Essay on Shusaku Endo's Silence

Essay on Shusaku Endo's Silence

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Shusaku Endo's Silence

The novel Silence has provoked much discussion on Loyola's campus this semester. As a predominantly Christian community, we find that the themes and dilemmas central to its plot land much closer to home for us than they would for many other schools: to non-Christians, the question of whether to deny (the Christian) God--for any reason--may not necessarily be such a personal one. Jesus' commandments to love God above all and one's neighbor as oneself do not find a parallel in all religions or cultures, nor does the seriousness with which Christians--specifically Catholics, and more specifically, Jesuits--have traditionally treated it.

Examining the problems facing Father Rodrigues from a Christian perspective, then, is critical to the endeavor of understanding their significance to him and the Church at the time, and also to passing an ultimate judgment on the validity and worth of the decisions he makes, as many of us seem overeager to do. To that end, this paper will consider, in a Catholic frame of mind, and with attention to the opinions some noted Christian/Catholic thinkers would have held, the difficulties surrounding Rodrigues' apostasy, and his solutions to them. As all of the thinkers are themselves from the medieval era, it is not unlikely that Father Rodrigues, living in the 17th century, would have studied their works.

Probably the most important issue in the novel, and certainly the one which has received the most attention on our campus, is the question of whether, in the final analysis, Rodrigues did the "right thing" in choosing to apostatize. I will leave this question for later, however, as I believe that its significance is such that it can only be done justice once all the surrou...


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...umie, for whatever reason, he truly meant it. Thereafter, the only priestly duty he performs is to give Kichijiro absolution one last time. (Endo, 191) Other than that, he gives up entirely. He becomes an informer, writes an anti-Christian treatise, and does everything exactly as the Japanese magistrates tell him to. Even Kichijiro shows himself to be a better Christian than Rodrigues: he had to apostatize as many times as he did because he never meant any of them. But the priest himself did. Augustine writes that God desires only one sacrifice, "the heart bruised and humbled in the sorrow of penitence." (Augustine, 378) But Rodrigues cannot even offer him that. At the end, he is truly a Christian no longer. The only comfort he can take, if he does, is an ironically painful one: that it was the most Christian act he'd ever committed that had gotten him where he was.

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