Throughout the film, the prison chaplain exhibits a certain blindness to reality, and our first view of him is as a sanctimonious, foolish, and ineffectual man. He preaches fire and brimstone to the convicts, and they ignore and ridicule him. He also consistently underestimates Alex’s destructive potential and overestimates his desire for true moral reform. The chaplain believes, when he and Alex study the Bible together, that Alex is contemplating the goodness of Jesus and the evils of sin, but we know he is not. The chaplain believes Alex sincerely wants to reform, but we know he simply wants his freedom. This limitation in the prison chaplain’s character doesn’t invalidate his argument that even a criminal should not be stripped of his ability to make moral choices, but it does undermine his message to a certain extent.
The prison chaplain is both foolish and authoritarian in his religious outlook, but he speaks eloquently, if not completely convincingly, about protecting the individual’s ability to make moral choices. When Alex tells the chaplain he wants to take part in Ludovico’s Technique so that he can make the rest of his life “one act of goodness,” the prison chaplain responds: “The question is whether or not this technique really makes a man good. Goodness comes from within. Goodness is chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.” After the minister of the interior shows off just how well the state has cured Alex of his violence, the prison chaplain voices an objection to such far-reaching state power. He says: “The boy has no real choice, has he? . . . He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.” The prison chaplain is an employee of the state, so his speaking out against the state is unexpected. The minister of the interior scornfully dismisses the chaplain’s words, but the moral question the chaplain raises complicates Alex’s “cure.”