DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Some Catholics may have been hopeful over Martin Scorsese's new film, Silence, about Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century Japan. Hope in the work of the director of The Last Temptation of Christ, however, is at best misplaced.
Released for wider distribution on January 13, Scorsese's film is getting mixed reviews. Last week, it was snubbed by the Golden Globes.
The movie was first screened on November 30 for nearly 400 Jesuits in Rome, who gave it a standing ovation. Father James Martin, editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America and organizer for the screening, as well as a prominent pro-homosexualist liberal, commented, "It's a magnificent film."
Martin was an advisor for the film and for the play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as well as the 2008 film Doubt. A day later, Scorsese had a private meeting with Pope Francis, who said he had also read the book.
In 1988, Scorsese released his film adaptation of the blasphemous novel The Last Temptation of Christ, which shows Christ and Mary Magdalen having sexual relations. At the end of a scene, an angel appears to Him on the Cross, telling Christ He is not the Messiah. He is then shown marrying Mary Magdalene. After she dies, He marries Mary the sister of Lazarus and her sister Martha.
Saint Francis Xavier, one of the great Jesuit missionaries and close friend of the order's founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, began missionary efforts in Japan around 1549. Afterwards, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries arrived and began converting the Japanese.
By 1579, there were about 130,000 converts, with Japanese Catholics in nearly every social class, and there were hundreds of Catholic churches throughout the country. In 1614, the Tokugawa government banned Catholicism in an effort to expunge foreign influences. All foreign missionaries were ousted and Japanese Catholics directed to apostatize or face torture and execution.
It is in this historical setting that Silence begins. Based on a 1966 book by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, it tells the story of two young Jesuit priests who go to Japan to find their former superior, whom they heard had left the Catholic faith.
The priests become troubled at the horrific torture and gruesome deaths some Japanese martyrs faced rather than renounce their faith by trampling on an image of Jesus Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the priests encourages them to apostatize in order to avoid torture, until he himself is faced with the choice to abandon the Catholic faith in the final scene.
A group of Japanese Catholics are tortured, and he is told it will end if he steps on the holy image as a denial of the Faith. It is at that point the priest hears the voice of Christ saying, "You may trample. You may trample. I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. You may 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."
Earlier, the Jesuit superior says to the young priest, "If Christ were here, He would apostatize for their sake," reasoning that [t]o give up your faith is the most painful act of love."
The struggling Jesuit gives in to the alleged voice of Christ, tramples on the image of Christ, thereby making a public renunciation of the Faith. It is on this note that the film ends.