Skip to comments.What (the movie) ‘Doubt’ Is About
Posted on 01/02/2009 9:47:21 AM PST by NYer
As others have noted, the Catholic-school movie Doubt (like the play) is kind of a Rorschach test that leaves audiences forming conclusions based on their preconceptions. The film, set in 1964, pits a disciplinarian nun (Meryl Streep) against a the-Church-needs-to-change priest (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) over his abuse of a child.
But having seen it, I think the movie version is open to several interpretations:
1. It might be a Gay message movie. (Spoiler alert!) We meet a boy who is misunderstood and abused because of his homosexuality (God made him that way, explains his mother. Were talking about actions, not inclinations, answers the nun, sensibly), and the priest character in the film, who is hinted to be homosexual, and abusive to boot, is treated sympathetically. All of this hyper-awareness of homosexuality strikes me as anachronistic in a movie set in 1964, but I wasnt around then so who am I to say?
2. It might be an anti-organized religion movie. The film is sympathetic to benign Christian concepts but every character who takes seriously the hierarchical Church gets twisted by it. The priest alternately thwarts and exploits the system. The older nun describes the importance of the chain of command from the Pope on down, but goes around it because the men who run it are corrupt. A younger nun is struggling to live in it, but finds she has to truncate her heart in order to do so.
3. It might be a movie justifying perpetual intellectual adolescence. The movies thesis statement is delivered in a sermon at the beginning of the movie: Doubt can be a bond as sustaining as certainty, and reinforced in the closing scene of the film. The problem: Thats nonsense. Doubt is isolating, not uniting. Compare your local Unitarian church to your local Assemblies of God church and see for yourself. Doubt can be a powerful force for deepening faith when it leads us to discover why we believe what we believe, but to wallow in doubt is to avoid reality or, likely, to avoid having to break with some sin.
My answer to the Rorschach test: Doubt shows the deep corruption of 1950s and early 1960s Catholicism. Some want to pretend Vatican II is the root of all upheaval in the Church. To make that case, they employ a post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc argument that points to the numbers of priests and nuns and Mass attendees before the Council and after it.
The numbers do make the Council look suspicious. But the elephant in the room is the state of pre-Vatican II Catholics. If they were so wonderful, why did they respond to a pope and Councils decrees by walking out en masse?
In fact, externalism moralism and duty untethered from charity and faith had already rotted the Church behind the facade. Vatican II didnt drive people away so much as it ripped off the facade and exposed what was underneath. And, for all the problems in the Councils implementation, that was what it set out to do.
Too many in the older generations cringe and wince when you mention the school nuns of their childhood. They remember their cruelty, they take what they experienced to be typical of Catholicism, and are glad to be rid of it. Doubt dramatizes that 1950s Catholic experience: A little of its sweetness and power, and a lot of its subtle perversity.
Catholics of my generation grew up in the 1970s and 1980s with a totally different experience of the Church. All that baggage isnt ours, and frankly, were not interested in carrying it around anymore.
An interesting contrast of view from a ‘younger’ generation (i.e. post VCII) Catholic.
>>If they were so wonderful, why did they respond to a pope and Councils decrees by walking out en masse? <<
Because everything Catholic was taken away within ten years.
This kid gets it wrong. They didn’t walk out “en masse”. They leaked away as the Kumbaya Catholics took over and feminized the church.
They were told that touching the Eucharist with their teeth was wrong, within a few years, holding it your hand was okay.
The Priest was facing the tabernacle was done because Jesus was there. Suddenly, it didn’t matter anymore and we all had a “meal on a table”
Etc, etc, etc.
I’m too young to remember the Latin Mass, but my parents were traumatized by it all. Kids have no clue.
The book THE CARDINAL, which traces the career of a fictional priest from ordination to the Red Hat, written prior to VC II, shows some of that rot already there.
Yes, I think VC II did more damage than good (if it did any good at all), but that doesn't alter the fact that there was a lot of rot in the church before that. The Church is full of human beings, and we're all sinners. That's bound to be reflected in the way people in the Church act. Read any of the letters of St. Paul, and you'll see that there was already rot in the 1st Century.
It's a study of the feminization of the Christian church in America. Very interesting reading.
How about: It is an artsy-fartsy make-work project for stars that have faded a bit, and it allows them also to take a bunch of shots at groups that have their own problems. Hollywood is the last set of people that should be criticizing anyone else. Hell, they haven’t made a movie that portrayed religion in a good light since the Father Flanagan movie in the 40s.
The rot was definitely there, but it didn’t affect the Mass or the sacraments, and it was the radical changes introduced into Catholic practices by Vatican II that drove Catholics out the door.
The rot was in doctrine and authority; there were many priests and bishops who were actually extremely liberal and many of them who rejected the authority of Rome, although until Vatican II they were secretive about this and rarely dared to express it openly. After Vatican II, they didn’t feel any need to hide their opinions anymore and they simply went into open rebellion, for which they were congratulated by the press and academy. The real revelation was when they simply rejected Humanae Vitae - with no consequences to them. As faithful Catholics saw the wolf revealed, they were scandalized and fled the Church and these people were left virtually unopposed.
Prior to Vatican II, many people went to Mass out of guilt/tradition/obligation, not celebration of the Eucharist. That didn't change after Vatican II because people didn't understand why the changes were made. All of the efforts to connect the Mass to the parishioners were lost. But the changes that were made were abused by those who had their own agenda...leading to Liberation theology and other nonsense.
I think just as many people would have left the Church had Vatican II not been implemented.
I personally prefer the Mass in the vernacular, but I am appalled at some of the abuses that Vatican II allowed.
I’ll have to look it up.
But I can tell you that as soon as men are made important in a parish, it grows by leaps and bounds.
Take out the handholding, the female EMHCs and Altar Girls and you see it grow.
We have no problem getting Altar Boys or Ushers. My daughter and I are lectors but you will not see a woman on the Altar after the Liturgy of the Word.
And we have popped out new priests every year.
Generation X Catholics like me were taught by the hippie Catholics in CCD. It wasn’t until I went from a public grade school to a Jesuit High School before there was any rigor in my religious education. And I’m still learning today. Alas, my WWII generation parents (had me late in life) did not attend Mass regularly. I went by myself after Confirmation.
I think about the Catholics my age that did not get a genuine education in their faith. It doesn’t surprise me that they became CINOs. Nor does it surprise me that they fell away because they didn’t understand the value of the Church, its history and the compassion of the people involved in it.
Things weren't all what they seemed, that's been established. just keep in mind, not just now, but if there is another council on the horizon (please, God, can we wait a few centuries?) that after EVERY council chaos happens for about 50 years. I came across that somewhere and it makes all the sense in the world as we are 6-7 years away from that mark and things are starting to resemble some sort of normalcy. Not everywhere, I understand, but as men like Francis Cardinal George demand kneelers in the seminary chapel and Archbishop Chaput gives an unyielding line on life and seminaries become fully credited, pieces are gradually being put back together.
>>I think just as many people would have left the Church had Vatican II not been implemented.<<
You make tons of sense. VII needed much more education before it was actually implemented. However, while I agree that just as many may have left the church, I don’t think it would have happened as quickly as it did, as in a generation.
The reason I say that is because if one looks back to the times, they were tumultuous anyway. In the middle of it, the Church did a massive change and the liberals ran with it. When one questioned any change, one was dismissed (and that I DO remember). Because of that, people felt marginalized. As it went from bad to worse, no one stopped a thing. If they did, they were basically told, like it or lump it. The politics came in. The Lectors and EMHCs became “just a little better” than Pete in the Pew. They acted that way too. So why bother to show up?
As the liturgy looked more and more like a Lutheran service, Catholics felt nothing like nothing special. For the devout, they lived with it. For the doubting, they left.
People may not have gone to “celebrate” the Eucharist but they did go to be with Our Lord and receive grace. The problem became the “celebration” and the total lack of reverence felt by the people who went to adore and not celebrate.
And we have popped out new priests every year.
We've produced a lot of seminarians, too. When you think about it, though, the Cathedral has multiple seminarians there on the weekends and at least one sacristan at any one time. It's so cute to watch them teach the boys to serve. I think they start them at 4th grade, but there's always a "shepherd" with these little boys in cassocks and surplices following him around. And there's an added bonus - when you use incense all the time, they get to play with fire.
Seriously, the girls only serve one Mass and the boys have High Mass to themselves and it makes all the difference.
Hell, they havent made a movie that portrayed religion in a good light since the Father Flanagan movie in the 40s.
Chariots of Fire (1981) might have been one.
Ass a gen X Catholic who went to Catholic schools, I can tell you that Catechisis was dumbed down everywhere and the larger culture played more of a role than not. No, we did not get a genuine education in the Faith. And I don't think the people who were supposed to be passing it down were interested in teaching it, either.
>>Seriously, the girls only serve one Mass and the boys have High Mass to themselves and it makes all the difference<<
I think that makes a difference too.
It makes boys feel special.
And I say this having two daughters and no boys.
I’ve seen the play and am looking forward to the movie.
>>No, we did not get a genuine education in the Faith.<<
That’s still going on.
Before I came to this parish, my daughter learned “God made the flowers and God made the trees” There wasn’t much about being Catholic.
Make that parents DIDN’T know what was going on educationally.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
Hollywood has known from the beginning that its biggest competitor for the imagination of its audiences was the Church.
It was hard-core threats of boycott by the Legion of Decency and the like (back when most Christians actually followed their pastors’ council) that got the Hayes Code implemented—which, ironically, launched the Golden Age of Hollywood.
When the Church lost its moral self-confidence in the 1960s, the Hayes Code went by the board, and the Legion of Decency became a punchline of every hipper-than-thou comic.
An amazing story in itself.
>> I don’t know that it would have done much good, but I think parents really realized how bad the religious education was.<<
Nothing would have been done. I can almost guarantee it. We had old Polish Felician Sisters. We couldn’t afford new Religion books for a few years so we still worked out of the Baltimore Catechism. But on the other side of the suburb, the Irish (and wealthier) parish could. We rode the bus together and were basically friends. I remember the books they were using. They were like coloring books! We were so jealous.
One of my friend’s moms tried talking to the nuns there. They had hired a lay teacher for religion. She was told that the woman knew what she was doing. Period.
The Cardinal was a notorious anti-Catholic hatchet job.
Holy hermeneutic of discontinuity! Just a minute. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is the Body of Christ. It is made up of sinners struggling to be holy. It is led by popes who have a gift of infalliblilty, and who have been remarkably good, bright, holy men for several centuries, at least. Jesus Christ is the head of this Church. The liberals must disparage the Church prior to VII as this is their only hope to overthrow the doctrines handed down from the Apostles.
This is probably the saddest legacy of VCII. Prior to that, Catholic children were rigorously taught the catechism. Those of us who attended Catholic school, also made First Fridays every year. Yes, the nuns were strict but judging from what passes for 'quality' education today, the nuns made sure we could (and still can) spell, have an excellent grasp of grammer and do mental math.
My daughter was fed a diet of catholic pablum at our prior parish. Now, as Director for Religious Education in my parish, I have implemented a program of solid catechesis to ensure a solid faith foundation on which our children can build their lives.
I pray God hears your prayer! Not every council is as radical as the previous one. But you are correct, regardless of the change, it takes time to adjust. 50 years later and we are still talking about VCII as though it had been held yesterday. There are certain hierarchs still around who hoped to see VCIII.
A truly astute observation. One of the best summations I have seen on this topic. Kudos!
It’s not just the Catholic church,is it? I think chrisitianity has taken a hit in almost all church denominations. We’ve become weak when we needed to become warriors.
That was a wonderful movie.
Why the Salvation Army/Amish/Mormon Pioneer sun bonnets?
“Doubt is isolating, not uniting.”
The journey of faith begins with doubt. Such doubt is not disbelief.
Looks like the headcover Elizabeth Ann Seton wore.
It is occurring hand-in-hand with the creeping-in of Leftism into the pulpit (charity=socialism and all that).
Because they represent two sisters of The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent dePaul of New York and Emmitsburg Maryland. They were my nuns at Epiphany School in Manhattan and I was a blessed having them in my formative education as i was having the Jesuits in HS an college.
I found Doubt a wonderful film experience. Extremeley well acted and written Streep was not recognizable in the film. She was Sister Cecile or Sister Seton, two nuns out of my past. Unlike the author of the articvle in discussion I know what this film does. It tells the story of caring, intelligent women, dedicated to a certain way of life and Faith. It tells of their having to be subservient to men, many of whom they knew, were not as intelligent or as dedicated to their Faith as the sisters. Many will have questions about the motives of Sister Aloyisius, but from experience I can tell you that every nun I ever had was concerned for her boys. That is Sister Aloyisius' motive as well.
Different orders of nuns had different styles of headdress. They varied quite a bit, and it's not unlikely that ones like this were used in an order or two.
Yeah, but Seton lived 150 years earlier.
Nuns wore traditional habits until the 60’s when they adopted more modern dress. Elizabeth Seton’s order wore a headdress like that depicted instead of the more typical veil.
>>I think that this is what John XXIII had in mind. <<
I don’t. I think the NO with the sprinking of Latin and all the smells and bells is what he wanted.
My parish has that as well as the TLM. I like the NO. Like EWTN has.
I believe that as well. My mom just couldn’t believe that we were not getting the same education at CCD as she did. We went to the same church, same priest that she grew up with. She did what her parents did. She sent us to CCD, we attended church on sunday, and made all our sacraments. She couldn’t understand why we didn’t want to continue to go after we made our sacraments. There was nothing relevant in it. All we heard about was the soft fluffy stuff, the CCD teachers either seemed afraid to say something wrong in the new vatican 2 teaching, or they felt everything old was irrelevant.
Things must have been so different after V2. I am self educated in the Catholic Faith after leaving it for the Baptist faith for 8 years. A long study of early church fathers yielded my error, and now, my children, aged 21, 17 and 15, are well schooled in their faith, from home, but they also attended CCD, due to the requirement to do so for the sacraments. I went in and taught CCD (not their classes) and my kids came to me and informed me when their CCD teachers taught error, or opinion as church teaching.
I feel bad for the kids that don’t know any better and are still hearing things like, I personally don’t believe in purgatory, but the church teaches it so I have to tell you about it, and that there are only 3 marks of the church-yes these are things my kids came and told me their teachers taught, and I was straight in to the DRE to let her know and fix it!
keep watch parents, and don’t abdicate your responsibility to train up your child the way they should go, because others are trying very hard to subvert them, even where you think it is safe.
All 3 of my boys are very devout catholic young men, one called to the priesthood, one to marriage, and one very active in the pro life movement. KEEP FIGHTING, its the only hope our generation has after its poor catechesis.
Exactly. It was changed from Roman Catholicism to Vatican II Roman Catholicism and many of the changes were things people were forwarned about in regards to the dreaded modernism as it was called then.
For those who were “up on” the Catholicism of Pope Pius the 12th, who read or heard the words of that pontificate and the bishops of the 40s and 50s such as Bishop Sheen, the changes appeared to be what earlier Church leaders had seen in a somewhat prophetic manner as something terribly wrong filtering into the Church. Those who walked away felt it was no longer the faith that was passed down to them by their parents, that it had changed drastically.
It is important to understand that parents really understood their immense responsibilities to be the primary educators of their children and to pass on the faith that they received, not the changes from Vatican II if they differed from the faith in which they were raised.
This was a time when Catholics did not put their children into the public system - that would have been absolutely the last resort, and parishes helped educate the children of the parish regardless of their ability to pay the full tuition - often it was partially paid by another parishioner as the subculture of the parish was really functional and strong.
The convents and rectories were full and people went to confession weekly. To be Catholic was not comparable to being Presbyterian as it is now. There was a cultural difference as broad as an ocean. As a child I recall Priests speaking who were very much like Bishop Sheen in their oratory.
“A radical change like Vatican II should have been accompanied by strict quality control measures and significant instruction to parishioners.”
ROFLOL and crying at the same time over your words. Man made Quality Assurance measures are left best in the work place. Let the Holy Trinity be Our Assurance. The Mystical Body of Christ has no need for quality control and you can’t apply TQM or JIT to real faith as you must approach it as a child.
Significant instruction and inculcation already was given to the parishioners back in 1960 as they understood their “ordo” better than most Catholics today. This was an age when all Catholics understood latin and were quite literate compared to today’s college graduates. Part of the reason the changes survived was the dumbing down of the culture and the concurrent social revolution of the 60s.
Some would say the poor implementation of the radical changes was part and parcel of the goal of Vatican II if it was intended to undermine the real faith of Catholicism.
Yes, and it’s time to put an end to it wherever we are and to stand up for the truth.
“For the devout, they lived with it. For the doubting, they left.”
You could argue that some devout left and some doubting stayed too and it is important to see the mixed bag in the aftermath. If for 2 decades you are told from the pulpit and the Vatican to watch out for the evil of xyz and in 1960 xyz is announced as the new format of the faith you might feel confused or you might know exactly what to do.
It is hard to point a finger at the regular Sunday parishioner when their actions were of faith in trying to follow along the path of Truth and Love. For many, it was as if the North and South Poles had flipped. I was in the last class making Holy Communion in latin in my parish. It was an affluent and very well educated parish with a Basilica that had standing room only even with Mass also being said in the Parish School Auditorium. The changes hit this Parish like a nuke.
ok poor choice of words.
By “quality assurance” I was being somewhat flip. My choice of terminology was not chosen to diminish the glory of the Trinity. I purposely employed a business term to the discussion as if it were a new plan. Literary technique. To be a little more precise, I think the implementation of Vatican II needed lots more oversight. Most others on this thread understood this approach and did not see a need to belittle me.
My main point was that without significant oversight, radicals within the church were allowed to implement it as they saw fit, which lead to abuses.
I think you misunderstood what I meant about “instruction”. I wasn’t discussing instruction in the Bible...I was discussing instruction on what Vatican II was all about. Vatican II instruction was NOT provided to parishoners. A change was made, and few knew why. The Baltimore Catechism was dropped entirely and was not replaced by anything for about 20 years. Even the present Catechism (which is really quite excellent) is not taught to students...so instruction is still quite poor.
And no, an understanding of church doctrine, the Bible and tradition was quite poor amongst the general Catholic population prior to Vatican II. It might be worse now, but it was what I would call good. For cyin’ out loud...people were saying the Rosary during Mass because they didn’t understand what was going on!
However I will admit that the love and knowledge of the Church was stronger amongst the few truly devout Catholics of the time. Perhaps you and those close to you took the effort to understand the Mass. I admire that. But the general population was disconnected.