The Priests, the Nuns and the People: Changes in the Church and Religious Life Are Reflected in the Bronx Neighborhood of 'Doubt'
Flanigan, James, National Catholic Reporter
In the recent film "Doubt," set in 1964, Fr. Brendan Flynn, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, pastor of a parish in the Bronx, wants to bring the church closer to the people. He tells Sr. Aloysius Beauvier, principal of the parish elementary school, that "we [the clergy and nuns] are really just like them," meaning the parishioners.
But Sr. Aloysius, played by Meryl Streep, protests vehemently, "We are not like them. We are different, and we must be different. These working-class people depend on us" to be different, to be above and apart from them, to guide them and to care for their children whom they have entrusted to us.
Both were right.
Fr. Flynn reflects the thinking of the Second Vatican Council, which ran from 1962 to 1965. Sr. Aloysius accurately reflects the thinking of the Bronx of the 1940s and 1950s and the neighborhoods of Irish immigrants and their Irish-American offspring. These were the "working-class" people we see in the movie, wearing their Sunday best to church, looking up reverently as the priest gives the homily.
I grew up in a Bronx neighborhood just like the one depicted in "Doubt." My neighborhood, west of Yankee Stadium, was named Highbridge for a footbridge over the Harlem River that was built in the 1830s by Irish laborers who later …
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Publication information: Article title: The Priests, the Nuns and the People: Changes in the Church and Religious Life Are Reflected in the Bronx Neighborhood of 'Doubt'. Contributors: Flanigan, James - Author. Magazine title: National Catholic Reporter. Volume: 45. Issue: 9 Publication date: February 20, 2009. Page number: 14a+. © 2009 National Catholic Reporter. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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