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.