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The Secret Hero of Silence

"Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus. Kichijiro turns himself in to be locked up with Rodrigues. The other imprisoned Christians shun Kichijiro, huddling in one corner of a cell to leave him isolated in the other. He is a sinner who has lost the trust of his brethren and must ask absolution from the very priest he double-crossed. And yet he has not despaired. He dares to believe God’s promises that He can forgive even him.

After his apostasy, Rodrigues sees a new kinship with Kichijiro. He defies his presumed defrocking and offers one last absolution to Kichijiro, this time not with contempt (for he has now played the part of Judas himself). Rodrigues treats his encounter with the fumie as a decisive turning point in his whole life and ministry, like Judas’s crime that lead him to seek annihilation rather than forgiveness. It is Kichijiro who comes closer to the orthodox narrative of a Catholic life—not one grand fall but innumerable petty ones, followed by begging for God’s mercy. He complains again and again that he is too weak to be a good Christian during an era of persecution, but he keeps stumbling back towards Christ, asking for absolution after each betrayal. Like Judas, all the story’s major Christians go astray, but it is the miserable Kichijiro who seeks grace afterward, like Peter.

This Catholic conception of sin followed by repentance is absent from Scorsese’s foreword, which is all about certainty and doubt (and comes out mostly in favor of doubt)—questions of mind rather than soul.

Rodrigues treats his apostasy as a grave step—which it is—and as an irrevocable turning point—which it doesn’t have to be! Stepping on the fumie was a first step into a life of daily betrayals and renunciations, which the ex-priest justifies to himself by imagining Christ telling him “Just as I told you to step on the plaque, so I told Judas to do what he was going to do. For Judas was in anguish as you are now.” But instead of these fantasies, Rodrigues could look to his penitent betrayer for a truer image of the Christian response to apostasy."

Rodrigues and Kichijiro

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