I just watched the movie today. I meant to see it when it came out in the theaters, but I guess there was probably a good reason why I procrastinated. “Doubt” is a movie written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on a stage play of the same name, written by John Patrick Shanley. The movie has extras and lots of minor characters, but it stays pretty faithful to the play in that there are only four major characters.
The main characters are:
Father Flynn – A priest who is suspected of having molested a boy
Sister James — the young and innocent nun who unknowingly reports suspicious behavior to the principal
Mrs. Muller — the mother of the boy in question.
The movie is set in 1964. The boy the Father is suspected of having inappropriate relations with is the school’s first African American student. The suspicious behavior that inspires Sister Aloysius’s conviction is that Donald is called out of Sister James’ class and returns with a melancholy disposition and alcohol on his breath. Later, Sister James sees Father Flynn sneak a piece of Donald’s clothing back into Donald’s locker. She brings her observations to Sister Aloysius, not wholly sure at first of what this odd behavior could add up to.
Sister Aloysius, who is already wary of Father Flynn for his modern ideas and his vocal position on the growing need for church reform, is not fooled for one minute. When she hears about the suspicious behavior she adds that to her knowledge that the boy is troubled and isolated and that Father Flynn has been singling him out for special attention and decides emphatically that Father Flynn has given the boy alcohol and seduced him.
The rest of the movie centers mostly around the conflict between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius, with her hunting him like a game of cat and mouse. You see, Sister Aloysius is so emphatic in her position because she has seen this kind of thing happen before with a different priest at a different school. Fortunately, there the priests in the chain of command were sympathetic of the situation and removed the priest from children. Here, the Sister knows, her cries will fall on deaf ears with the powers that be.
Sister Aloysius tries talking to Donald’s mother and finds that the boy was sent to Catholic school because he was beaten up daily at the public school he attended in the Bronx. Mrs. Muller is only concerned with her son’s survival at the school until June, when he will graduate from the eighth grade and go on to attend high school. We learn that Donald’s father beats him, and the reason that his father beats him and the kids at school bullied him, is because Donald is gay. Mrs. Muller tells Sister Aloysius that she doesn’t care why the priest is so nice to Donald, only that he is.
The climax of the movie is a confrontation between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius when he discovers that she has been speaking with Donald’s mother. The Father accuses her of going outside of church polity and disobeying her vows of obedience. He threatens to have her fired for insubordination. She then turns the tables on him and says that she knows that he has been at three parishes in the last five years. She says she called one of the nuns at his last parish and was able to learn that he quit under suspicious circumstances. She tells him that she will quit her order and is even willing to face excommunication to see him brought to justice and that he has a choice. He can call the Monsignor and ask for an immediate leave of absence and a transfer or she will continue to hunt him down until he is prosecuted. The priest tells her that there is an innocent explanation for all of this, but she refuses to listen to it and leaves him alone in her office with the phone.
In the end, we learn that Father Flynn has requested a transfer. He is being promoted to an even larger congregation with an even larger school. Sister Aloysius confesses to Sister James that she lied about having talked to a nun at Father Flynn’s previous parish and then collapses in sobs, admitting that she has doubts, though whether those doubts are over Father Flynn’s innocence or her Church, that has promoted a suspected pedophile to another position in care of children, is uncertain. The movie, like the play, never tells you for certain whether the priest is guilty or innocent.
Entry filed under: Child Abuse, Children, Chrisitanity, Entertainment, Faith, Human Rights, Sexual Abuse & Assault, Spirituality. Tags: Bronx, Catholic Church, Catholic school, Doubt (2008 film), Father Flynn, John Patrick Shanley, Priest, Religion and Spirituality.