Over the course of history, it is evident that there have been many accusations of sexual abuse among the Catholic Church. John Patrick Shanley's, "Doubt," is a parable, that dramatizes the issue of inappropriate relations within the Catholic Church. The play is centered primarily on the allegation that Sister Aloysius, a principal, makes upon Father Flynn, a parish priest. Sister Aloysius suspects that Father Flynn has been sexually involved with a young African-American student, Donald Mueller, enrolled in their private institution. Shanley highlights the central theme of skepticism versus faith in his play through the use of symbolism, metaphors, and foreshadowing.
In attempts to introduce the theme of uncertainty; Shanley immediately begins his play through the illustration of Father Flynn's sermon topic. The first line illustrated in the play is a rhetorical question apart of the sermon that Father Flynn delivers, "What do you do when you're not sure?" Shanley purposefully begins the play with this rhetorical question in attempts to highlight the central theme and to subtly influence the audience to make their own judgement throughout the story. Shanley also dramatizes the theme through the setting which takes place in Bronx, New York during 1964. The setting is important due to its significance for the Civil Rights Act, and because it took place after JFK's assassination which emphasizes another theme of skepticism. The introductory rhetorical question and eerie story setting thematically support the major dilemma in this play between the concepts of skepticism versus faith. .
We first encounter Sister Aloysius, a vigilant and cynical character who although has no evidence, aggressively presumes that Father Flynn is guilty for sexually abusing the African-American student. Sister Aloysius's character appeals to logos when Shanley illustrates that she had previously uncovered an instance of molestation among a recent pastor in the same institution.