Final Harry Potter Wars?

Harry Potter and his best friend Hermione Granger arrived in the magical town of Godric's Hollow on a snowy Christmas Eve.

Carols drifted out of the village church as they searched its graveyard for the resting place of Lily and James Potter, who were murdered by the dark Lord Voldemort. First, they found the headstone honoring the family of Albus Dumbledore, the late headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The inscription said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Then the Potter headstone proclaimed: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Harry was mystified. Was this about defeating the evil Death Eaters?

"It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry," said Hermione, gently. "It means … you know … living beyond death. Living after death."

For millions of religious believers who embrace Harry Potter, this pivotal scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — book seven in J.K. Rowling's giant puzzle — offers new evidence that the author is, in fact, a Church of Scotland communicant whose faith has helped shape her work.

The first inscription is from St. Matthew's Gospel and the second — stating the book's theme — is a passage in St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians about the meaning of Christ's resurrection. Is this part of what Dumbledore had called an all-powerful "deep magic" built on sacrificial love?

 Nevertheless, for millions of Rowling critics the presence of scripture in this final book will not cancel a decade's worth of wizardry, magic and what they believe is vague, New Age spirituality. And besides, Potter clearly didn't recognize the unattributed Bible verses. Right?

Religious battles commenced soon after Rowling released Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It didn't help that "Philosopher's Stone" — a term from medieval alchemy — was replaced with "Sorcerer's Stone" in U.S. editions. After the sale of 325 million-plus books worldwide, there are now at least three camps of Potter critics in these theological debates and three prominent camps of Potter defenders. The critics include:

Some who insist these books are secular or subtly anti-religious: Writing in Time, Lev Grossman has argued that Rowling shares more in common with atheists like Christopher Hitchens than with J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, whose books were rooted in Christian faith.

"Look at Rowling's books," says Grossman. "What's missing? If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God. Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn't."

Conservatives who think Potter-mania can lead to the occult: Some even oppose fantasy novels by Lewis and Tolkien — which contain references to wizards, magic and demonic powers. The key is a Deuteronomy passage:

"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells. …"

Focus on the Family's James Dobson responded to Deathly Hallows by saying: "Magical characters — witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on — fill the Harry Potter stories, and given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology … it's difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds."

Believers who see mixed signals: Evangelical activist Chuck Colson, for example, praised the books in 1999, noting that they contrasted good and evil, while the main characters displayed courage, loyalty and self-sacrifice. "Not bad lessons in a self-centered world," said the founder of Prison Fellowship.

But Colson's latest statement warned: "Personally, I don't recommend the Potter books. I'd rather Christian kids not read them."

Soon after that Colson commentary, however, current Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley gently praised Rowling's books and, above all, the role fantasy novels can play for readers numbed by modern life.

"The popularity of these books — and, yes, even of the Harry Potter series — reminds us that the yearning for hope, for good to win and evil to be vanquished, is no infantile desire," he said. "Rather, it is one of the deepest and most important parts of our nature, placed in us by the God of all truth."

Coming soon to a parish near you: Sunday school with Harry Potter.

This could happen if your congregation buys the new "Mixing it up with Harry Potter" study guides from the Church of England. The goal of the 12-part series is to use scenes from these omnipresent books and movies to help children discuss big issues such as death, sacrifice, loneliness, fear, mercy and grief.

"Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners," said Bishop John Pritchard of Oxford, speaking on behalf of the curriculum. "There's nothing better than a good story to make people think, and there's plenty in the Harry Potter books to make young people think about the choices they make in their everyday lives."

In his introduction, study-guide author Owen Smith addressed the concerns many believers have voiced about J.K. Rowling's books. As most residents of Planet Earth know by now, more than 325 million copies of the seven Harry Potter novels have been sold so far.

"The magic in the books is simply part of the magic that J. K. Rowling has created, in the same way that magic is part of the world of Christian writers such as C. S. Lewis," said Smith. "To say … these books draw younger readers towards the occult seems to me both to malign J. K. Rowling and to vastly underestimate the ability of children and young people to separate the real from the imaginary."

At least three kinds of critics have knocked Rowling's work, when it comes to religion. Some say the books are secular and contain no theological content at all, while, on the other side, many others insist that Potter-mania may lead to interest in witchcraft. Some simply say the books send mixed signals and should be avoided.

However, there are also at least three positive schools of thought about Rowling's take on faith.

Like the Church of England educators, some supporters say the Potter books can — at the very least — be mined as acceptable sources of stories to help teach young people about faith. One early evangelical book making this case, "The Gospel According to Harry Potter" by Connie Neal, was blacklisted in many Christian bookstores.

While Catholics have debated the merits of Rowling's work, a Vatican voice on culture has said the novels portray clashes between good and evil in a manner consistent with Christianity. Speaking in 2003, Father Peter Fleetwood noted that the author is "Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing."

Rowling has confirmed that she is a Christian and a communicant in the Church of Scotland, which has Presbyterian roots. In one oft-quoted interview, she told a Canadian newspaper: "Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said, 'yes,' because I do. But no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that and, I have to say that does suit me."

Thus, this group of Potter supporters argues that Rowling is a Christian — perhaps one with liberal beliefs — who has chosen to write mainstream books containing Christian symbols and language. In other words, she is a Christian who writes books, but not "Christian books."

Some go further and find elements of overt Christian storytelling — especially in the new "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." They may, for example, see parallels between Potter's willingness to surrender his life to save others from the evil Lord Voldemort and the redemptive sacrifice made by the Christ figure in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by Lewis.

There's more. In a pivotal baptism sequence, Potter dives into deadly waters to recover a sword — described as a "great silver cross" — required to destroy evil treasures. Finally, there is a vision of life after death set in a heavenly "King's Cross" train station.

Literary critic John Granger of HogwartsProfessor.com has been making this argument for years. He thinks Rowling must be considered a "Christian artist," yet one who faces her own doubts and struggles.

"The Gospel messages and allusions in the series finale were so transparent and edifying, surely, I thought, the Harry Haters must be having second thoughts, if not regrets about things they have said with such conviction the past 10 years in print and from the pulpit," said Granger. "I haven't seen any sign of this. Have you?"

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  • Guest

    Having read all the books except the last with my grandchildren, it seems evident to me the author is Christian and whether deliberately or unconsciously her Christian world view is inherent in her themes, plots and characters. It is no coincidence therefore that I note she confesses membership in the Church of Scotland with its covenanter roots, as a foundational theme in Potter's world is the dichotomy between the Elect and the muggles (only a select few of whom are elevated to magician status).

  • Guest

    Please check out Steve Wood's articles at http://www.dads.org and reprint one of them on Catholic Exchange. Thank You.

  • Guest

    For full coverage of the Harry Potter issue, please see the book The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide published by Our Sunday Visitor. http://www.osv.com/harrypotter

    I've analyzed this whole issue for years, and synthesized the information so that Catholic parents and families can make an informed decision about Harry Potter.
    Nancy Brown  
  • Guest

    Mary S. I fixed the link you gave to Steve Woods site. We don't have reprint rights to the stuff on his site. This article demonstrates that there are two opinions here among Catholics and other Christians. We have already printed articles covering both opinions.

  • Guest

    What seems to missing in "Potter" discussions, and I have read many of them, is that it is the role of the parent to be the first and best teacher of the children entrusted to them by God. I have serious reservations about this series of books (not to mention most entertainment media) but choose to read them as well as to allow my children to read them. Why? Because I did not feel that it was practical, or in fact possible, to completely shelter them from it. So after reading each book, we would talk about them. We would, on an age appropriate basis, discuss the dangers of the book as well as the positive points. It was my goal to form my children's minds to be able to deal with a world that is populated with people who do indeed practice occult arts and fall in bondage to sin. If I remember correctly Steve Wood's articles at http://www.dads.org are written from the standpoint of "been there, done that".

    Bottom line. We live in a time where we are constantly bombarded with images that were unthinkable 50 years ago. Our kids need to both be sheltered from and taught to deal with it simultaneously. The correct blending on that approach is as individual as the child and must be discerned by his/her parents.

  • Guest

    Matthens, you make a very good point.  As Mary Kochan says, there are two valid opinions among faithful Catholics regarding this series (both of which have been given ample coverage here at CE), and parental involvement is key if parents choose to allow their children to be exposed to these books.

  • Guest

    Matthens, I also fixed the link in your post.  It is dads.org, not dad's.org.

  • Guest

    Matthens,

    Ditto to all you said.

    asquared

    Ditto to all you said. 

    In addition, it is amazing the analogical references to the treatment of Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis during the years leading up to and during WWII as compared to the persecution of "half-bloods" and "muggle-borns" by the Ministry following the takeover by the Voldemort crowd. 

    I also thought the condemnation of slavery came through loud and clear through house elf stories.

    There were other instances where the battle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death came through loud and clear. 

    When I was reading the book to my 10 year old, these were the things that I made sure we talked about.

    Final point – ANYTHING taken to excess or that becomes an obsession is BAD.  An obsession with Harry Potter, sports, eating, drinking, video games, or any "hobby" can distract a child from a focus on Christ.  It is the parents' responsibility to make sure that the children stay balanced and not allow unhealthy obsessions to develop. 

    Yours in Christ,

  • Guest

    I think it would be instructive for "both sides" to read or re-read CS Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters."

    Apologists for Rowling will never see enough proof regarding these books' more subtle, darker messages. Those, like me, who agree with the assessment of the Vatican Exorcist, other teachers of the Catholic Faith, as well as Steve Wood, need no further proof. I have heard, have read, and have met and spoken with Steve Woods at a conference for Dads. He is the real deal, a good father, and a sincere Catholic who is on fire for Jesus. I do not know, nor have I heard of, Father Fleetwood…"a Vatican voice."

    I see this as playing with fire. A parent does not willing suffer his child to touch the flame and then discuss the results. This defies common sense. The world is ever changing but it is no more difficult to grow up Christian now than then, whenever then was. I daresay those who practiced the Way in 70 AD did not need to visit the Coliseum to know what lay in store for them if they were arrested for their faith.

    I have a lifelong Christian friend has chosen not to communicate any longer with me because I dared to suggest that there are deceptions going on here, and that he should review and beware what his grandchildren read. He told me I was "frickin crazy." What's wrong with this picture??

    This unnerved me a bit. I was concerned about scrupulosity and so consulted my priest. He cited the Cathechism of the Catholic Church, and suggested seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. I am totally comfortable with my stance now. 

    Our own senses are inadequate in dealing with the powers of the "prince of the air." Time will tell. Evil is able to disguise himself as an angel of light and quote scripture to his own ends. But, even evil will run its course. JK Rowling is most likely not evil, this is not the issue. We must be vigilant to teach our children the Catechism well… it is our baptismal oath on their behalf.

    I hope and pray for an awakening. The fact that this book causes such uproar should be a concern to all Catholics and other God-fearing people. If this makes me a knuckle-dragging neanderthal, then so be it. I will rather suffer the catcalls of being a bigot, a zealot, and a party-pooper than be caught unaware of a snare and a trap that whittles away at my faith.

    Are we to sample and taste everything in this life before we test it? Why partake of a fruit which you do not know, do not need and can easily avoid?

    wrmann

  • Guest

    hmm,my children read and love the books.

  • Guest

    here's a question sure to stir up controversy and put a label on me……

     Those who have read the books to and with their children and/or allowed their kids to read them….do you and your children also spend that much time/effort with the Bible, Catechism and lives of the saints?  Are we spending as much time, energy, effort and hype teaching our children the Faith?

     

    The hype about the books/movies is what has turned us off.  And there are plenty of good things for our kids to read.  Our oldest read the first couple books and decided herself that she didn't like them.  The others have not asked to read them.  We don't "do" movies very often and when a friend bought our kids the first movie, we watched with them and that was the end of it–they weren't chomping at the bit to read/see more.  Now they LOVED it when dad read The Hobbitt aloud to them….

     

    just thought I'd stir the pot…..it's hot out today!

     

    Jesus, I Trust in You!

  • Guest

    my kids read the books too.  and see the movies.  My wife has read the books.  They are fantasy.  I have seen the movies.  Other than the fact that the Harry Potter actor stinks, it is a good lot of entertainment.  That is it.  If they are the only source of "spirituality" in a family, I would worry about them.  But, since we teach the CCC, read the Bible, say Divine Mercy Chaplets and Rosaries at home with our kids – this stuff is harmless.

    Before burning the Harry Potter books, stop and pray to Christ. 

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Thank you fixing the broken link. Ah… the perils of cut and past Embarassed

    I have no problem with much of what you have to say wrmann, with the exception of your closing question. "Are we to sample and taste everything in this life before we test it? Why partake of a fruit which you do not know, do not need and can easily avoid?"

    I don't think that anyone is advocating the first part and depending upon the age of your child disagree strongly with the second. There is nothing easy about avoiding what is popular in our culture unless your children are very young.

    I respect what you have to say and I would encourage everyone to prayerfully consider your message. I would also encourage everyone to remember that we are to be in the world but not of it and to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things. In this way we will discern how we are called to live out our baptisimal call.

    For some that legitimate call will be to sound the alarm and to withdraw within the fortress of faith. For others their legitimate call will be to go out and expose ourselves to the world in order to minister to souls who are in the marketplace, see no danger, and would not think to visit a site like Catholic Exchange.

    We are, after all, many parts, but we are all one body!

    DeColores & Ultreya,

    YBIC Matt <><

     

     

  • Guest

    I think wrmann made a good point.

    If someone has never had a real life encounter with the occult, it seems like a tempest in a teapot over a nice children's book series. 

    My wife and I have both had personal experience and know people who were and are quite involved in the occult, some with disastrous results. I know several currently in prison.  Moreover, Ms. Rowlings' website states quite clearly she is not writing as a Christian and has not written these books to convey a Christian message. For these reasons we have not read the books and do not encourage our children to read them.

    I wouldn't be too concerned if it was just another series on the library shelf. It is only a problem because the Harry Potter books are very, very, very (did I mention very) promininetly advertised and marketed, even in the Catholic school libraries. With so much slick packaging and publishing, it would only be newsworthy if they weren't best sellers. Books on the life of a saint and literature written with the intention of instilling gospel virtues are readily available, but have much, much, much (did I mention much) less marketing.

  • Guest

    Well, I guess the question in the title has been answered — the Harry Potter wars continue.

  • Guest

    The devil rarely shows all his "cards". He is the master of deception and commonly mixes good with evil to expose the innocent to the "dark side". We have a responsibility to protect our children from witchcraft, sorcery and other forms of evil. Wake up people, you and your children are being indoctrinated. It happens in other forms also, why do you think abortion is now legal and thought to be a "choice", it is murder. How do you think Hitler deceived a whole nation. How do think homosexuality is accepted as an "alternate lifestyle". Yes the devil is roaming like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.

  • Guest

    Bkeebler, this is exactly the kind of rhetoric — "Wake up people, you and your children are being indoctrinated" — that I find unconscionable between fellow Catholics who disagree about something that falls under the area of freedom of conscience.  I notice that Saint Paul did not say "Wake up all of you eating food sacrificed to idols; you are being indoctrinated into idolatry."  Nor did he say to those who refused to eat, "Wake up all of you; you are being scrupulous over a non-essential matter." He wrote with love and respect for both sides.

  • Guest

    I love to read, and Harry Potter has been one of my favorite series. I have read and re read them.(I have also read and re read the lives of the saints, but being an avid reader I am always looking for something else to read!)I do not think their is any evil hidden in the books. Since some of you have not read them you may not know that the whole concept is about good verses evil. Dumbledore(the leader of the good people) says in the 4th book"The time has come for us to choose betweeen what is right,and what is easy." This quote seems like what we christians are striving for. It is easy to fall for the devil but not right.I myself find nothing offensive in them against christians. No, Harry never does pray to God for help. But I do not think that God not being specificly mentioned in the books, means that no christian child should read them. God is never mentioned in the childrens t.v show Barny. Barny certainly has  qualitys one would want their kids to hear about and kids learn a great deal from the show.  Just because God is not mentioned, does that mean christian parents should not let their kid watch it? How about the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill? Jack does not hop up and fall on is knees to thank the good god for saving him. Should one not read that nursery rhyme to its child?The list goes on and on of good books,rhymes,t.v shows, and movies that have good lessons in them. Just because God is not specificly mentioned does not mean that they are bad books, that should not be read. Yes it would be nice if God was mentioned or if "Spot the dog" said his prayers some times, but you just have to read the book and get the lessons it offers.(Which Harry Potter definatly has good morals and lessons that anyone could learn from!). I have to agree with GK read the Harry Potter books,(if you wish)enjoy them and get your spiritual materials else where.Smile

    PS. I am a kid who's home page is Catholic exchange. When I saw this artical it cought my eye so with permission from my parents I commented.

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    Having read Lewis’ Narnia series and Tolkien’s trilogy aloud to my daughter some years ago, Rowling is a literary pygmy by comparison. I read the first book and found it terribly wanting from a Christian family standpoint; too many questions arise in useless and wrong directions. I’d prefer my daughter (or grandchildren) and I struggle through the likes of Chesterton and Belloc, etc., for the insights they offer than bother with ‘magic-witchy-wizard’ tripe. And, for me, Rowling’s commercial success speaks ill of the Potter line.

    Having seen the man on EWTN talk on numbers of aspects of raising Catholic families, I put my money on Michael D. O’Brien.

    As his publisher Insight Press notes, Mr. O’Brien is the former editor of the Catholic family magazine, Nazareth Journal. He is also the author of several books, including his seven volume series of novels published by Ignatius Press, notably the best-selling Father Elijah. For more than thirty years he has been a professional artist.

    Michael’s most recent novel is A Cry of Stone, the fifth novel in the acclaimed Children of the Last Days series.

    Michael and his wife Sheila have six children. He writes and paints full-time at his home near Combermere, Ontario.

    His paintings and published articles can be seen at his gallery website: his ‘studiobrien’. Several of his articles take Harry Potter on in few positive lights.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Reminding that we are all on the same side – His,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Thank you bkeebler!  Thank you, those of you who point out that Harry Potter is a casual introduction into the occult.  Thank you for pointing out that it is in the guise of fairy tale fantasy children's story, so as not to arouse undue suspicion.

    Engaging the occult is not a matter of conscience for Catholics.  The comment was made that Catholics disagree  on Potter– in cases such as these look to the Pope, what has our beloved, wise, and courageous Vicar of Christ said in this regard?

    As for me, I say bring on the bonfires.  If heretical bibles were once burned, why would anyone consider hesitating on the Potter books?

  • Guest

    comment for Kitstone

    Congratulations for participating in what I consider a more 'adult' forum.

    I offer a word of caution — much discernment is needed today, becuase the lies of secular humanism are rarely presented in their true ugliness.  You mention Barney, consider the following lyrics:

    A family is people and a family is love
    That’s a family
    They come in all different sizes and different kinds
    But mine’s just right for me
    Yeah, mine’s just right for me

    It's a catchy little tune for young children to pick up on and sing along with.  But what you must note is that it completely contradicts what the Catholic Church teaches — that a family is One Mother, One Father, and their children.  Once you begin changing this God instituted order, the family begins to suffer, and our society at large follows quickly thereafter.  The Barney song above makes homosexuality perfectly fine —

    Yeah, mine's just right for me.

    A perfect example of what Pope Benedict XVI referes to as the dictatorship of relativism — all in the guise of a children's song.  Teach them early, you will own them for life . . . .

  • Guest

    mkochan,

    I am sorry, I will try to state the Truth more gently:

    2 Timothy 2:23-26
    23 Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

    But please note this scripture because it is what is appropriate here in this discussion:

    2 Timothy 4: 2-4
    2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

  • Guest

     If you think that Harry Potter and the Bible teach the same thing, I challenge you to get a child who is reading about the charming witch to put the book down and read a Bible story.  I think you'll soon find out that Harry is "fun" and the Bible is "boring".  Withdrawal into a fasle fantasy world makes work and prayer difficult.  "By their fruits you shall know them." The truth shall make you free."  I find your relentless promotion of a witch as a suitable role model for children quite disgusting.  I see that I can't trust Catholic Exchange to teach correct doctrine.  Here's what our present Pope thinks of Harry Potter:



    Pope's Letters About Harry Potter

    Pope Opposes Harry Potter Novels – Signed Letters from Cardinal Ratzinger Now Online

    Source URL: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jul/05071301.htmlLifeSiteNews.comWednesday July 13, 2005


    RIMSTING, Germany, July 13, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – LifeSiteNews.com has obtained and made available online copies of two letters sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was recently elected Pope, to a German critic of the Harry Potter novels. In March 2003, a month after the English press throughout the world falsely proclaimed that Pope John Paul II approved of Harry Potter, the man who was to become his successor sent a letter to a Gabriele Kuby outlining his agreement with her opposition to J.K. Rowling's offerings. (See below for links to scanned copies of the letters signed by Cardinal Ratzinger.)

    As the sixth issue of Rowling's Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – is about to be released, the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed serious reservations about the novels is now finally being revealed to the English-speaking world still under the impression the Vatican approves the Potter novels.

    In a letter dated March 7, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger thanked Kuby for her "instructive" book Harry Potter – gut oder böse (Harry Potter- good or evil?), in which Kuby says the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy.

    "It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly," wrote Cardinal Ratzinger.

    The letter also encouraged Kuby to send her book on Potter to the Vatican prelate who quipped about Potter during a press briefing which led to the false press about the Vatican support of Potter. At a Vatican press conference to present a study document on the New Age in April 2003, one of the presenters – Fr. Peter Fleedwood – made a positive comment on the Harry Potter books in response to a question from a reporter. Headlines such as "Pope Approves Potter" (Toronto Star), "Pope Sticks Up for Potter Books" (BBC), "Harry Potter Is Ok With The Pontiff" (Chicago Sun Times) and "Vatican: Harry Potter's OK with us" (CNN Asia) littered the mainstream media.

    In a second letter sent to Kuby on May 27, 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger "gladly" gave his permission to Kuby to make public "my judgement about Harry Potter."
    The most prominent Potter critic in North America, Catholic novelist and painter Michael O'Brien commented to LifeSiteNews.com on the "judgement" of now-Pope Benedict saying, "This discernment on the part of Benedict XVI reveals the Holy Father's depth and wide ranging gifts of spiritual discernment." O'Brien, author of a book dealing with fantasy literature for children added, "it is consistent with many of the statements he's been making since his election to the Chair of Peter, indeed for the past 20 years – a probing accurate read of the massing spiritual warfare that is moving to a new level of struggle in western civilization. He is a man in whom a prodigious intellect is integrated with great spiritual gifts. He is the father of the universal church and we would do well to listen to him."

    English translations of the two letters by Cardinal Ratzinger follow:

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Vatican CityMarch 7, 2003

    Esteemed and dear Ms. Kuby!

    Many thanks for your kind letter of February 20th and the informative book which you sent me in the same mail. It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.

    I would like to suggest that you write to Mr. Peter Fleedwood, (Pontifical Council of Culture, Piazza S. Calisto 16, I00153 Rome) directly and to send him your book.

    Sincere Greetings and Blessings,

    + Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

    =======================
    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Vatican CityMay 27, 2003

    Esteemed and dear Ms. Kuby,

    Somehow your letter got buried in the large pile of name-day , birthday and Easter mail. Finally this pile is taken care of, so that I can gladly allow you to refer to my judgment about Harry Potter.

    Sincere Greetings and Blessings,

    + Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

    Links to the scanned copies of the two signed letters by Cardinal Ratzinger (in German) – In PDF format:http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005_docs/ratzingerletter.pdf http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005_docs/ratzingerpermission.pdf



     

  • Guest

    Pristinus–have you read Michael O'Brien???  I recently finished Cry of Stone.  Can't find the words to describe this one.  It has truly affected my daily prayer life.  It has become my favorite novel of all time. 

     All of O'Brien's work is bound to stay with you—the Truth flows throughout.  

     

    Be sure to check out his book A Landscape with Dragons:  The Battle for Your Child's Mind.  here's part of the blurb:

     

    "In this study of the pagan invasion of children's culture, he describes his own coming to terms with the effect it has has on his family and most families in Western society….Our society has shifted froma Christian world view, and the pagan message is being packaged to appear "Christian" in many books and films.  If you have ever wondered why a certain children's book or film made you feel uneasy, but you couldn't figure out why, this book is just what you need."…

     

    I am so happy to see Michael O'Brien mentioned on CE!  I have brought his name up a time or two on the forums and have not gotten any response from anyone.  READ MICHAEL O'BRIEN–you will be moved to grow closer to Christ!

     

    Jesus, I Trust in You!

     

     

     

  • Guest

    You mean to suggest journey that Potter People think our bodies and minds are actually pagan temples? Well that would then explain the hype and popularity of the books.

  • Guest

    I read the whole series to my wife and kids out loud. We all enjoyed it. Sometimes its fun to just sit through a good story and that's what Harry Potter is.

     

    The series is a fantasy, just like Dr. Seuss is a fantasy. Its fun and we don't need to make everything about religion. I don't recall anything about the magic and silliness of the Cat in the Hat or The Magic Tree House stirring controversy. Or maybe it did and I missed it.

     

    Most of all, our faith in God is definitely no fantasy, and I see no problem keeping the two apart.

  • Guest

    Charles Ro, engaging in occult practice (which I think is what you meant to say) is not a matter of conscience for Catholics. But reading a fantasy story in which a character employs magic is a matter of conscience. Reading a fantasy story in which a character employs magic is not the same as engaging in occult practice and the Church does not teach that it is.

    I have not read the books but some children I know have read them and like them very much and get quite excited when the movies come out — just as they get excited about the next Spiderman movie and the next Narnia movie. And yes, their faith is apart from that. They seem to be able to enjoy fantasy, recognize it as fantasy and also recognize that when we talk about God, we are talking about reality.

  • Guest

    Well said, Mary.

    Many can and do make the distinction.

    Some few become so enamored with the elements, that they get more involved in the occult.

    An odd aspect of this phenom for me is that so many people seem to insist that everyone read these books.

  • Guest

    To some:  Please be careful  how you stereotype people who read Harry Potter.  My children all have read and enjoyed the books.  They talk about the motifs among themselves and with me.  Further, of their own accord, the older ones read a "secular" book before bed and end with the bible and prayers!  It is not an either/or reading list.

    Somebody mentioned Barney show.  We no longer watch that show, however, as with most things that touch our family's life, we talked about that show and its PC, at times, message….including the "family" song.  The church's teaching on the nuclear family is of course accurate.  But, some kids do live in "nontraditional" families according to modern standards of traditional in the US culture. Many people have grandparents living with them.  Or maybe a parent has died.  OR an older sibling with spouse is there for a time.  IN other parts of the world, family means yet again something else.  Barney may teach acceptance of other family types with that song.  After all, children should not be stigmatized by the makeup of their family of origin.  (Of course I don't let my kids watch for a second shows that normalize homosexual families or other deviant family types.)  I also have seen that children from righteous Catholic families can become smug in their condescending attitudes towards others who are not quite as holy.  Unfortunately, I've seen that happen between the two "Potter camps".  "You…read that!  You're going to hell."  Well, what bible has that child been reading?

    An early post said that parents need to be involved with Harry Potter reading as with many aspects of their children's lives.

  • Guest

    I might add that an eleven-year-old I know just finished the last book and I asked, "Well what do you think is the main point of the books?" She said, "I think the point is that we have to be like Jesus and be willing to sacrifice for others."

    She then went on to tell me that Harry Potter made some kind of sacrifice of himself to save someone else or something — to be honest I pretty much glaze over at the details (like when her little brother talks to me about the plot of the Power Rangers) and just sort of nod and say uh huh.

  • Guest

    That is all just fine and dandy. Unless it's not. I mean – isn't it like saying, "I know a man who has smoked cigarettes since he was a teenager and didn't get cancer?"

    Mary knows an eleven-year-old who reads HP and says the point is to be like Jesus; my neighbor has a kid who reads HP and says the point is to break the rules if you need to in order to help your friends. Neither anecdote proves very much.

    Many read and enjoy these books without going any further into the wichcraft and wizardry.  Cool.  Some, however, do go further into the occult; some end up with very bad results. Not cool.

    So how come CE takes the bait the publishers put out and call it a "war" when doing so is largely a matter of provoking a response from those who would rather decline the nearly constant highly advertised endorsement to smoke cigarettes, er, read Harry Potter?

    Hyping it up and calling it a "war" only serves to help the publishers achieve their goal of keeping HP in the public eye.

     

  • Guest

    I cannot understand the rush to read seven questionable books when there are tens (hundreds?) of thousands of childrens' books available.  I have read thousands of books to a young child with special needs and we have managed quite well without Harry Potter.  We have been through the Narnia series twice and find more riches each time we read. 

    I have met people who just HAD to read the controversial Poem of the Man-God, despite the fact it had been on the Index.  There are so many wonderful spiritual books available – too numerous to read in a lifetime – why would one wish to waste time reading something that could be hazardous to one's spiritual health?  Our souls are precious – we must take infinite care to protect them.  As one earlier poster to this forum mentioned, the warnings from Lewis' Screwtape Letters are still as relevant as when they were first penned over 50 years ago.  The devil is alive and well.  Why give him an opening? 

  • Guest

    I am not recommending the books. I'm just relating something that happened to me. CE is not recommending the books.

    PTR, I have no idea what "bait" you at talking about because Mattingly is an independent columnist who writes about current events in the religious arena; he does not work for the publisher.

    PC, Unless you are reading the Bible or the writings of a doctor of the Church, the argument can always be made that there is something "better" to read. But what you need to understand is that you are coming at this having made a certain judgement about the books that other Catholics, just as faithful and caring as you, disagree with.

    And that is the entire point. That is why CE does not have a position on it and presents both sides.

  • Guest

    I personally think it's great that CE is being objective and neutral in presenting both sides of this issue.  There are certain issues that are non-negotiable for Catholics, and then there are issues like this that faithful Catholics can differ on according to their consciences.  I'm not sure whether I would allow my kids to read these books;  if I did, my husband and I would be heavily involved.  I really think that's key.

  • Guest

    First off, I'd like to say that there is absolutely no evidence that kids who read Harry Potter books are more likely to get involved with the Occult.  Many years ago, a satire newspaper, the Onion, published an article where kids were saying they were joining the occult and where a member of Wicca was saying they were getting tons of kids converting through it.  For some reason, a person copy and pasted this article and started emailing it around and people started believing it was real.  That the interviews were real.

    Other arguments I've heard is that involvement in the occult has increased.  But considering that in high school most of my friends from middle school got involved, I can tell you they weren't reading Harry Potter.  For the most part they were following their parents.  Or they were real upset with Christianity and were reading up on alternative religions to find one that they felt fit them better.

    Again, this simply can't be attributed to Harry Potter. 

    I started reading the Harry Potter books because I heard someone saying that Harry Potter was teaching children disrespect toward elders.  After the first book, I determined the books were harmless and very entertaining.  As I got into the series I began seeing more and more Christian elements till I was pretty sure before the last book that if Harry Potter died, it would be through self sacrifice.  I believed his act of sacrificial love would be his only way of destroying Voldemort and while it didn't happen precisely as I expected, it did happen.  Harry offered his life for the many and became a Christ figure.

    Rowlings work is a piece that if anything brings Christian themes into the secular world.  Its a work that plants the seeds of faith so that when kids are taught about Christianity, the idea of sacrificial love, of the power of dying for our friends resonates as familiar and acceptable. 

    Its a secular piece of literature written by a Christian with a Christian mindset.  Its brilliant.  The only word of warning I'd advise to parents is that their children should be no more than two years younger than the age Harry is in a book.  I don't think younger children are mature enough to handle the things Harry deals with as he grows up. 

  • Guest

    Your child may read Harry Potter and never have an interest in the occult, then again he may. That is a real danger but the true danger is a generation that is becoming desensitized to the occult and thinking witchcraft, sorcery and the like is something "good" when it is the work of the devil. It is the indoctrination, the loosening of standards and the gradual acceptance of something that should be vigorously rejected and avoided. Satan will take bolder and bolder steps in the span of time and generations to make the occult look more and more acceptable and main stream. He has done it with other evils and this is no exception. Satan is the master of deception, he takes what is evil and makes it look good and that is what HP does. Are you familiar with what real witches and sorcerers do, the real evil that is out there in and out of the occult, how Satan wants to destroy and devour every one he can, including your children? It is not “fun” and it is no “fantasy”, neither is HP.

     

    lkeebler

  • Guest

    These books are not worth any of this discussion.  They are no better or worse than Scooby Doo.  In a few years, there will be another series of kids books that are popular.  These just happened to catch some kind of inexplicable wave.  I think it is more related to marketing timing and marketing genius than anything else.

    I could care less if my kids do or don't read them just as much as I could care less if they read dinosaur books.  It is really pointless and I think more due to people's general opinion on pop things and how they affect life.

    Since HP is not an MTV thing, since it is not Britteny Spears, since it is not Hannah Montana, since it is not American Idol … I could care less.  Please, someone lay themselves down on the tracks before me and tell me HP books are going to suck their brains out and make room for the devil to take over.  I think JK Rawlins needs one more anti-spokesman.  There aren't enough people who are giving these novels the time of day!

    The novels are like scooby-doo cartoons.  They make no difference in the world though they deal in monsters, magic and hayhem … and oh yeah, kids and fun.  Let them be.  There is no reason to devote this much time to them.  I swear this is just like Beatlemania but for the Beatle's fan's kids and grandkids.  It is nothing but hype and a marketing/product/entertainment wave.  Leave it die.  Don't give it air time.  It has as much significance as hula-hoops or frisbees.

    By the way the man who plays Harry Potter in the movies is a terrible actor.  It is the weakest character I have ever seen get this much play time.  I compare HP to Thomas the Tank Engine.  I think to myself, what is the draw to such a smarmy boy of such bland English silver-spoon put-me-to-sleep-with-his-small-time-problems-I-could-care-less-about.  I do not get it and I am amazed.  Its like people being obsessive about fruit cake.  Who the heck knows why or where or how.  There is no significance or hidden messages.  Paul McCartney will not have died if you play these novels backwards on a turn table at half speed.  It is a  non-issue of porridge.  Scooby-Doo is not a moral issue.  It just is and it is making money.  I have no idea why.  Timing is all I can say.  That and the right audience that likes to hype inconsequential nothingness into something, either way.  I do not get it nor ever will.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Reply to on a journey

    I'd like to chime in on Michael O'Brien.

    Smile After having it on my "To Read" list for years, I recently finished Father Elijah. I may have found a new favorite author. I told my wife that I could feel myself being drawn into holiness as I read it.

    The depth and excellence of his writing are gifts that I belive must flow from an intense prayer life and well grounded spirituality. Although the book was outwardly about the end times that is not where I was impacted. It was in the sub-plots and individual character development that I found a rich tapestry worthy of exploration.

    Out of my new found respect for this man's writing I will take into consideration what he has felt moved to say upon the topic of Harry Potter. I just may find some insights that I had not really considered.

    Thanks again to Catholic Exchange for providing a forum for this dialog, we all grow from listening to each other. Thanks also to you Mary for your work as moderator.

    I like it when flames are kept to a minimum in this life as well as the next! Innocent

  • Guest

    Somehow I submitted my previous comment twice so I edited the 2nd one here. I wish I could delete it. Sorry <><

  • Guest

    GK your post is my children's point as well.  They read a gazilllion books a year.  HP is just one of many.  It doesn't define them or their reading list.  They don't understand why adults have made such a huge deal out of "Scooby Doo".

  • Guest

    elkabrikir,

    Great to hear.  My kids read a ton a year too.  My one daughter is always reading.  I have to shake her off the couch every now and then.  She loves reading.  She loves Little House on the Prarie books, Saints books and plenty of others.  Her world is a wonderful world.  She is 11 and I protect her from the world.  You don't want to ruin such sweetness and goodness.  But, Harry Potter is just another series of books.  That is all.

    matthens,

    My wife just finished reading Cry of Stone after having read Father Elijah.  It is a completely different book.  She said it is kind of like Story of a Soul-ish.  The characters in the book make it go.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Great to hear that Michael O'Brien is being read and enjoyed—definitely my favorite author.  Matthens–you put it so well–being drawn in to holiness.  Cry of Stone is….well, you read it Matthens and then you will be able to share it with the forum! :)

     

    GK–our 7 year old hides under the throw pillows on the couch with just enough light to peek through so she can read……she has gotten out of many a chore this summer!  We are all readers–thank God for the gift and desire.  And to Mrs. GK–Rose touched me deeply.  I look at my aches and pains so differently now.  And the "beating heart"—O'Brien is truly blessed.  (Wish we could do a "book club" discussion!)

     Jesus, I Trust in You!

  • Guest

    Worth searching Michael O'Brien (try studiobrien) to find his comments:

     —

    Harry Potter and "the Death of God"

    Written by Michael D. O'Brien   
     
    Lev Grossman, in the July 23, 2007, issue of Time magazine, writes, “If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.” In this he has expressed the core problem with the Potter series. There is much that could be written, and has been written, about the specific problems in the books. Without neglecting the valid point that good fiction need not be overtly Christian, need not be religious at all, we might ponder a little the fact that the central metaphor and plot engines of the series are activities (witchcraft and sorcery) absolutely prohibited by God. We might also consider for a moment the fact that no sane parents would give their children books which portrayed a set of “good” pimps and prostitutes valiantly fighting a set of “bad” pimps and prostitutes, and using the sexual acts of prostitution as the thrilling dynamic of the story. By the same token we should ask ourselves why we continue to imbibe large doses of poison in our cultural consumption, as if this were reasonable and normal living, as if the presence of a few vegetables floating in a bowl of arsenic soup justifies the long-range negative effects of our diet. Leaving aside a wealth of such arguments, let us consider Lev Grossman’s insight.

    Read more…
    Written by Michael D. O'Brien   
    Thursday, 16 August 2007
    Harry Potter and “the Death of God”

    by Michael D. O’Brien

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