Jeffrey Overstreet offers us a reflection on this year’s much-anticipated release of “Silence,” a film adaptation of the remarkable book by Shusaku Endo, which tells the story of a missionary in Japan. Silence is worthy of anyone’s time, but it seems particularly appropriate now. We are facing a future in which those who claim to be Christians will be ridiculed–and even martyred–for those beliefs.
Although that scenario is grave, it makes rational sense. Those outside the Church are not supposed to agree with the Church. They are the ones you would expect to persecute Christians. What you do not expect is to suffer persecution from those within the Church. Yet as Overstreet continues, that is what happened to St. Thomas More. More was faithful to the end, and in his silence, he spoke out against the false beliefs of the King and those who had kowtowed to political pressure.
It seems we have a modern-day Thomas More in our midst. Rod Dreher published this piece earlier today about Anthony Esolen (see here, here, and here). Esolen exemplifies, in many ways, the best attributes of Thomas More: standing for the truth in the midst of an institution he has served for years although many people he considered friends and colleagues have turned to serve other ends. Many in the academy have abandoned the pursuit of big-t Truth in favor of chasing misguided, but world-approved, authentic(!), and sincere(!) beliefs. (Authenticity and sincerity being, after all, the new modern virtues.) Those beliefs–in things like undefined “diversity,” “equality,” and other well-meaning platitudes–paradoxically lead their proponents into logically inconsistent and contrary positions. In the name of diversity and tolerance, for instance, students and faculty at Providence College are calling for Esolen’s resignation or that the administration fire him. Yes, the way to increase diversity on campus is clearly to eliminate the strongest conservative (or, should I say, “Catholic”) voice on campus. Take out Esolen and we can all get along, we homogeneous mass of academic-freedom loving liberals.
That’s the only logical conclusion when small-t truths compete for attention and people do not recognize a hierarchy of truth, a deposit of faith. Let’s pray for Anthony Esolen in his current struggle and pray, with him, that every Catholic school will “be what God has called us to be, a committedly and forthrightly Catholic school with life-changing truths to bring to the world.“