Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ not golden for Clarke


Sir, – In his review of Martin Scorsese’s Silence (The Ticket, December 30th), Donald Clarke judges that while it “may appeal to those for whom faith remains an everyday concern”, it struck him “as a rigorous and sincere interrogation of a spiritual dilemma I couldn’t care less about”.

It would be worrying, and a poor example of film criticism, if a critic allowed his personal, apparently dismissive, attitude toward religion to blind him to the dramatic human dilemma involved in an historical instance of the rights of conscience and the contested issue of religious belief in the public square.

Or are we to infer that being concerned with religion is, by definition, to be inhuman?

But more worrying still is the issue, perhaps underlying Donald Clarke’s casually dismissive approach, of a “dialogue of the deaf” between secularists and religious believers in Ireland, at a time when our society is crying out for a concerted approach to the deep problems of inequality and lack of meaning which surround us.

It is easy enough to surf a superficial wave of “negative tolerance”, according to which believers and non-believers agree to “live and let live” without any serious engagement, and thus without any possibility of concerted action.

It would surely be much more productive for the project of human flourishing in Ireland if we took an interest in exploring and appreciating one another’s beliefs and non-beliefs, not with a view to conversion but rather towards a more constructive synergy in addressing difficult issues.

Pope Francis has given us a good lead here, and public intellectuals like John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, Umberto Eco, Robert Putnam and Michael Sandel have all pointed to the rich potential of a more generous collaboration between secularist and religious believers.

Perhaps Donald Clarke would like to join the conversation? – Yours, etc,


Cherry Orchard,

Dublin 10.