Doubt is a loss of security and certainty on a certain person over something that has occurred. Father Flynn tells his fellow parishioners that, “We can be bound together as closely by doubt as by certainty. We become a community based on doubt, just as much as we can become a community based on the certainty of truths” (First sermon 1). A sailor survives from a cargo ship that caught fire and sank. He later found a lifeboat and turned his eyes to the Heavens to read the stars. The sailor’s doubt becomes a metaphor for the community who had lost its certainty through the assassination of President Kennedy the first Catholic president. He says that, “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty” (First sermon 1).
The sailor later began to doubt if he set on the right course, was he still going on towards his home, or was he horribly lost. Father Flynn’s sermon was referring to a story, which revolves around sister Aloysius [Meryl Streep] who is the principal of the Parochial school. She suspects Father Flynn of abusing the first African American male student at the school based on circumstantial evidence, which is doubtful. Sister Aloysius offers doubt that Flynn is guilty, but Flynn insists of his innocence. Sister Aloysius recruited Sister James to collect evidence, and confront father Flynn is caught in a wave of doubt over her faith in father Flynn’s innocence. Sister Aloysius, whom unsatisfied with Flynn’s story, meets Donald’s mother, Mrs. Muller. Despite her attempts to shock her, she gets a reply that Mrs. Muller supports the relationship between her son and that of Father Flynn. She ignores Sister Aloysius’s doubts of a relationship existing. Doubt as the main theme in the act versus certainty issue drives the main plot surrounding Father Flynn allegations.
Doubt also drives a more complex and deeper plot about the American Catholic community in the mid and early 1960s. Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius battle over her claims of his alleged improprieties represent the waging battle of doubt in the Catholic Church. Their struggle between the two represents the struggle of the church at that time, and the doubt they create in Catholic communities.