Subjugation Of Religion In The Catholic Church In John Patrick Shanley's Play

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In John Patrick Shanley’s play, the struggle for Sister Aloysius to prove—and for Sister James to believe—that Father Flynn molested Donald Muller serves as the central conflict. Father Flynn is progressive, hoping to reform the church which causes the more conservative Sister Aloysius to appear intolerant and suspicious of him simply for his radical ideas. This conflict addresses other concerns beyond abuse, such as that of the subjugation of gender in the Catholic church, which affects Sister Aloysius’s pursuit of justice and still resonates throughout contemporary pursuits of justice, as well. Shanley’s 2004 play convolutes Sisters Aloysius and James’s firm belief in the church’s patriarchal hierarchy by stymying them as they pursue justice and obfuscating the truth under the issues of gender subjugation and religious authority.
The chosen setting of the play as well as the contemporary milieu in which Shanley wrote the play
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The play was set in 1964, one of the years encompassing the Second Vatican Council, a period of time where the Catholic Church attempted to update and liberalize some of the practices of the faith. The church was under question and evaluation and Father Flynn embodied this pioneering spirit, typifying it when he tells Sister Aloysius that the church needed to reach out to its constituents more, explaining, “I think a message of the Second Ecumenical Council was that the Church needs to take on a more familiar face. Reflect the local community” (30). Sister Aloysius does not share Father Flynn’s novel beliefs, which manifests as an underlying sense of tension in the play and incites her to question Father Flynn, her superior in the church hierarchy. Sister Aloysius, having previously faced a priest that had an inappropriate relationship with children, is a testament to Shanley writing the play

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