I watched the film Doubt last night.
The official synopsis:
"Set in 1964, Doubt centers on a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a black student. He denies the charges, and much of the play's quick-fire dialogue tackles themes of religion, morality and authority..."Though shallower than I expected (the priest's character was kinda one-dimensional, for one), I still thought the film was somewhat daring. It deals with a subject that is still tabú to a lot of people. In fact, not many things can raise Catholic blood pressure to the degree that a reference to the recent sexual-abuse scandal within the clergy can, so the very existence of this film is bound to bother some, who presumably imagine that the film was made with condemnation built into its very design.
Silly me, I made the mistake of asking some Catholic friends if they had seen this film. One guy kinda freaked out on me, saying that my having seen it revealed "a lot about" me, that he was disappointed in me for having payed money to see such "trash." While he ranted, surprised by the magnitude of his knee jerk, I recollected films from the past that had engendered similar responses from people: The Last Temptation (great), Stigmata (crap), Dogma (good), The Exorcism of Emily What's-her-face (bad)—wondered if he had seen ANY of these. This particular guy is prone to dramatic overtures; I'm used to it, so I didn't freak back at him, but the paroxysm seemed excessive, even for him.
I asked if he had in fact seen the movie?
'Ah! I see ... So you hate a movie you haven't seen. '
I realize at this point that there's nothing that I can possibly say to this guy to talk him down from his uninformed defensive rant, so I just pretty much ignore his anger. But it got me thinking once again about misinformation and about religious paranoia as related to this particular crisis. Misinformation because people refuse to talk about these "unmentionable" events (how can we ever hope learn about preventing them?) Paranoia because every attempt to start a discussion is inevitably deemed an "attack" on someone's beloved church, and results in an angry exchange that can't get anywhere. Not a good place to be, people! Though I accept that we must insist on being fair to the church and to individuals, we have to talk about these things!
This film is not a polemic, dude. But even if it was . . . . how would you know it was?
Anyway . . . the story took a weird twist (which drove the point home that these things are very real and need urgent attention) later in the day when I decided to Google an old priest friend of mine. I have tried to find him over the years, but he seemed to have fallen off the planet, and my searches always turned up zero. To my surprise, this time I found some info on him. It turns out that my spidey sense was right in suspecting that something was amiss with his disappearance. There on a website devoted to "outing" abuser-priests was a photograph of my old friend, Father D and a corresponding small dossier detailing the nature of the complaints against him.
I had to sit back for a bit and silently absorb all of this. I knew Father D when I was about fifteen or sixteen. I remember him as a kind man. Though generally soft-spoken, he had a passion for his vocation. He had a sense of humor that was suited to the parish he had been assigned to, which is to say that he was a slightly crude Bronx priest with a good heart. The priest in the film could be a thumbnail sketch of him to some degree.
anyway . . .
The website said that he has spent some time in jail. I doubt I could get a note off to him. I wish I could.