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endo

Shusaku Endo’s book is very well written and a fine piece of literature; however, Endo’s theology and conclusion reached at the end of the story is simply bad theology and not a conclusion that is Catholicism, but rather a new age religion. The book has great value when describing events that actually occurred in Japan to those who professed the Christian faith.

The main character of the book is Fr. Rodrigues and his story take place after the apostasy of a real priest who renounced his faith by the name of Cristóvão Ferreira.[1] I became interested in the title due to Martin Scorsese releasing a movie adaptation of the book. I decided before reading the book to read a few reviews, which of course led to spoilers—this post will have them as well. The great part about knowing the ending of the book is realizing how much the author has deeply layered his work with fantastic foreshadowing.

Many reviews warned the danger of the Endo’s misguided theology; however, having studied my faith I decided to read the title due to my own personal quest to know, how would I respond facing potential martyrdom? If my life or death was held in the balance, what would be my answer? How strong is my faith in God? Some may find it easy to declare that they would die for their faith, but so did Peter—who denied Christ, and so did Fr. Rodrigues who apostatized.

I am very critical of Endo’s main character Fr. Rodrigues; however, the reader must also realize that Fr. Rodrigues inner dialogue has a certain tension, I would certainly articulate this to be the two voices of Endo. Endo frames Fr. Rodrigues when he first sets off as a great witness to Christ’s truth and at times during Fr. Rodrigues interrogation he gives remarks that state the Truth that the Church declares:

The Samurai says, “Father, we are not disputing about the right and wrong of your doctrine. In Spain and Portugal and such countries it may be true. The reason we have outlawed Christianity in Japan is that, after deep and earnest consideration, we find its teaching of no value for the Japan of Today,”[2]

Fr. Rodrigues responds, “According to our way of thinking, truth is universal..If a true doctrine were not true alike in Portugal and Japan we could not call it ‘true.’”[3]

Earlier in the book, Fr. Rodrigues says to a Japanese apostate, who would later betray him. “I ordered him always to keep in mind the words of Our Lord: “He who confessed my name before men, him also will I confess before my Father who is in heaven, but he who denies my name before my men him also I deny before my Father who is in heaven.”[4]

Of course, Fr. Rodrigues will not follow these words of advice when he steps upon The Fumie (An Icon of either Christ or Mary that the Shogunate forced peasants to step on to reveal Christians) He says the Icon spoke to him, “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone knows of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”[5]

And here is the dangerous theology. Endo’s Icon of Christ says true things; for example, it says that Christ came into the world to share men’s pain. However, Christ purpose for coming into the world is not necessarily to be “trampled” by humanity, but rather to save humanity. Of course, what we find here is something that is occurring within circles of our current Catholic Church, and that is a culture of false mercy.

Let’s break it down:

In Luke Gospel Chapter 12:8-9 NABRE Christ says, “8 I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.”

Endo’s Christ says, “ It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world.”(denying Christ)

The problem with these two statements is that they’re contradictory;therefore, only one can be true. One can examine the Aristotelian first principles of non-contradictory for further edification. In this regard, Endo has created a new religion that diverges from Christ of the Gospels, the Christ of his youthful conversion. So how did Fr. Rodrigues (and Endo) arrive at such a result as he will attempt to justify himself saying, “I fell. But Lord, you alone know that I did not renounce my faith…I wonder if all this talk about love is not after all, just an excuse to justify my own weakness (notice the two voices of Endo)…I know that my Lord is different from the God that is preached in the churches”[6]

Analyzing the text, I look for Endo’s voice in Fr. Rodrigues’ thoughts and actions. Whenever there is an objection either from Rodrigues’ conscience, peasants, or Fr. Garppe, I consider these to be Endo challenging his own line of thinking withinhis own Catholicism.

The whole book deals with Fr. Rodrigues wanting God to respond to his plight and the plight of the Japanese Christians. Fr. Rodrigues asks God, “Why have you abandoned us so completely?, he prayed in a weak voice. Even the village was constructed for you; and have you abandoned it in its ashes?” [7] It’s interesting that during my own daily prayers, I was saying the rosary and a thought struck me–the words from the Gospel to answer Fr. Rodrigues’ demanding of a sign from God to which Christ spoke about fully in the Gospel.

Matt. 12:39 NABRE

39 He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful[a] generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

Christ repeats this again in Matthew 16:4 NABRE

“4 An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”[c] Then he left them and went away.

Furthermore, during the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13, Christ says, ” and do not subject us to the final test.”

Reading through the book, one will notice that Fr. Rodrigues keeps imagining himself as Christ throughout the story; for example, “In his imagination everyday he had dramatically pictured the scene as being like the meeting of Pilate an Christ—the crowd howling.”[8] It would better have served him instead of looking for a glorious martyrdom by imagining himself as Christ, he should have looked to Peter’s denial of Christ and be humble and pray NOT to be put the test. In this manner, what drew me to the book is the notion that I’ve always doubted what I would do if put to the test. My prayers, in this regard, is for God to give me grace and a deeper faith.

In the end, Fr. Rodrigues (and Endo) should have looked to the Gospels to understand that Christ was the sign, Christ had already broken the silence by His resurrection. Instead of praying for a sign, instead, he should have prayed for the grace of faith.

 *I will note that this book has tremendous depth and there are subjects that are brought up like the figure of Judas and God delivering a greater good out of a betrayer that I didn’t even bring up. Also, it appears that Fr. Rodrigues at times suffers from Pride, a deadly sin, and vainglory a deadly thought, which perhaps tipped the scales for his apostasy.

 

[1] Shusaku Endo, Trans. William Johnston, Silence (New York: Picador Modern Classics, 2016), XVII.

[2] Ibid, 116.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 43.

[5] Ibid, 183.

[6] Ibid, 187.

[7] Ibid, 103.

[8] Ibid, 114.

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