I just saw the 2008 wonderful movie “Doubt”. I have previously seen this 2004 play by John Patrick Shanley on stage. The story is a strong parable about the place of doubt in our uncertain world and lives – even binding us together, and, clearly, sometimes driving us apart.
Some people, the story suggests, shore up our nagging, disorientating doubts with rules, regulations and prejudice.
The sisters in the story are based on the Sisters of Charity of New York. These were founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and have much in common with the Daughters of Charity founded by St. Vincent de Paul.
Some of the symbolism, in this Lenten season, is very overt. Holding the image of the crucified Jesus Sister Aloysius reminds us that sometimes in the pursuit of evil one takes a step away from God.
The issue of inappropriate priestly behaviour, so topical, is only one dimension, however, of this exploration of the strengths and weaknesses, the positiveness and abuses, of our religious tradition and our scaffolding for healthy spiritual growth. The place of doubt as the growing edge of our faith is here provided with a strong platform for reflection – although personally I found the immediacy of the play more gripping and gruelling than this film adaptation.
Part of what broke the suspension of disbelief was the very opening shot with the 1960s Father Flynn with his wonderful sermon – but wearing his stole over his chasuble in a very (anachronistic) un-1960s fashion! (pictured) This seemed to be the style of his green vesting, absent when he vested in purple. The singing by the choir of a (now) well-known Taize chant also stretched credibility. If you are going to have a detective movie – get some police advice. If you are going to show a surgery – get a surgeon’s advice. If you are going to show a religious movie (and it’s great these are in the mainstream!) please get some appropriate, competent ecclesiastical advice. I’m here Hollywood (price on application)!
Watch out for the magnificent sermon on gossip.
(Watch for stole shot – 47 seconds)