter is entirely negative. – rw-nandemo Jun 20 '16 at 18:44
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    I was under the impression that untouchable law enforcement agents are agents that can't be bought. Their actions can certainly be questioned, but one would know that any mistakes or shortcomings wouldn't be due to corruption by criminals... – João Mendes Jun 21 '16 at 12:49
  • I've always distinguished the two by using the caste term only as a noun, and the other only as an adjective (the movie based on the book by Ness has it coined from an adjective into the proper noun). the usage this answer refers to has been stretched (in entertainment media at least) to include protection/defense against any kind of punishment or reprisal, legally or criminally speaking - basically synonymous with the non-literal use of "bulletproof". – N. Presley Dec 7 '17 at 0:19
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The phrase that is used to describe the Catholic pope is infallible.

incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.
not fallible; exempt from liability to error, as persons, their judgment, or pronouncements

This may be the word that you're looking for.

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    You should link to the origins of your quotes. – GoldenGremlin Jun 21 '16 at 2:51
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For an idiom and not a literal word or phrase, consider Caesar's wife.

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion (TFD-Idioms)

Prov. The associates of public figures must not even be suspected of wrongdoing.
Jill: I don't think the mayor is trustworthy; his brother was charged with embezzlement. Jane: But the charges were never proved. Jill: That doesn't matter. Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. When the newspapers reported the rumor that the lieutenant governor had failed to pay his taxes, the governor forced him to resign, saying, "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."
(emphasis added)

7

Another term for "above any question" is unassailable:

not able to be doubted, attacked, or questioned

[Merriam-Webster]

Due to his influence, the corrupt politician was unassailable.

  • I think "unassailable" has a slightly different connotation. I find it mostly used to mean "something that is hard to refute or reject", like "his logic was unassailable". – Bhats Jun 22 '16 at 6:20
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I think what you are looking for is: "wholly beyond reproach" http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/beyond+reproach

2

If the reference was definitely "holy" something, it may have been holy icon

using the following meaning of icon

a famous person or thing that represents something of importance

or

a person who is very successful and admired

Example:

“For me, as the head of the Journalists’ Union, he is a holy icon.”

1

holy father

the holy father is a common name for the pope, whose words are considered infallible (with caveats) in the catholic faith. wikipedia

holy see

the holy see is one of the names for the vatican, which rules over the entire catholic church. wikipedia

obviously, both these terms are more nuanced than my quick soundbites convey. as such, they should not be considered theological definitions, but rather guidelines for vernacular metaphor.

0

Anything that is accepted completely is said to be "beyond question." It is not about anything that hasn't been already discussed and resolved.

protected by user140086 Jun 22 '16 at 5:08

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