Doubt: A Parable
“Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty,” states the beloved parish priest Father Flynn, expounding on the topic of uncertainty in the sermon that opens Doubt.
Elsewhere, Sister Aloysius, the principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx where Father Flynn teaches, and a nun with the Sisters of Charity, is writing at her desk. Young nun Sister James enters, and the two Sisters discuss a few problem students. Sister Aloysius has a cynical view about the relationship between teachers and students, believing that children should not be coddled, and the chain of discipline in the church system should be utilized frequently. The more soft-hearted Sister James has done her best to handle her students herself, without subjecting them to formal disciplinary action. Sister Aloysius provides Sister James an extensive review of her teaching, reminding the young nun not to “perform,” to not permit the use of ballpoint pens, and to tone down her love for history, among other things.
Father Flynn is now in front of his physical education class, basketball in hand. He instructs his students on the importance of focus and breathing, and physical cleanliness.
Meanwhile, in the garden, Sister James meets Sister Aloysius, who brings up the new African-American student Donald Muller. Sister James informs her that Donald has few friends, but “he has a protector… Father Flynn.” Immediately, Sister Aloysius suspects the worst. Sister James tells her that Father Flynn took Donald to the rectory, alone, and when he returned, Donald looked frightened and his breath smelled of alcohol. “But what if it’s nothing?” Sister James asks. Sister Aloysius responds, “Then it’s nothing. I wouldn’t mind being wrong. But I doubt I am.” Sister Aloysius describes the complex hierarchy of the church, decides she must take the matter into her own hands, and instructs Sister James to accompany her.
A few days later, Father Flynn goes to Sister Aloysius’ office under the pretense of a