Directed by John Patrick Shanley and starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.
Sister Aloysius (Streep) is the no-nonsense principal of a Catholic grammar school in the Bronx in 1964. The stern, ice-blooded nun exacts swift discipline on the children without a drop of charity. Young Sister James (Adams), a sweet-hearted, new teacher at the school, has yet to become hardened and embittered by her circumstances.
A new priest, Father Flynn (Hoffman), arrives at the parish and Sister Aloysius takes an immediate dislike to his liberal ways. When Sister James confides to Sister Aloysius that she suspects Flynn is sexually abusing a twelve-year-old male student, the principal sets a determined course to have the priest removed from the parish.
This is a riveting film from start to finish. Streep, Hoffman, Adams, and Davis all give outstanding, Oscar-nominated performances. Shanley’s fine script also received an Oscar nomination. Did Flynn actually molest the boy? The audience is left guessing. What about the priest’s pride in his long fingernails? Absolutely twisted! Actually, the notions of celibate nuns in convents and celibate priests in rectories are beyond creepy. Christians point to the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as being cults but is there a religious practice more cultish than a convent full of virgin women? Only social conditioning prevents such a practice from being seen as the outrageously aberrant arrangement that it is. And we’ve all been made aware of the damage done by “celibate” pedophile priests and the cover-up by the church hierarchy.
I was baptized as an infant into the Catholic church and attended parochial grammar and high school. I can personally attest to the frustration and unhappiness of the nuns, priests, and brothers who were supposed to be our guides and examples. Many of us who came in frequent contact with the Catholic clergy back in those days knew they were troubled souls. As I watched this film my heart broke for the victims of predatory clerics.
As a young adult I began reading the Bible and eventually abandoned the works-based religion of men and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Catholicism gives lip service to grace and faith but ultimately it’s a works-based church which teaches justification before God comes through its sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!).
I’m so grateful for the free gift of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone as taught by the Bible and Bible-believing, evangelical churches. This film brought to mind all the poor souls blinded by the legalism and empty ritualism of Catholicism. When Sister Aloysius cries out at the end of the movie that she doubts her religion she voices the uncertainty and joylessness of everyone who attempts to merit their own salvation. Convents are now largely a thing of the past but Catholics are still attempting to earn their way to Heaven.
We all waste a lot of our time with mindless television shows and films. “Doubt” is a must-see. You can stream “Doubt” from Amazon for the price of a Starbucks coffee or order the DVD for the price of two cups.