|St. Pio, also known as Padre Pio, portrayed |
in a non-realist manner, but also without
the typical halo. Maybe before he was canonized?
A change in terminology
I'd prefer to that the term 'miracle' be used instead of 'spells'. It's more of a flavor thing, but I think it's important. Rituals and sacraments can be performed by any priest of the faith (with the proper spiritual effect taking place invisibly), but the true working of miracles that create changes in the world come from blessed miracle workers.
However, not all the clerical 'miracles' can truly be considered miraculous (tough crowd!), especially the lower level ones.
Experience levels -- increasing faith and authority
A different way to think about clerics is to consider what experience and experience levels mean to them. For fighters, you could argue that they grow in martial prowess. For mages, you could argue that constant use of their intelligence and spell-casting abilities allows them to refine their arcane techniques.
What about clerics? I'd argue that for most games it's an increase in faith -- with increased faith, they are able to effect miracles of greater impact in the world. Without it, they cannot ask for even the simplest of miracles. But it's not just that! If we follow an organized religion, it can be argued that faith must be backed up by authority -- without the centralized body recognizing the cleric as having the ability to call upon the greater miracles, all that faith cannot be harnessed.
Punishment and atonement
With Faith & Authority as two critical elements for the ability to work miracles, the wily DM can come up with variants on the following themes as to how a loss in the ability to work miracles can arise:
- the cleric, who constantly breaks the strictures of his/her faith, questions the nature of his abilities and thus suffers a loss of faith;
- the cleric, who has blatantly broken laws that his/her faith hold sacred BUT believes that his deity will approve anyway, can find their authority stripped from them.