What is the critique of the church in the novel The Good Conscience?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the novel The Good Conscience, Jamie Cabello distances himself from the church and engages in increasingly bizarre and perverse behavior. As he lives his life, he begins to feel and observe hypocrisy in the church at large, and it puts him off towards it.

During the novel, he...

View
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In the novel The Good Conscience, Jamie Cabello distances himself from the church and engages in increasingly bizarre and perverse behavior. As he lives his life, he begins to feel and observe hypocrisy in the church at large, and it puts him off towards it.

During the novel, he frequently observes his friends and family going through the motions at mass and acting a certain way, almost as if in an attempt to curry God's favor. Elsewhere, however, they are uncaring and do not act on those Christian principles. He also feels alienated and alone because he does not feel the same way about the Church as everyone around him.

Even though he wants to eventually become a clergy member, his actions and desires are very different from what the Church dictates, and he states that he believes he can commune with God on his own, with his bizarre rituals. The hypocrisy and the way that religion is manipulated in order to control the community are the main character's primary criticisms of the church in this story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Carlos Fuentes' The Good Conscience, 15-year old protagonist Jamie Ceballo struggles with feelings of social alienation, moral confusion, and existential despair. Jamie doesn't understand why his family members are obsessed over appearances. He is disgusted by what he perceives as their petty, meaningless fights over status, position, and wealth. For young Jamie, an ethics based on "keeping up appearances" doesn't seem right.

To find a deeper, more personally compelling basis for his morality, Jamie turns to the Catholic Church. Initially, he attempts to commune with Christ individually, through bizarre ritualistic enactments of his own creation. However, the personal, individual revelation he so desperately desires never comes. Jamie looses faith that Christ will ever speak to him directly, and is driven to even further to alienation and despair.

Fuentes' critique of the church is rendered through Jamie's inability to hear a word directly from God. The story suggests that the church can never function as a means of personal communion with the divine. At best, the church merely reifies and reinforces existing social norms. When Jamie visits a trust priest for help, the priest tells him to fulfill his social obligations and conform to social morality. The priest goes so far as to scold Jamie for his incessant individual searching; to search as though there were something more than social mores strikes the priest as selfish and short-sighted. The Good Conscience depicts the church that as a fundamentally a social structure: one designed to maintain the status quo through institutional morality and ethics, rather than facilitate personal revelation or an individual relationship with the divine. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team