I thought it would be better to just start a new posting to talk about the movie since we are at 40 comments on the original post.
I watched the movie again last night and I am thoroughly convinced that Father Flynn is innocent. My thinking is along the same lines as Dan's recent comment on the first posting. That is Streep, (I don't know how to spell her name in the movie, so I'm calling her Streep), objects not only to his progressive ways, but just him in general.
Streep is nothing but discipline and she objects to anything that has to do with progress or what she deems inappropriate. Ballpoint pens for example! Did you notice in the nun dinner scene Sister James takes a piece of meat out of her mouth and Streep gives her a look, and she puts it back in her mouth! She doesn’t allow the girls to wear barrettes, she even objects to cough drops. She is not a kind person and uses accusations and scare tactics to run the school.
I believe she resents Father Flynn because he is pretty much the opposite of her. He jokes around with the kids, and he even makes his congregation laugh. She was just looking for something to get him on. She starts suspecting him from the beginning because of his sermon about doubt. Now I would think that doubt is probably a pretty common topic discussed in any church. I think he is telling his congregation to not be alone and isolated if they have doubt, that they can come to him and not be alone. Streep sees it as something he is feeling himself. She even asks the nuns to keep an eye on him. Okay, I think it’s established that Streep is just a suspicious, rigid old hag.
I totally believe Father Flynn is innocent and that Streep wants him to be guilty so badly that everything he says or does makes him look guilty in her eyes. It is easy to read things into people’s actions or words when you suspect them of something. Say you suspect your spouse of cheating on you. Say it all started with something stupid like you found a piece of paper with a phone number on it and no name. If you are the suspicious type, you might automatically assume it is the phone number of someone they are cheating on you with. It can then just snowball from there. Actions you wouldn’t have paid any attention to in the past suddenly look suspicious, and there is nothing that person can say or do to convince you otherwise. (And this is just an example, not something happening in my life. Cam’s a good guy)
I believe Father Flynn had nothing but compassion for the Miller boy. The poor kid is the first black student at the school, he’s gay and his father beats him. Any one of those things alone would be hard to deal with, let alone all three. And to top it off his mother turns a blind eye to it all. So who does the kid have to turn to? His priest. I believe the Miller kid did drink the alter wine and Father Flynn was just trying to keep it a secret. I think Donald Miller told him that his father beats him, and Father Flynn was trying to avoid another beating. I totally believe Father Flynn’s story that he was just trying to keep it a secret so he didn’t get removed from being an alter boy. Father Flynn was right in believing that Streep would stick to the rules and remove him, because that is exactly what she did. Just because he is paying special attention to the Miller boy, which I think was the right thing for him to do, does not mean something inappropriate is going on. Donald Miller is 12 years old and needs an adult to care about him, and he found that in Father Flynn.
One of the best scenes is the one between Sister James and Father Flynn in the courtyard after his gossip sermon. I believe he is truly speaking from his heart. He points out that Streep is not a kind person, and asks if she has ever seen Streep reach out a hand. He says that loving children is natural because how else would you relate to them. He tells Sister James not to let people tell her that the light in her heart is a sign of weakness, that it is a tactic of cruel people to kill kindness in the name of virtue. Just watch the scene again there is a lot of really good stuff said.
Now a lot of people would say that the scene between Father Flynn and Streep alone in her office is his confession. I don’t think so. When he asks Streep if she has ever committed a mortal sin I think he was just trying to bring her back down from her almost insane behavior. He admits he has too and that he left it in the hands of his confessor. You could assume the sin he is referring to is what she is suspecting him of. But, keep in mind, he is a Catholic Priest. He could be talking about anything, it could be that he noticed a woman’s butt or something. The Catholics take guilt pretty seriously. At the end of the scene he stops Streep from leaving the office. He tells her that there are things he can’t say, that there are things beyond her knowledge. I don’t think he is confessing and letting her know she is right. I think he is referring to the fact that Donald Miller is gay. He doesn’t know that Streep knows. He thinks that if she finds out, Miller would get kicked out of the school. He is a man of compassion, and is willing to leave the parish so Donald Miller has a chance. I believe he also leaves the parish to avoid Streep’s accusations from going public. I think in many cases giving in like that is not an admission of guilt, it is more avoiding a long drawn out process that would waste a lot of time.
And I also think that it is this scene that Streep’s doubt starts creeping in and she recognizes it. But, she is the type of person that she is not going to let it go, after all, she has her certainties! She is not willing to admit she is wrong. She has no proof, and she knows it. It’s only when Father Flynn starts writing down the things she is saying, so he can get her transferred, that she makes up the lie about calling his old parish. She has it in her head that he is guilty and she will stop at nothing. I don’t think his being in 3 parishes in 5 years is proof either. There could be several reasons he left the other two parishes. One reason could be that woman’s nice butt. He didn’t seem worried at all to me that she called his previous parish.
I think in the ending scene Streep knows that for selfish reasons, she almost destroyed a man’s life. I think Sister James’ innocence brings it out of her. I believe the doubts she has, are doubts in herself, and not doubts in the church. I think she realizes that she does not represent the vows that she took when she became a nun.
It all comes down to that if you want to believe someone is guilty, you can convince yourself that they are. That kind of thinking can distort everything you see and hear, and you can twist everything to convince yourself and others that you are right. Politicians do it all the time!
A couple symbolic things I noticed:
The wind scattering the leaves, especially when Streep is around, represents gossip. Just like the feathers in the wind in his sermon. Watch the dinner scene with the nuns when they are talking about the doubt sermon. Streep’s napkin flutters for no apparent reason. I think that foreshadows the beginning of Streep’s thoughts.
I think the same light going out in her office twice represents the light in her heart going out. I think it is the same light that Father Flynn talks to Sister James about.
At the beginning of the scene between Father Flynn and Sister James in the courtyard, there is a crow cawing. (is that the right word?) Father Flynn asks Sister James what kind of bird that is. She tells him it’s a crow and he says of course it is. He knew it was a crow. I think it was put in there because Father Flynn knows the two sisters are going to eat crow, as they say.
In the classroom scene with Streep and Sister James the wind blows through the window. Streep describes the wind as peripatetic. I looked that word up. It means to travel or wander about, but it also refers to Aristotle’s school of philosophy. Wind does travel and wander about, but I find the Aristotle thing interesting too. Aristotle came up with the idea of causality. That for every cause there is an effect. Chew on that for awhile.
Okay, that’s it. Sorry this is so long. I think he’s innocent, so try to convince me otherwise. Bring it!