Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Silence" and Apostasy

The trailer for Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Shusaku Endo's Silence is available here. Silence tells the story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan facing, with the Catholics whom St. Francis Xavier and other Jesuits have brought to conversion, torture and martyrdom when Japanese authorities ban Christianity--and expel the Jesuits with an edict in 1587. Remember that Elizabeth I's government passed the "Act against Jesuits, Seminary priests and other such like disobedient persons" (27 Eliz. c. 2) in 1585!

On February 5, 1597, Jesuit Paul Miki and 25 others were crucified in Nagasaki. They are remembered on the Church's calendar on February 6 (since St. Agatha's feast day was already on February 5). The story told in Endo's Silence occurs in the next century, starting about 1639, when Fathers Rodrigues and Garrpe go to Japan to find out what has happened to Father Ferreira, who may have apostatized.

The Jesuits, the other missionary priests, and the Catholic laity in England faced the "Bloody Question", the Oath of Supremacy, Topcliffe's tortures, and many other dangers. The Catholics in Japan faced the temptation of stomping on the image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary (a fumie) as an act of denying Jesus. Father Rodrigues undergoes the trial of the fumie while the laity are being tortured--he can save them if he denies Jesus. 

I'm sure that Scorsese's film will fully depict the brutality of the tortures suffered by the Catholics, as the trailer hints. I read Endo's novel years ago and I definitely found it troubling and reading Scorsese's foreword to the latest Picador edition, I think I would find his interpretation of the movie just as troubling. To say that we need "the figure of Judas" just as much as "the figure of Christ" so that Christianity may live and "adapt itself to other cultures and historical moments" is ridiculous. Jesus is not a "figure"; He is Our Savior and Redeemer. The Church lives because He lives. Scorsese seems to treat Faith like concept not a Theological virtue and Christianity like a system not the Body of Christ.

The Scottish composer James Macmillan wrote his Symphony No. 3 as a meditation on Endo's Silence.


  1. Hello i want to reply to this article. I agree with some part of the article, but i want to rescue to Shusaku Endo. I agree with you that the novel is troubling, but the own Shusaku Endo is troubling. Endo was forced to convert to the catholic religion. He delay a long time ago to understand his faith, and he has a particular point of view. His idea of God, or Jesus is not the Christ was born to be a king, with miracles, and prodigies. Endo feel identify with the Christ pursued and rejected. Endo was rejected by his classmates for being christian, and in France he was rejected for being japanese (a country enemy of France, despite Republic of Vichy). Endo is near to the pursued, and rejectedd. His idea of the christianity is not based in the heroism, although in the novel there are worth christian like Mokichi. He is based in the weakness, a lot of their characters are allegories. Inoue can be based in a author who knew Shusaku Endo (he wrote in his novel "Scandal"). Endo confess that it is not totally truth that God keep in Silence all the novel, at finally he spoke to say Sebastiao Rodrigues stomped the fumie. At least we have to believe that Rodrigues is sincere. God has a role to these presumed traitors to keep his faith in secret, and doing good for the christians who are captured in Japan. The end of the christianity was in the third decade of the seventeen century with the third Shogun Iemitsu (grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu the first goverment who rules united Japan. Ieyasu, Hidetada, and Iemitsu fought against the christians). The martyr of Pablo Miki was with other Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the end of the sixteen century.

  2. The christians died in the battle of Shimabara (1630-1640), when they were destroyed by Iemitsu, who sent the best of their army.
    Christopher Ferreira was a traitor, who existed really. The role of Kichijiro, and Sebastiao Rodrigues was to confirm the Kakure who to keep the catholic religion to the return of the foreign priest again until to the revolution Meiji, when they could come back to Japan. In the epilogue we read like Rodrigues, who has a new japanese name try to protect the foreigns that they were captured by the Japanese (Sokaku forbid to the foreign people except Netherland who can trade with Japan in the island of Hejima to enter in Japan. This rule was relaxed for understood Shogun in the XVIII who allowed books, but nothing related with the catholic religion). The case of apostasy was very controversial in the third century with Decius, and Diocletian in the fourth century there were a lot of apostasy, some christians who adore idols, or burnt incense, or they bought a libel saying that they had sacrficed to the idols. When christianity were tolerated by Constantine there were a discussion, that they had have to do with the apostates. There were violents argues, at finally they decided to accept them if they are truly unrepentant. Some hersies appeared for not agreeing with their decissions like Donatist in Africa. With all the position of the christians is accepting to this believers who treasoned Jesus Christ, and more in the case of Kichijiro, and Sebastiao Rodrigues. About Saint Peter denied to Jesus Christ in three ocassions is the case of first unrepentant.
    In ocassions i can censore to Shusaku Endo was not comprenhensive with Rome, but his christianity was very particular. With all we must generous with Shusaku Endo. Nobody except Takashi Nagai did more for the catholics in Japan. In their novels he did not look to create new converses, only explain Why the christianity did not grow up in Japan? How have been able to sucess? At finally to persuade to himself, because he believed in this religion.
    About England, and dutch had an especial role of the prosecution, especially dutch they cheer up to the Shogun Tougawa Ieyasu to finish with the catholic japanese for hurting Spain, and Portugal. William Adams was one of the chancellor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who inspired Blackthorn the main character of "Shogun". was written by James Clavell. I want to report this novel for being antihistorical, false, anticatholic and being influenced for the evil theories of Ayn Rand. We have to reject novels like Shogun, and not novels like "Silence". Netherland has the trading monopoly with Japan England give up because it was not profitable for their interest.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I did not reject "Silence"; I said it was troubling. I think I made the difference in periods clear between Father Paul Miki and the Jesuits in "Silence" in my post.