QUAERITUR: Harry Potter

From a reader:

Recently very good friends of mine told me that is is probably a sin to have read the Harry Potter books – even as a child with no intent of getting involved in "magic" or anything of that sort. They have heard from a priest that the names used in the book are the names of real demons and that reading it somehow attaches these demons to you.

I’ve done some research and I really can’t find much credible information to back up what they’ve said.

While it seems that individual priests/bishops have held a wide variety of opinion on whether or not one should read the books, I can’t find any authoritative Church teaching that says you should confess having read the books.

Am I correct in assuming that this is not a big deal?

There is no authoritative Church teaching that says you cannot read these books.  Furthermore, for good or for ill, there is no longer any office Index of Prohibited Books (and my merely mentioning that will have all sorts of people posting here comments about how we need the Index).

At the same time, I won’t say it isn’t a big deal when it comes to children.  What children read, in those formative years, is a big deal.

It seems to me that this is a case in which parents should make the choice.  They should be reading their children’s books before their kids read them and then decide what to do.  

The fine author Michael O’Brian – who did not like the first Harry Potter books at all – suggests that there are some books that are perfect for kids to read on their own, some that cannot ever be read, many that kids can read together with parents so that parents can help them sort things through.  

I think the Harry Potter books are in this third category.

I have read all of them.  "But Father! But Father!", some are saying even now.  "Why did you waste your time on those?  Shouldn’t you be reading… I dunno…. Spinoza?" 

Frankly, I rather like espionage books.  The last one I read was a ripping good yarn by Alan Furst, who has an amazing ability to set a scene.  It’s like reading a film noir, if that makes sense.  Right now I am reading The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America by Andrew C. McCarthy.  I do not recommend it for junior, but perhaps college age students should get this.  I digress.

I think it behooves priests to be aware of powerful influences in society, popular culture.  Also, I read fast.   And these are children’s books we are talking about.  They are not exactly text books on string theory.  Moreover, I checked the Harry Potter books out of the library rather than buy them.

But I admit that I have not been inclined to listen to Lady Gaga.  A lacuna, surely, in my cultural formation.  Still, I am able to pronounce on her music.  BAD.  Don’t waste your time on her stuff until you have memorized all the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s opera omnia.  But I digress.

I found that, as they went along – we are back to the Potter books now –  there were some good elements in them.  For example, the kids involved, while making mistakes (and I think kids make mistakes) eventually were faced with making choices involving self-sacrifice for high purposes.  Also, there was little question about who was bad and who was good, which is important.  One character winds up being a bit ambiguous in that regard, but in the end you sort out the puzzle.   It seems to me that the author herself evolved in their writing.

About the magic thing.  Many good books have magic in them.  I wouldn’t deprive children of the great experience of reading, for example, Tolkien‘s books.  I would only be concerned were children to want in any way to play at casting spells in any serious way,  etc., or be a witch in the worse sense… I mean even worse than some of the staff of the seminary I was in, that sort of thing.  I would absolutely forbid children to have anything to do with things associated with black magic.  Some will say that the Potter books are in fact associated with black magic.  I am not convinced that they are, except when the bad guys are up to their nefarious plots. And when Harry himself uses a dark spell – things go terribly wrong and he learns a horrible lesson.

Kids make mistakes.

Back to the question: No, unless your Mommy told you not to read those books, and you read them anyway, you don’t have to confess that you read about Harry Potter and his adventures.

For additional reading on the confusion surrounding the books, you might want to look at this story on Lifesite.

I am sure there could be a good, vigorous and spirited discussion in the combox, so long as people stay on target and remain more concise than I have been in answering.

NB: There may be "spoliers" in the discussion that follows.  I don’t like spoilers.  But it is hard to avoid them in such a discussion, since examples must be provided.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Magpie says:

    Interesting comment here on Potter and LOTR books:

    ”In their psychological effect, the Harry Potter books are clearly anti-Christian. It may seem on the surface that the books offer only harmless entertainment, but magic and sorcery have no place in Christianity, and, in fact, the emphasis on self-serving power contradicts basic Christian values of humility and self-surrender to God. How can children learn to value sacrifice and prayer when their heads are filled with fantasies of using magic to get what they want?”

    More: http://www.chastitysf.com/q_fantasy.htm

    He makes comment on the pros and cons of fantasy writing for kids.

  2. Iconophilios says:

    I am adoscent, and when I was little I loved those books. (The first five I didn’t read, my mother read them to me, the later ones I read myself.) Anyway, I do love books, and I often try to look for a Christ character, which there is in the HP series (Harry, of course). This is most obvious when (SPOILER ALERT) Harry dies to destroy evil (Voldemort). I think it’s odd that some people do not see things like this.

  3. SonofMonica says:

    We had a professor of theology come to our parish and give a talk about the Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Naria, J.R.R. Tolkien’s LotR, and J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. The thrust of the talk was about how all great literature that we identify with involves biblical themes (i.e., good, evil, redemption, etc.), whether or not the author intended them to. I know that the definition of a ‘bigot’ is one who cannot conceive of an opposing viewpoint, but I cannot for the life of me understand how someone could view the Harry Potter series as evil or dangerous. It’s children’s fiction and contains much less serious content than that of Holy Scripture, all the while conveying pretty much the same worldview. If you’re concerned about perceived or actual dangers of black magic associated with reading children’s literature then it seems to me that you’re engaging in the very thing you’re trying to avoid. Superstition.

  4. RichardT says:

    A sensible commentary, Father.

    I agree with the Tolkien analogy. These are not so much books ABOUT magic, but more books about growing up and moral choices which are set in an imaginary world where magic exists. Most children are able to differentiate between fantasy and real life, and it is an important lesson for them to learn.

    Possibly some of the morality is questionable (I haven’t read them carefully or recently enough to comment), as it is in so many books and movies. But that’s a different issue to the witchcraft one.

    Certainly they are FAR, FAR less anti-Christian than the horrendous Philip Pullman books.

    And the Harry Potter books do contain one very important lesson – never trust the government!

  5. RichardT says:

    And Magpie (6:01pm), one of the themes of the books is that magic cannot solve all your problems.

  6. homeschoolofthree says:

    I have gotten soooo tired of this question!!! My children have read Harry Potter and seen the movies…among hundreds of other books and movies they have seen in our homeschooling journey! They are wonderful young adults…they are also great Catholics! One is a student at Christendom, another at Franciscan U in Steubenville, they are at these institutions by choice, they yearn for what is true, good and beautiful in this world by getting the best Catholic educations they can. They are daily communicants and all around good people, no I am not living in a fantasy world, we have our problems too, but really far fewer growing pains than a lot of our society. Many of the families I know that did not allow their youngsters to read, “those evil books” spent so much time telling their kids what was wrong and to be feared in this world, that they now have young adults experimenting with sex and drugs, and worse…not going to church. You really need to keep a balance with your kids, tell them what is wrong and bad and evil…but you have got to show them what is good to fill their days!

  7. ejcmartin says:

    I read some of the early books to my daughter when they were all the rage. I found by the third book or so there was a lot of killing going on and things got quite dark. She was 8 or 9 at the time and I just didn’t think it was right to keep reading stories where children were getting killed off so we quietly moved onto something more uplifting.

  8. Jacob says:

    Father Z, you mention Tolkien’s books and Michael D. O’Brien. Is it true what I’ve read that he does not think they’re appropriate for children?

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    An important point, well made, Father, and also, for example, by ejcmartin, is attending to the person of the reader/listener/viewer. Who, for example, at what age, should read R.H. Benson’s ‘ The Necromancers’? It is hard to generalize. (I was so scared of Mr. Magoo’s Dickens’s ‘ Christmas Carol’, I hid in another room with my ears stopped, at a certain age – and enjoyed it a lot, at a later one.)
    One element which Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Lewis’s Narnia, and Rowling’s Wizarding world share is an imagining of the possibility of non-demonic magic. That can be made clear to the (young) audience, in combination with the warning that in real life, one cannot leave out demonic danger and try to ‘experiment with the occult’. But, perhaps most clearly in Tolkien, but also in Lewis and Rowling, this imagination allows very thoughtful critique of the kind of ‘technological-magical thinking’ that surrounds us all, constantly.

  10. RichardT says:

    ejcmartin (6:15pm), the books are written primarily for children who are the same age as the characters.

    Since they start school at 11 and progress through, by the 3rd book they are being written for 14 year olds. So yes, they would be too dark for a 9 year old.

    This is an interesting technique, and is quite noticeable in differing style and subject matter of the books.

    Unfortunately the hype around the series meant that they were often read by younger readers, for whom they were probably unsuitable. It also makes it difficult now that they are all published, because the natural reaction would be to read them one after the other, whereas the child probably needs to grow between them.

  11. RichardT says:

    If I’m allowed a literary comment rather than a religious one, I think that the Harry Potter books are over-hyped. They do not seem satanic or evil, but nor are they great works of literature.

    Although better than a lot of children’s books, they aren’t a patch on Arthur Ransome.

  12. boko fittleworth says:

    You’ll often find me curled up with Spinoza’s latest. I’m a big fan of Furst, too. The New Criterion had a good article on him a few years ago.

    PS- We need to bring back the Index!

  13. Random Friar says:

    I tried reading one of the Harry Potter books, since children were so into them. I found it so tedious that I dropped it after a couple of chapters.

    But from what I read (yes, including magic), and the reviews and commentaries from many fine Catholic authors and priests, I would call it a matter of prudence. I doubt most kids would be negatively affected, unless they developed an unhealthy obsession with the books… well, beyond the unhealthy obsessions most kids develop over the latest fad. Children throughout Christendom had been hearing and reading stories of magic and good magicians and evil witches and warlocks with little negative effect for centuries. But if you think your child is too sensitive or easily moved by such things (and I won’t say they do not exist), then let them wait until they are older.

    I personally would worry far more about the television set and the computer in the house. Many a good contemporary Christian soul has been marred by the negative effects.

  14. JulieC says:

    As a mother of six kids, my biggest concern with the Rowling series is that in the first three books (I stopped reading them after that) Harry must commit a wrongful act in order to resolve his major dilemma (lying, disobeying, etc.) He has a brief struggle with his conscience in each case but decides he cannot achieve his good end withot committing a wrong. There is no doubt in each book that the author unabashedly condones the moral praxis that the end justifies the means.

    My second major concern is the very dark climax in each book which invariably builds up to some unspeakably evil and physically revolting imagery. In each book I found the climax jarring and completely out of scale to the relatively mild sorcery contained in the rest of the book.

    I do not as a rule believe kids (clear through college age) should be “shocked” by gratuitous violence and/or excessively terrifying images since it leads inevitably to rapid desensitization and callousness. The Rowling books unfortunately unleashed an entirely new genre of adolescent “shock” and horror fiction. As far as I’m concerned, the extremely disturbing vampire craze is the natural consequence of Harry Potter.

    The bottom line for me is that kids are far better off reading the very best classics and Catholic novels like Tolkien, Belloc, Chesterton and Manzoni. Once they’ve learned about real heroes and real villains portrayed without ambiguity and uncertainty, they can go on to an occasional lighter “junk food reading” like Harry Potter (but hopefully with some adult guidance even then.)

  15. capchoirgirl says:

    There’s magic in Lewis’ books too, don’t forget–usually it’s the “evil” characters that have them, but it is there. Lucy has her magic cordial.
    So I think banning books that mention magic, as Father said, is a bit short-sighted. I think one has to stick to the overall moral of the story. And the Harry Potter books (which do, actually, quote the Bible in the final installment), while having magic, also extoll friendship, love, the power of family (for good and bad–there are both kinds in the series)–things that have little to do with magic. And all of them (except the fifth–much too long) are well-written and good yarns.
    Of course I think parents should know what their kids are reading, and reading with them is always an excellent idea. I started reading the books in college (that’s how old I was when they came out), and my entire family then read them all together. It was a great experience for all of us.

  16. Charles E Flynn says:

    Harry Potter vs. Gandalf

    An in-depth analysis of the literary use of magic in the works of J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis


  17. Gail F says:

    They’re great books — “ripping yarns,” as they say. They have a lot of Christian messages. The best is that the evil Lord Voldemort does all his evil deeds because he wants to be immortal — but he is already immortal, because he has an immortal soul. Harry finds out in the end that all Lord V has done is destroy his soul for all eternity (a sort of damnation). Where do you get that in most children’s books?

    If you want to get all worked up about something, get worked up about Phillip Pullman, or those awful Gossip Girl books.

  18. Rob in Maine says:

    Should I mention I’m one of those kids who obviously corrupted his soul playing D&D back in the 1980’s?

  19. Peggy R says:

    I have found myself unable to really dive into fiction much any more. I couldn’t read LOTR. So many sidetracks to the story. I couldn’t get “into” Flannery O. [Is that a sin!?], I found many of her stories not interesting. But I found myself a week or so later reflecting on the moral lesson to a number of her stories. So, I “get it.” but it’s not entertaining reading to me. I want to be entertained with fiction. But I don’t like “fantasy” genre at all.

    I find myself mostly into history and some more higher quality political polemics. Andy McCarthy’s book sounds good. I just read David Horowitz’ “Left Illusions.” It was VERY illuminating about the Left, in light of O’s agenda being pounded through. Horowitz also talks about the ties of the Lrft and Islam and anti-semitism in some of the essays in the book.

    Our kids are just learning to read. We have a Dick and Jane collection that is great. One child seems to have genuine literacy problems. We have to work with him diligently. I have an early 20C Benziger reader for Catholic education. It has such a variety of stories across times and places, with Catholic moral lessons as well. It’s a great book I hope for the kids to be able to read one day soon.

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    I don’t think the HP books are particularly harmful, or for that matter particularly good. But fads in children’s fiction are completely inexplicable.

    The ‘magic’ is gimmicky and not real at all (neither pagan nor ceremonial), and the only character who does the sort of divining that kids might actually try (crystal gazing, ouija boards) is held up to complete ridicule. So I don’t think in that way the books are any worse than your typical Brothers Grimm tale with magical objects and nonsense ‘spells’.

    As for the sort of morals they teach, that’s something to talk over with your kids — i.e. the discussion I had with my son, “If Harry hadn’t (lied, cheated, sneaked around) in the first place, would he have been in that jam at all?” All children’s fiction can be construed as teaching one sort of moral or another.

    I think the Narnia books for the little ones and Tolkien for the older kids are going to survive long after Harry and his friends are forgotten. Lewis I think handles the magic matter head-on and much more effectively than Rowling — he had several encounters with the Golden Dawn loonies early on and was appropriately cautious on that issue.

    Peggy, my son had real reading issues. We found the “Bob Books” very helpful. Once his ADHD was diagnosed he began to read in great gulps. Then he found the G.A. Henty style of fiction very appealing (young boy on the fringes of history – “With Wolfe to Quebec”, “The Dragon and the Raven”, and about a hundred other titles). “Outlaws of Ravenhurst” might suit better because Henty has some of the casual anti-Catholicism that you find in a lot of Victorian British boy’s books, Charles Kingsley most especially. But my kids read them anyway and rolled with the punches. It made me rather more sympathetic to the persecuted Catholics than otherwise when I read them, when I was a little kid and still an Episcopalian.

  21. RichardT says:

    JulieC (7:09pm), I agree with the problem of the end justifying the means (a common trait in much fiction, as it is in many people).

    But that is in Tolkien as well – Bilbo steals the Arkenstone (despite his conscience telling him that he is not entitled to it) in order to try to bring about a reconciliation between the dwarves and men.

  22. THREEHEARTS says:

    What do you think father of the Mexican Exorcist who reports in an exorcism about three or four years ago met with an act of possession with some one called Harry Potter who left after a struggle a harsh struggle? One could say a modern devil could not possibly be called by a new name unless…

  23. Peggy R says:

    AnAmericanMother: Thank you for the suggestions. We have had him on an ADD med==not a narcotic. That has helped a lot! We need him to want it, too. He has strong oppositional defiance. [Russian adoptee]

  24. RecoveringFeminist says:

    From Fr. Euteneuer’s book Exorcism and the Church Militant (Fr. Euteneuer is an exorcist):

    Introduction: xxiii
    Second goal: to motivate priests

    “… Exorcism is best understood in the context of evangelization and the care of souls, and, as such, is the proper office of ordained Catholic priests.14 As such, the second purpose of this work is precisely to help Catholic priests recognize that exorcism is a normal and very important form of pastoral ministry in the care of souls. In times to come, priests will be increasingly called upon to expel real demons from truly demonically-afflicted individuals who have, in one way or another, fallen into the seductions and empty promises of the master deceiver.
    Occult influences have been unleashed into our modern world like the emptying of a demonic Pandora’s Box of unclean spirits. The popularity of the New Age movement, the rise of Satanism as an organized and institutionalized force, the flood of satanic video games and Heavy Metal music, the massive diffusion of occult terminology and images through the immensely-popular Harry Potter series and other youth-targeted entertainments, like the rash of modern vampire movies, assure that Catholic priests will be very busy in the next decade. …”

    Page 213, bottom paragraph:

    “…Milder forms of free invitation, yet nonetheless toxic, are occult games, objects and association with persons involved in the occult. How many men and women are being seduced by the New Age movement (and its contemporary offshoots), or satanic rock music/video games, or just simply in being careless and playing with spiritual fire in seances or visiting psychics! All of these things are doorways, and the person’s embrace of them constitutes an act of the free will inviting something evil to enter. It does not matter, as many have said to me, that the person thought what he was doing was harmless: the deceiver wants susceptible people to think that he his (sic) harmless because otherwise no one would invite him in. …”

  25. JulieC says:

    Of course, Richard T, heroes in the classic tales made lots of mistakes and bad choices, but there was always an obvious price to pay for making the wrong choice, and the redemption of the character is an essential part of the classic Christian tale. That isn’t so clear with Harry Potter. The author presents Harry’s bad choice as the only way out of a situation and the only way to achieve the good.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    Father Amorth, once the chief exorcist in Rome, is against the Potter books. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/1260364/posts
    and http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1694152/posts

    May I say two things. Firstly, when the third book came out years ago, I was asked by a home schooling newsletter to review them in a column I had on children’s literature for home schoolers. I read these. My objections were strong in that 1) adults were portrayed as stupid and not worthy of respect, especially parents;2) the children used lies and other lack of virtue in order to get what they wanted in the stories-in other words, the end justified the means, always a dodgy philosophy; 3) the magical aspects were different than those of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, where witches were always bad and magic from unknown sources suspect. I truly came to the conclusion that the books were dangerous for young readers and softened the mind for the occult magic, which surrounds them. In addition, on the official Harry Potter website, for years, there were and may still be, links to witchcraft sites and other occult sales sites, which sell Ouija boards, for example.

    In addition, Ms. Rowling, which some may not know, had two people sue her for plagiarism. One case may be found online. The other was suppressed by the British media in the 1980s!

    I myself had the book Harry Trotter, a hardbound with the same graphics as Harry Potter, and many of the same characters, vocabulary and storyline as Harry Potter. I was going to buy the book at a second-hand bookstore in Bristol in 1986, but after reading parts of it, realized it was too occult for my childrens’ book collection. Ms. Rowling settled with the author for over one million pounds sterling in a case which has vanished from sight. The second case of plagiarism may be found online.
    Things which start badly end badly.

    In addition, I know of an exorcist who had to deal with a demon which entered a house in Illinois because of the preoccupation of the Harry Potter novels, games, etc. of the six children in the family. The priest said a Mass in the house and delivered it from the demon. Another priest exorcist friend of mine, a personal friend for over thirty-five years, has also had to deal with occult activity with demons owing to Harry Potter novels and movies. This is not made up stuff, but real and dangerous for children and adults.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    I should clarify that I had Larry Trotter, which was the name of the book I found in Bristol, in my hand and I read it quickly, putting it back. Sorry for the name confusion, which is understandable under the circumstance-Larry Trotter looked and acted like Harry Potter.

  28. JulieC says:

    This isn’t infallible doctrine, of course, but coming from a man of Pope Benedict’s spiritual and intellectual stature, it’s certainly advice that should be pondered:

    [In a letter dated March 7, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger thanked Kuby for her “instructive” book on 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.]


  29. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks, JulieC, I forgot about that reference. And I think that the exorcists, including Father Amorth, know more about these things than most of us.

  30. PhilipNeri says:

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to wholeheartedly second Fr. Z.’s commentary on the Potter books.

    Children cannot be protected from the evil of the world, if by “protect” we mean something like “prevented from coming into contact with.” It is much, much better to equip them with Church teaching and the critical skills necessary to properly distinguish btw good and evil. At some point in their lives they will be faced with making moral choices that require the ability to deliberate rationally. Simply marking off whole sections of literature as untouchable will not help them; in fact, there’s a very good chance that forbidding a child to read the Potter books will only make the books more attractive to the child. What author doesn’t yearn for the sales and publicity that inevitably result from the condemnation, “This book is dangerous!”? And what precocious child can resist the temptation to read such a dangerous book?

    Fr. Philip, OP

  31. Christina says:

    I agree with AnAmerican mother on most points, except, I suppose, I don’t see Harry Potter going away any sooner than LOTR or Narnia; they’re a part of cultural history in a way.

    But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve read them, and personally, I’m convinced that she was going for an overall Narnia, LOTR Christian metaphor effect. There’s no other explanation for the final chapters and Rowling is a huge Narnia fan and professed Christian, after a fashion.

    However, it’s certain that Lewis dealt with magic more prudently than Rowling, and I don’t see how anyone trying to write a children’s Christian fantasy could think wizarding school is a good idea, but that’s that. A parent has a right and duty to make sure that his children won’t be harmed by these books.

    My problem with the books is not the magic, but although I’m convinced that Rowling was going for a Christian message, I’m not at all convinced that I trust her to be the one presenting it. If anyone cares, I have real problems with the way she deals with teen romance.

    Good books, bad books. They’re a little bit of both.

  32. GordonB says:

    While on the subject of books (I’m on a classics kick), any reason Tostoy’s work would offend Catholic sensibilities (no spoilers!)? What I read about Tolstoy as man, would not, say, give me much confidence in his worldview to coincide really with a Catholic world view, but I wonder how much of that is really an issue in his work? Anna Karenina and War and Peace in particular.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    In 2007, Rowling stated this: NEW YORK (Reuters) – J.K. Rowling has outed one of the main characters of her best-selling Harry Potter series, telling fans in New York that the wizard Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts school, is gay. [None of that was in any way obvious to me, when I read the book.]

    Speaking at Carnegie Hall on Friday night in her first U.S. tour in seven years, Rowling confirmed what some fans had always suspected — that she “always thought Dumbledore was gay,” reported entertainment Web site E! Online.

    Rowling said Dumbledore fell in love with the charming wizard Gellert Grindelwald but when Grindelwald turned out to be more interested in the dark arts than good, Dumbledore was “terribly let down” and went on to destroy his rival.

    I do not call this Christian and see a huge difference in this and any character in Narnia or TLOR.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    As to protecting children and even adults,we as Catholics are not under any obligation to know all evil.

    It is our duty to protect our children from pornography, for example. The occult destroys discernment and ultimately, the soul. I am truly surprised that Catholic or Christian parents would allow the Harry Potter industry to be in their families. Three young men in our extended family were not allowed to read Harry Potter and two are becoming priests, without the least interest in the occult. But then, as a family, we were careful about games such as World of Warcraft and other doors to the occult.

    When there are so many good books out there, why read something which even the head exorcist in Rome is condemning? Adults should not even read some books, which soften the mind and allow for temptation.

    I do not know why my generation and the two beneath have lost the sense of discernment of good and evil. There are no immoral heroes in TLOR or Narnia. Flawed, yes, immoral, no.

    [Be careful not to “flood” the combox.]

  35. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Love the books. Currently re-reading them. (Lord God, please dont let me be put on the cross for this one:) I don’t think we need to overreact. Parents should exercise discretion in what they let their children see/read/watch/listen to/interact with. Personally, I believe that Harry Potter should be fairly low on the “worry” list.

    re: Dumbledore is gay
    Personally, I don’t think Rowling’s “outing” of him (within or outside of the books) is necessarily a bad thing. I think the didn’t include it in the series for a reason, and, if anything, as far as we know, there was no action based on the inclination.

  36. JosephMary says:

    I believe Fr. Euteneuer does NOT endorse this series. The occult there may seem harmless but the huge increase in witchcraft and where that leads is not.

  37. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Didnt mean to steal your thunder Father. Just submitted my comment as you made yours in rubrum. :)

  38. michelelyl says:

    I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books and have seen all the movies…and I’ve read all the Twilight series books and have seen all the movies.
    in my experience, many children and youth will read something that is somewhat ‘forbidden’. As a Director of Religious Education and a former Youth Minister, I’d like to be able to discuss the issues in the books/movies with some knowledge instead of outright saying the books/movie are unsuitable, bad, heretical, unChristian, or Satanic. I also listen to popular music for the same reason.
    It lends credibility to my calm discussions with children and youth that I actually took the time to know what I am talking about, instead of just saying ‘no’ or condemning. it gives me more credibility to explain our Catholic beliefs. Many of these children or youth may not have even told their parents that they have read or are reading the books. At least I have a good connection with them and can give them some guidance.
    Anyone ever read the lyrics to popular Eminem songs? Can you imagine comparing them to Lamentations in Sacred Scripture of the Old Testament? I have.

  39. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, Father Z. My last comment from a great exorcist: In regard to the need for this pastoral ministry, Fr. Euteneuer asserted that “priests are going to be inundated in the next decade or so at least with requests for exorcism because I can already see it happening now where the younger generations especially have been affected by a lot of hard and soft occultism.”

    “Soft forms of occultism are like Wicca and New Age,” he explained, adding that “Harry Potter contributes to that with over 400 million books being sold.” The popular book series, he claimed, has helped educate “younger generations in the language and the symbolism of the occult.”

    Although many young people have treated the books merely as “entertainment,” he observed, “it actually leads them more deeply into occult practices.” http://catholicism.org/hlis-father-euteneuer-authors-book-on-exorcism-warns-about-harry-potter-series.html

    [My experience is that domination of my combox represses good discussion. Which is why, after a while, I start deleting even good comments, if you know what I mean.]

  40. kat says:

    There are so many really great books out there, including those on the “great books” lists, and so many just wonderful fun series for kids [Boxcar Children; Black Stallion; Nancy Drew; Narnia (which we have listened to as books on tape several times,) etc. etc. etc.] that even my children who love to read all the time could never get through them all. So why would I want them to read some new popular series, just because it is new and popular, if there is ANY chance that it could lead them astray, whether with “the end justifying the means,” or the occult, etc. I just see no point.

    My husband has watched the Harry Potter movies; none of us have actually read the books. He has allowed the children to see some of the movies here at home with him. He is a devout and serious practicing Catholic, as we are all trying to be and trying to raise our children to be. I sat down to watch one with him, and really just didn’t like it anyway, without any of the reasons given for not wanting it around. I know he will discuss any problems he sees with the movie if it comes up; I trust him to take care of that. But I would’ve been happier had they never been exposed to it. (Please, I don’t buy the “we have to expose the children to these things and then show them the errors, etc.” Should I show them porn and then explain why it can drag you to hell so you shouldn’t mess with it??? We have the means to teach children good verses evil without shoving the evil down first.)

    I still see no point in the whole thing. There is too much that is good, to waste our time with things that are not clearly so.

    Besides, as an avid reader myself, I regret MANY books I read as a youngster. I wish I could still get rid of the images from them that the devil knows how to conjure up from the depths of my memory. I didn’t know they were bad; most of them were not bad stories in themselves; but all it takes is one thing, and it’s stuck in our minds forever.

    I’d rather that not happen to my children. I have to answer for what I allow them to read and see. I’d prefer to err on the side of caution.

  41. JulieC says:

    As a parent I realize one has to allow children to come gradually into contact with evil and that one can’t isolate them from reality. However, I don’t believe children will have the critical tools necessary to distinguis good from evil in literature and films unless they are thoroughly schooled in the true, the good and the beautiful first and taught bit by bit the highest moral standards of behavior as a reference point.

    Surrounding children and teenagers with the best books, movies and music is the strongest insurance that they will make good choices when Mom and Dad aren’t around.

  42. C. says:

    I don’t recall any do-it-yourself spell “recipes” in Tolkien. My understanding is that they do exist in Harry Potter.

    When I was a kid, I liked to try things out. Now, by the grace of God, I am doing penance for that. Lucky me. Some grown-ups are not so lucky as me.

  43. Alice says:

    I loved Harry Potter as a college student for linguistic reasons. The fictional names mean something in Harry Potter and if you can use your Latin, you can sometimes learn something about the character of the individual. Plus, the spells tend to be a decent Latin review. I also appreciated the Weasley family’s openness to children. They had seven of their own and still had room in their hearts to be parent figures for the orphaned and abused Harry. The Death Eaters,on the other hand, were so busy being hateful that they tended to only produce one (possibly two) “perfect” children.

    I’m not saying the books are perfect (they’re not), but they were enjoyable when I read them. I really can’t see letting my children read the later books until at least junior high. Since the junior high guidelines for religious education in our diocese include some of the moral issues brought up in those books, I might suggest them then. Of course that’s more than a decade away and Harry Potter will probably be so “Mom’s generation” that my children won’t even want to read them. :)

  44. holeksa says:

    I have read them all……bat wings, spider legs, unicorn horn and ect…likes make a spell.

    Mindless novels, enjoyed everyone of them.

    To be Catholic, to know history, is to read.

  45. Gulielmus says:

    Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn both do wrong in order to achieve a good end, as do Penrod and Eloise, should their books be avoided? Macbeth and A Midsummer Nights’ Dream both contain magic and spells (and some pretty scary, nasty stuff). Should they be avoided?

    ON another note– just what does it mean that Fr Amorth is so often described as “chief exorcist of Rome”? He is a vocal supporter of Medjugorje, which makes his judgement somewhat questionable to me, but no internet dicussion of Harry Potter is complete without someone bringing him up.

  46. kallman says:

    I am actually reading the Latin translation of one of the Harry Potter books as reading practice for my Latin study

  47. Sieber says:

    Where is L.Frank Baum when you need him?

  48. Athanasius says:


    I think you need to talk to exorcists who have dealt with possession cases related to Harry Potter. In one case a young girl was possessed by using the spells in the books. The devil loves to put good things into bad things to make them more attractive. I served Mass for a priest for several years who did exorcisms and prayed for his intentions.

  49. RichardT says:

    For those who are arguing that Harry Potter is bad but Tolkien is good, I suggest you go back and re-read the Hobbit, as a child would – without interpreting it through your later reading of the Lord of the Rings.

    First, magic.

    Magic, and the use of magic, is seen as being an unambiguously good thing (at least when done by good people). Not just Gandalf’s occasional use, but also Bilbo’s use of the Ring, which rescues the dwarves (from the spiders and then from the elves) and is the key to the whole success of the expedition.

    Yes, we know from the later books that the Ring brings problems, but there is not really any hint of that in the Hobbit – and children won’t read the Lord of the Rings until later. Even with Gollum there is no suggestion at this stage that it is the Ring that has made him how he is.

    Second, morals.

    As I said, Bilbo steals the Arkenstone to try to bring about a reconciliation between the dwarves and the men. Despite trying to argue that he is entitled to it (which, in my view, makes it worse), his conscience tells him clearly that he is not entitled to it. But in the book it is clearly seen as a good act, the end justifying the means, and no-where is that view challenged or punished. Gandalf praises Bilbo, and the only people who oppose it (the dwarves) are motivated by greed.

    Ah, yes, greed. The whole story is based on lust for gold. Yes, the dwarves have a legitimate claim on the gold, but the lengths to which they will go suggest that their priorities have been warped by it. Given that they are eventially victorious, the moral message is at best ambiguous.

    I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t read Tolkien (it’s a jolly good book), merely that it also has its problems from a Catholic perspective.

  50. Geremia says:

    Number IX of the Council of Trent’s Rules on Prohibited Books would definitely place Harry Potter on the Index:

    All books and writings dealing with geomancy, hydromancy, aeromancy, pyromancy, oneiromancy, chiromancy, necromancy, or with sortilege, mixing of poisons, augury, auspices, sorcery, magic arts, are absolutely repudiated.

  51. PhilipNeri says:

    RE: reading books about the occult can lead to demonic obsession/possession. . .

    This is very likely true. Occult books can spark an unhealthy interest in all-things-dark-and-dangerous. It happened to me. But we need to distinguish btw reading ABOUT the occult and ENGAGING in occult practices. Many commenters here have noted that prominent exorcists have condemned the Potter series as dangerous. Why? Any exposure to witchcraft, divination, etc. leads to flirting with dark spirits. Fair enough. I would point out, however, that most of the books written by exorcists contain detailed descriptions of demonic possession, how the possessions came about, and how exorcism works. You have to ask: am I opening myself to dark spirits by reading about demonic possession? Probably not. But why not? If reading ABOUT a subject leads to ENGAGING in the practices described in the book, then we should probably be avoiding books about demonic possession, including books written by prominent exorcists. Also, let’s not forget that the bible itself is packed with stories of demonic activity!

    It is important to keep in mind that the Devil has absolutely zero power over us. The only way demonic influences become more than temptations is through human assent. This is why is it vital that parents give their children a solid Catholic education and reward critical thinking.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  52. o.h. says:

    Random Friar,

    Thank you. My husband and I looked at HP when it first came out (and the shibboleth for homeschoolers was “Do you let your child read Harry Potter?”–a minefield of a question!) and were surprised by how mediocre it was, for all the hype. We didn’t ban it, we just didn’t bother with it.

    GordonB mentions Tolstoy; I would a thousand times rather read his Russian Stories and Legends to a child. Beautiful stories, though not all age-appropriate (simply because a few would bore a younger child), steeped in the Christian faith.

  53. The best science fiction is always a thoughtful and well constructed morality tale. It can teach important theological themes by indirect and entertaining methods which can then be applied to reality. Science fiction tales can be a mirror for our own society and explore themes through fictional settings that allow us to reflect on injustice, moral dilemmas, etc without causing mass riots. I remember Star Trek (the original mind you) and the themes of racial equality, freedom, and of course, the Prime Directive, a non-interference policy that also reflected individual Free Will (but which strangely, the Capt. frequently violated through long coercive speeches: probably a contract clause to showcase Shatner but that’s another discussion altogether-I digress).

    Not all science fiction is good: some of it is poorly disguised pornography and violence or the promotion of immoral behaviors. That said, I think we should all become more acquainted with and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially Wisdom, Understanding, and Counsel whenever we indulge any kind of media. In my younger years, I have started books that were unacceptable and put them down. I would begin to watch a movie then walk out of it because the themes that it promoted did not edify (and yes, I did ask for and receive my money back.)

    At the end of the day, all is about self-discipline in consistently using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to guide us, protect us and help us to mature in our discipleship for Christ.

  54. We are to avoid even the occasion of sin, therefore there is no reason to read a book which glorifies grievous occult based sins (witchcraft), yet is made entertaining to attract. That’s the devil masquerading as an Angel of light. Some years back I remember reading how the covens were happy about the Potter series because it caused a large increase in potential “customers.” Playing with fire is dangerous, and playing with demonic fire is foolhardy.

  55. bigtex says:

    Fr Entenauer effectively lays out the case against Potter in his new book “Exorcism and the Church Militant”:

    “Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.

    Father Euteneuer emphasized this point, “Demons do not discriminate between intentions — no matter how innocent — and children lose the clear distinction between good and evil.”

    It never ceases to amaze me that seemingly well-formed Catholics have fallen for the Potter craze and defend reading the books at all costs. It reminds me of another craze that has Catholics acting strangely, and they’ll defend it with the same fanaticism: Medjugorje.

  56. Marlon says:

    I have just finished reading Michael D. O’Brien’s “Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture”, published by Fides and Traditio Press. In it he compares the treatment of magic in both Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds finds Tolkien’s and Lewis’s use of magic quite different from Rowling’s. He says that “Tolkien and Lewis repeatedly warn about the danger of magic throughout their novels.” He goes into quite a bit of detail about the differences. He also addresses the issue of Gnosticism. In the Potter books, magic is esoteric knowledge, and Muggles are the poor unenlightened. It is impossible to sum up all that he has to say–there is so much detail in the book. He discusses the Pullman books at length, and he delves into the “Twilight” phenomenon as well.

    I highly recommend his book. My mind was divided on the Harry Potter books until I read it. When I open up my classroom in the fall, the Harry Potter books will be gone.

    Here is a link to O’Brien’s webpage that gives more detail about the book (including some excerpts, I think) and how you can order it.


  57. AnAmericanMother says:

    I find it difficult to believe that anybody could be possessed by using the ‘spells’ in the HP books – unless there was something else going on at the time, which well could be the case. The question is how much ‘something else’ and exactly what it was, because if a person practices ritual magic with the intent of summoning something, sometimes Something shows up whether the practice was by-the-book or not.

    In the Lord Darcy books (which I like but wouldn’t give to a kid to read), one of the characters puts that rather neatly: ‘black magic is a matter of symbolism and intent’. So if a teenager gets involved in this stuff, they can get a lot more than they bargained for.

    But almost any fantasy story could be involved to some extent in such activities, and you can find condemnation of almost anything somewhere on the internet. In fact, there’s a website out there that claims C.S. Lewis was a Satanist . . . . ! using exegesis of his works that would put William Miller (the fellow who applied good old Yankee arithmetic to the Book of Daniel and concluded that the world was going to end on March 21, 1844) to shame.

  58. RichardT says:

    Marlon (8:08am) quotes Michael D. O’Brien that “Tolkien and Lewis repeatedly warn about the danger of magic throughout their novels.”

    As I said above, the Lord of the Rings may do so, although ambiguously. The Hobbits’ use of the Ring is clearly dangerous, but that is the Enemy’s magic. Gandalf and Aragorn are shown in a positive light when they use magic themselves.

    But the Hobbit, written for and most likely to be read by younger children, certainly does not warn of the dangers of magic. That portrays magic in an entirely positive light, and shows the main character using it.

    I am still struggling to see a good reason why the Hobbit is acceptable but Harry Potter is not – if there is a good argument could someone please make it.

    (Philip Pullman’s books are a different matter; they seem to be designed specifically to denigrate the Church and to set up a militant anti-Christian alternative to Narnia.)

  59. lux_perpetua says:

    @cat and CM:

    Cat, i agree with you so completely. I regret many of the things i read/watched as a kid, much of it being the product of not having good guiding principles. though i am grateful to my parents now for having eliminated so much garbage from our house, the approach was always “this is wrooooong and you will be punished if you’re caught with it”, without any explanation.

    @cm, i, too, was a kid who liked to try things out. after reading matilda i sat for hours in my room trying to make things move by looking at them. unfortunately, this same inkling also caused us to bring out the ouiji board and attempt seyances after watching “now and then” and to play “bloody Mary” and all sorts of other horrid things by imitating what we saw or read.

    i have often thought about ways to counteract the effects of these things i did as a child and pre-adolescent. thoughts?

    so yes, i agree that caution is in order here, if not for the books themselves than for the many products associated with the book that encourage delving into magic.

  60. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Various points:

    1. I have not read any works by Fr. Euteneuer, but have been favorably impressed by words attributed to him in news stories in various contexts. What has been quotes here, so far, seems perhaps to have been quoted with insufficient caution, perhaps stated by Fr. E. himself with insufficient caution: one could almost suppose Rowling’s books were attributed with something like a causative power, rather than being susceptible to being demonically abused – even as the Gospels show us something as Holy as Scripture itself being demonically abused (Matt. 4, Luke 4). That misguided or evil people would also try to abuse them to lure others into “Wicca” or necromancy or whatever, does not mean they are reprehensible or peculiarly or acutely dangerous in themselves.

    Fr. Marie-Paul seems also to be insufficiently cautious, if he is implying that any of Rowling’s is “a book which glorifies grievous occult based sins (withcraft)”. This seems at the very least begging the question.

    Abusus usum non tollit. Among the questions are, do the books in some peculiar way “occasion sin”? Are they somehow “acutely dangerous”? These are serious matters, and a case against any possible ‘usus’ most be made carefully and convincingly.

    2. I do not think that I have read a reliable official statement (rather than a press report) of Rowling about Dumbledore’s homosexuality: in what I have seen attributed to her, she equally said he was celibate – might one compare the Catechism, here?

    3. I have equally seen reported that she stressed that Sirius Black was Harry Potter’s Godfather in the strict sense of the word: that Harry was deliberately baptized. The power of the Sacrament of Baptism is not (I think) explicitly thematic in the books – as it is in another novel which ought not casually to be given any and all to read, Charles Williams’s ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, where unknown to the Baptized it frustrates a certain magical attack.

    I am not well-read in Rowling/Potter scholarship/polemic, so this may be nothing new, and perhaps should not be given a lot of weight, but I am struck by the historical characters – or names – she has included, such as Nicolas Flamel and St. Mungo. In ‘Alchemy’ (Penguin, 1957), E.J. Holmyard notes, among “later embellishments” that Flamel “and his wife were reported to be alive and well in India in the seventeenth century, while in 1761 they attended the opera in Paris!” Among “the numerous acts of charity” apparently accurately attributed to him were “the foundation and endowment of fourteen hospitals, the building of three chapels, rich gifts to seven churches, and the repair of church buildings” in Paris, “while he made similar benefactions at Boulogne” (probably his wife’s hometown). He sums up, “popular opinion was unamimous in regarding Flamel as a triumphant alchemist who, an exception to the rule, used his mastery of the Art not for his own advancement, but for the benefit of the poor and to the greater glory of God.”

    St. Mungo, after whom a hospital in the ‘Wizarding world’ is named, is the great missionary, St. Kentigern – who, interestingly, seems to pose scrupulous hagiographers particularly acute problems separating fact from legendary accretion. And I wonder if it is authorial intention that characters have striking saints names, such as Hermione (prophetic daughter of St. Philip, Feast Day, 4 Sept.), and Nymphodora (martyr, Feast Day, 10 Sept. – though I think only among the ‘Orthodox’). Authorial intention or not, the curious reader who digs may encounter beneficial things – though is, of course, not compelled to benefit from them.

  61. I do not have time to read through all the comments posted so far, and I wish I had seen this when it was first posted. But I will heartily argue that the Harry Potter books are some of the finest Christian literature available, right up there with The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series. Early in the series it would have been quite reasonable to withhold judgment, to see where Rowling was going with it. But by the end of book 7 the series’ overtly Christian themes and orientation should be evident even to a blind man.

    About Michael O’Brien. I have read most of his commentary on HP. It is at best absurd and at worst downright dishonest, in that he consistently misrepresents what is in the books. O’Brien’s scholarship regarding myth and fantasy literature is woefully incomplete and reflects a Puritanical – and even un-Catholic – frame of mind.

  62. AnAmericanMother says:


    I thought I was the only one around here who read Charles Williams.

    I agree wholeheartedly: VERY good; NOT for children or for that matter weak-minded adults!

    And you are right, there are almost as many passing historical references in HP as in Monty Python.

  63. Papabile says:

    Nuntiat Indicem suum vigorem moralem servare, quatenus Christifidelium conscientiam docet, ut ab illis scriptis, ipso iure naturali exigente, caveant, quae fidem ac bonos mores in discrimen adducere possint; eundem tamen non amplius vim legis ecclesiasticae habere cum adiectis censuris.

    Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Vol. 58, 1966, p. 445.

  64. Papabile says:

    Ignore last… here’s the full statement.

    Haec S. Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, facto verbo cum Beatissimo Patre, nuntiat Indicem suum vigorem moralem servare, quatenus Christifidelium conscientiam docet, ut ab illis scriptis, ipso iure naturali exigente, caveant, quae fidem ac bonos mores in discrimen adducere possint; eundem tamen non amplius vim legis ecclesiasticae habere cum adiectis censuris”

    Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 58 (1966), p. 445

  65. @ Venerator Sti Lot: Sirius was Harry’s godfather, but there is no textual reference in the books for what that entailed or how that came to be, such as a baptism (however there is clear baptism symbolism in HP7).

    That said, throughout the series, starting in HP1, there is much talk about how Harry’s mother’s sacrifice, to save him from Voldemort, left an indelible mark on Harry’s soul, which for the rest of Harry’s life protected him from harm from Voldemort. Dumbledore consistently refers to this mark as Love (with a capital L).

    About Dumbledore, an argument can be made that it was woefully imprudent for Rowling to reveal that she pictured him as homosexual. Whatever private notes authors keep on their characters as they work out those characters’ motives should remain private. However, the circumstances of Dumbledore’s sexual orientation make him a poor candidate for a “gay lifestyle” poster boy. Dumbledore as a young man apparently “fell in love” with a proto-Nazi who had a penchant for totalitarianism and torture. The fallout from the romance led to the accidental death of Dumbledore’s sister – possibly caused by Dumbledore himself. Dumbledore spent the rest of his life as a penitent celibate. This is hardly gay agitprop. On the contrary, it is the stuff of which saints are made.

  66. Gulielmus says:

    I have not read Michael O’Brien, but if he indeed claims that Tolkien “warns about the danger of magic throughout (his) novels,” then he has either misread Tolkien or not actually read him in any depth at all. There are uses of “magic” (a term that Galadriel professes not to understand) in his books that are portrayed as unalloyed good. Luthien, Gandalf, and Tom Bombadil are powerful users of magic who have no taint of evil upon them. Those for whom the use of magic proves to be a risk– Saruman, Feanor, Denethor– are brought down not by their use of magic or magical items, but by the pride such use encouraged. It is the danger of pride (Morgoth’s great sin, and ultimately Sauron’s) that Tolkien warns against throughout his novels.

  67. Gulielmus says:

    AnAmericanMother and Venerator–

    And I thought I was the only one around here who had read Charles Williams!

    I wonder what people would make of Merlin and his sister Brisen in Taliessin Through Logres or The Region of The Summer Stars?

  68. cpaulitz says:

    I would suggest surfing the website http://www.audiosancto.com and listening to the myriad of sermons that talk about Harry Potter coming directly from Hell. These are solid, orthodox priests from the FSSP and other traditional orders, not nut jobs. They are learned priests who speak to leading excorsists who have had to excorsize deamons out of children who have read these books.

  69. profcarlos says:

    IMHO, the main problem of H.P. books is not the “magic”, which is obviously fictional, but the amoral way in which the heroes behave. Lying is always an option, the ends justify the means, there is no problem with disobeying as long as the authority doesn’t find out about it, and so on.

  70. Gulielmus says:


    Of course, everything you point out as an objection also applies to The Cat in The Hat.

  71. robtbrown says:

    Do those who object to the Harry Potter books also object to the stories of King Arthur? NB: Merlin was a wizard.

  72. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Gulielmus –

    I hope they would be very critical and cautious: there is some very creepy stuff going on, in the interrlations of life and work where Williams is concerned! There is also lots of good critique of magic, pride, megalomania, Satanism, and also good ‘imaginative theodacy’, as far as I can judge. Talk about a commission to separate fine-grained wheat and pervasive chaff… About the use of ceremonial magic in the poetry, there is some little attention to the problems by the editor, David Llewellyn Dodds, in the ‘Arthurian Poets’ series edition (1991). He followed it up a bit at the time of the Tolkien centenary in the ‘Inklings Jahrbuch’ with a comparison of magic in Tolkien and Williams, and had another Tolkien essay on magic, technology, and sub-creation at about the same time in a conference collection, ‘Scholarship & Fantasy’, ‘Anglicana Turkuensia’ No 12. There are also relevant things in the ‘Charles Williams Quarterly’, but I do not think much, if any, of this is on-line (though I do not really know about how the ‘Inklings-Gesellschaft’ site works).

    If I can float a Potter theory, without tending too much towards com-dominance:

    I think Rowling is working with what Lewis calls a ‘supposal’ (an attempt at a worked-out imaginative “what if?” and not (necessarily) a real-world speculation)of there being some human beings (including Christians) with extraordinary powers, who are not a distinct race like Tolkien’s Elves – though heredity can be a factor, who in the course of at least the last millenium organize a parallel society, not least to protect the world at large from promiscuous (mis)use of these powers. There are also various rational non-human creatures, as in Narnia and Middle Earth, but no strictly angelic or demonic characters, as in Middle Earth or Lewis’s ‘space/Ransom triliogy’. Within the ‘supposal’ there is neither an affirmation nor a denial of ‘demonic magic’ (of the sort Augustine critiques so brilliantly in the real world in ‘De Civitate Dei’). Rather, there is the ‘supposal’ of a magic that is not really as-yet-unexplained chemistry, or any kind of ‘invocation’, but something ‘given’ in the creation (cf. the ‘deep magic’ of Narnia, or how magical things work in Middle Earth). This ‘magic’ can be abused, but it can also – like muscle, intelligence, or whatever familiar human ‘gifts’ – be used. Where the reader must be warned, is that one cannot attempt to transfer this ‘supposal’ to real-life ‘speculation’. For – putting it ever so minimally – there may be evil spirits ready to take advantage and attack, in the real world.

  73. Re: “They have heard from a priest that the names used in the book are the names of real demons and that reading it somehow attaches these demons to you.”

    As Venerator Sti Lot points out, almost all the characters are named after saints. This was in fact Rowling’s intention; she had a book of saints, and she would look through it for good, uncommon Christian names. Surnames were picked from village names on maps, or from war memorials, gravestones, and other good name sources.

    (Mr. Snape’s name came from the same village that Georgette Heyer nabbled as a name for a minor character who was a nasty tutor. I’ve run into a few other Snapes in mystery novels from the Golden Age, and none of them were pleasant. It’s just a great character and village name.)

    Onomastics is your friend. Throwing around accusations of demonic origin is bound to be an embarrassment, when you finally run into a list of crazy names of Englist recusants and martyrs.

  74. maskaggs says:

    I come down rather firmly on the side of supporting Harry Potter as a story with solid moral grounding and many lessons to be learned. I thought Rowling’s declaration that Dumbledore was gay was probably a (successful) attempt to curry favor with the media, but with that said, Dumbledore was, by all accounts, completely celibate. Perhaps in that way, Rowling’s own character defied what she was trying to accomplish with that public statement. In any case, I think there are many good things to be said for the series, and wouldn’t hesitate to explore them with my own children when the time comes.

    It might be worthwhile to check out Fr. Roderick Vonhogen’s “The Secrets of Harry Potter” podcast:


    He does a decent job of putting solid, moral meaning behind the series, and it’d be worth a few minutes to hear what he has to say on the matter.

  75. Charivari Rob says:

    A few thoughts…

    “…heroes in the classic tales made lots of mistakes and bad choices, but there was always an obvious price to pay for making the wrong choice, and the redemption of the character is an essential part of the classic Christian tale. That isn’t so clear with Harry Potter. The author presents Harry’s bad choice as the only way out of a situation and the only way to achieve the good.”

    Harry’s transgressions (real or imagined) often end up with immediate consequences (some just, some unjust) from authority figures in the stories. He’s emotionally and physically abused, threatened with beatings, given detentions, given demerits, threatened with expulsion, grounded, privileges taken away, prosecuted under law, and mutilated/tortured. Harry learns from some of his bad choices and the blind alleys they led him down (especially as the series progresses) and breaks some of those patterns.

    “My objections were strong in that 1) adults were portrayed as stupid and not worthy of respect, especially parents;2) the children used lies and other lack of virtue in order to get what they wanted in the stories-in other words, the end justified the means, always a dodgy philosophy;…”

    1. The Dursleys were in the fine literary tradition of the antagonistic step-family. Professor McGonagall and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley did come across somewhat lightweight early on, fortunately the characters improved as the series progressed.

    2. The ones who get away with it are the bullies like Dudley and Draco. George and Fred try, but usually get found out in short order.

    “In addition, on the official Harry Potter website, for years, there were and may still be, links to witchcraft sites and other occult sales sites, which sell Ouija boards, for example.”

    I’ve been going to JKR’s official site for years, and it has no such links – just some to a couple of fan websites and some charities she personally supports. Perhaps the original commentor meant the publisher or the movie studio website.

    “I have real problems with the way she deals with teen romance.”

    She portrays teens as passionate and tempermental, and needing structure from the adults to keep from getting carried away. Is that unrealistic? Moreover, in the final book, Ron and Hermione, having reached the age of majority (in that world), mutually attracted for years, teachers and parents being absent, sharing quarters with only Harry around for months, under great stress living as fugitives and sole bearers of the knowledge that might defeat their enemy – remain chaste for a number of reasons.

  76. AnAmericanMother says:

    First Charles Williams, now Georgette Heyer. Although Venerator is right, there’s a scary undercurrent to Williams, something that makes you draw back a bit. I’m not sure I would have been comfortable having dinner with him (my grandmother’s acid test and quite workable really — she pronounced Nathan Bedford Forrest “a man you could not possibly invite to dinner!” this with an indescribable Southern lady’s sniff of disdain.)

    I would have had no such reservations inviting Miss Heyer. The Foundling is a hoot, and I must say that the awful Mr. Snape deserved everything he got . . . . one of the better of Heyer’s books, less swooning emotionalism and more riot and romp.

    Snape . . . the name is almost Dickensian, isn’t it?

  77. Genna says:

    I was blessed by having parents who let me read anything I could get my hands on. Many of the books were already in the house. And what an electic mix it was. I would read detective stories, classics, children’s books, novels aimed at grown-ups. It didn’t matter to me as long as it was a good tale. I think that is the answer. If kids are exposed to all kinds of literature then the HP books will just be part of their growing and exploring and can be put into perspective. It doesn’t really matter whether or not by adult standards a book for children is well written. Critical discernment comes later.

  78. Trevor says:

    Well considering this topic is now over 70 comments long, I doubt my input will be of much value. However, I’ll say that I’ve read all the Harry Potter books, and I mostly agree with Fr. Z’s assessment: Let the parents decide.

    Mostly, I think they have good themes. I think the lines between good and evil tend to be unambiguous throughout the first six books (with the exception of one mysterious character). While I think the seventh book is the most entertaining, I also think the lines that clearly defined good and evil get blurred a bit. You learn about the history of one of the “good guys” and realize he didn’t have a squeaky clean past (which is probably a more authentic view of human nature, but perhaps some parents may not like).


    In addition, while the good guys don’t delve in “dark spells” throughout of the books (Fr. Z mentioned one case where Harry did and learned his lesson), in the seventh, you see Harry torture someone in a moment of gallantry. This was perhaps the most distressing thing the book, in that the some of the characters started using spells that were supposedly “off limits” to all but the bad guys. Harry was not punished for using this curse. The one moral blemish on an otherwise good series.


    So parents, decide what your children will read and stick with it. If you’re going to let your children read the books, then make sure they know there’s no such thing as “white magic”, and that all real witchcraft and wizardry is unnatural and evil.

  79. prouddaddy says:

    I have read about the HP books but have not read them myself. But what I have read about them is concerning. Apparently the books make a false distinction between ‘black’ magic and ‘white’ magic. Of course, all magic is evil and contrary to the first commandment. And the HP books are condemned by priests who are also exorcists. That is enough for me to keep them out of my home and away from my family.

  80. You know, prouddaddy being a husband and a father means you have the grace of state to make some decisions yourself, relying on your own judgment, without having to run to priests for every little thing.

    Also, just because a man is a priest and an exorcist does not automatically qualify him to be a literary critic. Some call Harry Potter diabolical. But parents who so blithely let others do their thinking for them are already doing the devil’s work, in that they have given up their God-given gift of reason.

    Instead of being so smug in your ignorance, you might try a little humility, and read the books yourself.

  81. Supertradmum says:


    I think that obedience to authority is a virtue which outshines the rational approach to literature. As one who taught literature at the college level for many, many years, including at Notre Dame and a British university, I can tell you that some literature is simply better for students without a framework of morality than others. I have read Charles Williams,some Rowling and most of the books mentioned on this thread. However, I would not teach some of these books, as they are too confusing or compromising. Many books demand a background of philosophy or theology not known by even the above average college student, much less a nine year old. I admire prouddaddy, as he has made a prudential judgment based on the experience of holy men, the exorcists mentioned above, by name or not named, who are not literary critics, but have discernment to see into the hidden world of evil which affects all of us and especially our children.

    prouddaddy, I admire you and although I have discussed Rowling and such with my children, I had come to your conclusion that not all books and movies need to be seen. I for one wish that my parents had never let me read everything on our bookshelves and see movies, even in my college years, which were not morally edifying. Some of the images had to be prayed away and some of the effects repented of therefore.

    To want to know all good and evil is part of the primordial sin. We are not God, and as such, do not need to know all. Thomas Aquinas states that one does not have to experience evil to know evil at the level God desires us to know-that is, to rationally avoid evil and to rationally help others out of evil. I think the Holy Spirit gives us these gifts in Confirmation: wisdom, prudence, temperance, fear of the Lord, etc.

    There is more humility in obedience than in knowledge.

  82. Athanasius says:

    It is important to keep in mind that the Devil has absolutely zero power over us. The only way demonic influences become more than temptations is through human assent. This is why is it vital that parents give their children a solid Catholic education and reward critical thinking

    With respect Father, this is not the case. Souls who are in a state of sanctifying grace may be possessed if God allows it. In a certain sense we are completely in the devil’s power, in another we are not. It is dependent upon God’s providence. There are many cases of faithful in a state of grace who were possessed because God wanted reparation to be made for some occurrence somewhere. In another example, you can be cursed by someone and possessed by means of the curse, through no fault of your own, e.g. Fathers curing their children. The avenues for the demonic are more than breaking out the Ouija board or going to cloe’s palm reading shop.

  83. Respectfully, supertradmom, I think you are setting up a false conflict between obedience and knowledge. As a father myself, I seek input from all sorts of sources in making decisions for what my kids are exposed to. But that is a far cry from saying, “Father so-and-so the exorcist says the books are evil, therefore I won’t even bother to read them.” That to me is a rank abdication of the grace of state with which I am endowed as a father – to be able to read something and decide whether it is suitable for my children. Protecting our families from pernicious influences is one thing, but we do them, especially our children, no favors when we hide under the desk and leave that task to others.

  84. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Athanasius and Fr. Philip,

    Could you please elaborate further? I have read (I believe, based on experience) that neither evil spirits nor good angels can see the heart or on their own simple initiative act in the soul, this being reserved to Our Lord alone, but I suppose this will not say that evil spirits could not possess “faithful in a state of grace”, only that their “influences” could not “become more than temptations” or compel them to sin.

    What do ‘we’ (think to) know about such things, and upon what basis and what authority?

  85. prouddaddy says:


    I thank you for your insights and for your support. When we read something or see something, it becomes a part of us forever. I forget his name, but someone in Catholic publishing once remarked that ‘you become what you behold’.

  86. MenTaLguY says:

    From what I have read of them it would seem that while there is indeed reason for caution, many of the specific criticisms made by certain vocal opponents of the books such as Michael O’Brien and Fr. Euteneuer don’t accurately represent what is actually in them. (In this very thread, consider the claim that the names in the books are demonic, versus actual readers’ observations of the prevalence of saints’ names.)

    I know Fr. Euteneuer in particular openly refuses to read the books, which necessarily leads me to conclude that whatever he has to say about the particulars of their content is based on hearsay. This is not to say that he is necessarily being deliberately dishonest, but perhaps he is being incautious.

    I can accept that stories about fantasy-magic in general can in some cases represent an undue temptation, and that the Harry Potter books specifically could be perilous for some. Besides this, we should not forget that Harry Potter has been at the vanguard of a movement in children’s literature which as a whole is substantially less wholesome than Rowling’s work is on its own.

    This being said, I would really like to hear the opinion of a priest-exorcist who was prepared to offer a criticism of the books based on an actual reading of their text. To what extent are devils obliged to tell the truth in such cases? It seems to me that it might be in Satan’s interest to obscure moderate but legitimate concerns about the books by fostering distracting criticisms of them based on easily-disproven claims.

    The Harry Potter books (like many) at the very least require prudence in giving them to children; a prevalence of patently ridiculous criticisms may ultimately serve to lull parents into a false sense of security.

  87. Fr_Sotelo says:

    A priest who is an exorcist has knowledge of the demonic, as do all priests who in the confessional are confronted with the evil of the demonic.

    In fact, any priest who has heard confessions in maximum security prisons has dealt with at least as much of the demonic as an exorcist, for the possessed have rarely committed crimes that rise to the barbarity of the men (or women) you will meet on death row (and other prisoners who are not on death row because of the cunning of their lawyers but who have nonetheless committed unspeakable acts of depraved evil).

    Priestly contact with demonic evil does not make the priest an expert on what takes children down the path of the loss of faith or immersion into the occult. The exorcist can have a certain insight or intuition into what is potentially corrupting, but do not turn him into the all-knowing Oracle of Delphi.

    My best experts on what causes children to corrupt into grievous lives of sin or to lose their faith altogether have always been parents, who actually have the real-life experience of raising children. Fr. Z’s advice is as usual balanced and on the mark, in my opinion. Parents must confront possible dangers to the faith head on and if a book might cause concern, read the book along with your child. And with your child, use the “red flags” as teachable moments in which to explain the beauty and truth of Catholic Faith.

    Relying only on the opinions of exorcists, who do not replace the hierarchy in speaking for the Church, can easily can a parent to abandon their essential role in discerning truth with their children. Worse, it can cause parents to implement needless repression which projects more Jansenist fear of culture than Catholic courage.

    More parents to me have recounted grave regrets for their repressive techniques than for anything picked up in Harry Potter. A Catholic child who believes the Faith caused repression in his or her childhood can be a candidate to become a bitter ex-Catholic who mocks the Faith later on and turns to drugs, sexual experimentation and whatever else will cause “payback” for their parents methods.

  88. MenTaLguY says:

    Aside from repression per se, I think parents also need to be very careful (to the extent that they reasonably can) that the things they tell their child when instructing the child (not to) do something are actually true. Hearsay can be especially dangerous in this area. If a child later catches their parents in an apparent lie, they will resent it, and certainly be less likely to trust them afterwards.

  89. nmoerbeek says:

    I don’t know if it will help but on this website


    About half way down the page there is a talk given by a priest Fr. Chad Ripperger FSSP on the spirtual warfare. It will take a few hours to get through but he gets very specific about exorcisim and the knowledge of demons and angels etc. I have to specify that the talks are penanceware requireing either a monetary donation or a offering of prayer for Fr Ripperger intentions.

    I believe that Anthansius and Fr. Philip are right. I believe that if a person listens to these talks they will agree.

    After listening to those talks you will not want to let Harry Potter books in the house. Burn them, Burn them all.

  90. Supertradmum says:

    I believe that there are certain books which are dangerous for adults. Books which blaspheme God and unnecessarily show the Church as medieval or out of touch or from an atheist point of view may be read by an adult with the view of critically explaining the problems. But, should such books be “entertainment” and should such books be read over and over again? I give the example of one of the greatest books in the English language, Ulysses, by James Joyce. I love the writings of James Joyce and have taught his works in the classroom. However, not all students can rationally deal with the anti-Catholicism and the profanity, as these students have no moral reference or do not understand the Catholic philosophical and theological world-view. Such a book may be taught in a Catholic university, if the students have the background to rationally approach the art. However, such a book can actually lead some students to further hate the Church and fall into sins of profanity themselves, seeing modernism in art and literature as the normal, expression of life. Same with the plays of the great existentialists, including Jean Paul Sartre. In context, these may be taught. Otherwise, a teacher may be lacking in prudence and wisdom. One just does not throw out all ideas equally. One teaches critical method, but not all students can handle this, must less very young children. I taught Walker Percy for years, who I love as a writer, but not all young people, or their parents, can handle the intricacies of Catholic existential thought. One must know one’s class and one’s culture.

    As with children, parents,of course, have the right through the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage to decide what is best for their children. Some rules on games and books and movies do not seem out of place, and with one boy in graduate school, who knows how to discuss these things, because he waited until he were older and could understand all the philosophical and theological problems, I think that such dangers as rebellion and falling away were avoided. Not all children rebel, nor do they automatically have to rebel, if the Faith is presented rationally with prayer and frequent sacraments.

    In addition, I do not understand the anti-exorcist tendency here. Of course, I have studied Rowling myself, but to have authorities underline what I felt is rather nice. And, if these men, who are in the trenches of spiritual warfare in the Church have strong opinions, why do some here dismiss these opinions? Again, I do not have to visit a brothel to know it is evil. I do not have to read all the Satanist and wiccan literature to know these ways are evil. There are doors to evil and innocent children can be brought to nasty ways by such things. My dear exorcist friend has said that a child does not have to will an evil presence to be terribly influenced by such, even possessed. The child just has to innocently accept certain ideas or images, or symbols and the demons can step in. Curses, according to him, have become more common, and lately, he has seen younger and younger people involved in the occult, curses, and magic because of our culture which is not vigilant.

  91. Supertradmum says:

    Oops, forgot this for prouddaddy, the phrase is from 2 Corinthians 3:18
    And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

  92. RecoveringFeminist says:

    As Fr. Euteneuer says in his most recent column titled “Vampire Logic”: “…To those who say, “Oh, Father, it’s only harmless entertainment,” I say simply: You’ve been warned.”


  93. Supertradmum says:


    Thank you so much for the great link. Here is one class where at least one Harry Potter reference is made by Rev.Ripperger, yet another exorcist. Class Seven – Demons (part I) under the list Spiritual Theology classes, http://www.sensustraditionis.org/multimedia.html

  94. PhilipNeri says:


    A couple of quick responses:

    1). God permits the Devil to tempt us; He does not cause the Devil to tempt us. Nor does God cause us to be possessed. “God permits” is not the same as “God causes.” The decision to be possessed/to sin is ours alone.

    2). God may permit those in a state of grace to be possessed. If this is the case, then reading occult fiction is largely irrelevant to whether or not someone will be possessed. Reading occult fiction can present a temptation to some, but it cannot cause someone to be possessed.

    3). Belief in the effectiveness of third-party cursing borders on the superstitious; that is, such a thing works only if the one cursed believes that it works. Demonic forces are permitted to work among us, but they are not given the power to directly harm us or cause us to sin.

    4). We can be under the influence of demonic power, but can never be controlled by it. Exorcists will attest to the fact that an exorcism will fail until the possessed person cooperates with God’s grace and participates in the expulsion of the demon. IOW, a possessed person needs God’s assistance (through His Church) to be freed from possession, but the Church cannot and God will not expel the demon w/o the possessed person’s consent.

    On my blog, I have warned Catholics many times to simply stay away from occult practices b/c it is too easy to slide into something very dangerous. Practicing the occult–even “just for fun”–can weaken a person’s resolve and open him/her up to darker and darker things. Thomas tells us that the journey from wisdom to folly is made by small decisions to choose evil over the Good. If reading occult fiction constitutes one of these small decisions for someone, then he/she should avoid the stuff. But simply reading the stuff does not cause sin and/or possession.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  95. dcs says:

    Of course, everything you point out as an objection also applies to The Cat in The Hat.

    And why should that matter? If The Cat in the Hat contains objectionable material, then by all means children shouldn’t read it. Personally, I object to Dr. Seuss’s books on other grounds.

    Do those who object to the Harry Potter books also object to the stories of King Arthur? NB: Merlin was a wizard.

    I generally take the same approach toward Merlin etc. as C.S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength, i.e., that such things were permitted for a time when the Gospel was being promulgated as a concession to human weakness. So “Harry Potter” and the like are different because the stories take place in our world in the current day.

  96. Jordanes says:

    dcs said: I generally take the same approach toward Merlin etc. as C.S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength, i.e., that such things were permitted for a time when the Gospel was being promulgated as a concession to human weakness. So “Harry Potter” and the like are different because the stories take place in our world in the current day.

    It should also be remembered that in a lot of the medieval sources, Merlin is not presented as a sorcerer or magician, but as a scientist whose advanced knowledge is what enables him to perform what appears to be “magical.” So early on there was awareness of Merlin’s magical powers being problematic from the Christian standpoint, so it was felt his character had to be reimagined.

  97. robtbrown says:

    I generally take the same approach toward Merlin etc. as C.S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength, i.e., that such things were permitted for a time when the Gospel was being promulgated as a concession to human weakness. So “Harry Potter” and the like are different because the stories take place in our world in the current day.
    Comment by dcs

    The stories about Merlin are sourced from a Christian world.

  98. Gulielmus says:

    Of course, everything you point out as an objection also applies to The Cat in The Hat.

    And why should that matter?— dcs

    Only insofar as the disobedience and excitement of “getting away with something” that are so integral a part of children’s literature, including Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Peter Rabbit, Cinderella, Peter Pan, etc etc, needs to be recognized as ubiquitous if we’re going to use it as an excuse to object to Harry Potter. Most of the stated objections here, and elsewhere, to HP apply to virtually all accepted children’s lit. “Good Magic” vs “Evil Magic”? There goes Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio (which actually has only “good magic” in it). A child doing wrong for a good purpose? Out with Hansel and Gretel and the Miller’s daughter from Rumpelstiltskin. And so on.

    I’m with Fr Z– parents need to read and decide about their kids’ exposure to literature, music, film, etc. But some of what’s being said about HP is closer to a puritanical, fundamentalist point of view than a Catholic one.

  99. Margaret Mary says:

    For an excellent perspective on the Dumbledore/gay issue, read this article by Regina Doman.

  100. dcs says:

    The stories about Merlin are sourced from a Christian world.

    Yes, but unlike Harry Potter etc., the stories about Merlin (at least the Arthurian ones) do not take place in the current day.

  101. dcs says:

    As an aside, I find the issue of Dumbledore’s homosexuality, or lack thereof, less troubling than his assisted suicide.

  102. Supertradmum says:

    Just curious, Gulielmus,
    Do you consider the priests, Father Amorth, Father Euteneuer, Father Ripperger, Father Casimir Puskorius, Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney, as well as John Andrew Murray,and Professor Edoardo Rialti, publishing in L’Osservatore Romano, as puritanical and fundamentalist?

  103. Supertradmum says:

    I forgot The Reverend Pedro Mendoza, Director of Exorcists in the Archdiocese of Mexico City and a layman, Matthew Arnold of EWTN.

  104. greggraham says:

    I have read and own all of the Harry Potter books, and I’ve seen all of the movies. I’ve enjoyed them all, and I think they have many good elements, but they are not perfect.

    The books are primarily about Harry’s development of character that enables him in the end to defeat evil. Magic provides a fantasy setting for Harry Potter, but it is not the point of the story. Good fantasy takes themes from the real world and puts them in a different setting so that they can be seen more clearly. It also allows Rowling to make use of a lot of imagery from classic literature. The use of magic in HP certainly is not intended to lure readers into witchcraft. Indeed, the magic of Harry Potter cannot be done by those who are not born wizards. If examined carefully, it is clear that Harry Potter magic is not the same as witchcraft which people in our world attempt to practice.

    However, there is a problem in Rowling’s use of some terminology that is in common with real-world witchcraft. I’m sure it contributes in some way to the overall interest in the occult that we see growing in our culture. It is also possible that reading Harry Potter could stir up an interest in a child, and that child would then try to fulfill that interest by pursuing Wicca or other occult practices. Indeed, I know that has happened even with Tolkien’s work. For example, when the Lord of the Ring movies were coming out, I saw in a Barnes & Noble bookstore a Lord of the Rings Divination kit. I’m sure the connection with Tolkien was pure marketing, but it was there nonetheless.

    I also agree that there are a couple of moral dilemmas that were not resolved consistently with Catholic moral teaching. They would be great opportunities for discussing the specifics and rationale for Catholic moral teaching.

    In summary, I agree with those who say it is a bad idea to forbid children from reading the books. I think with parental guidance the books can be a very positive influence for children. Parents also need to realize that there is a small danger that children without proper direction could develop an dangerous interest in the occult. However, I think Harry Potter is much better than most other things out there vying for their attention, and the danger of teenage backlash from being unreasonably restrictive is much greater than the temptation to the occult.

  105. webpoppy8 says:

    Harry Potter has caused strife in my own house. The aficionado in my house frequently emphasizes the so-called “Christian themes” in the stories. I think this is picking out a few pretty trees in a dark and evil forest.

    All the little bits of sympathetic virtue in Harry don’t change the overarching fact that the stories are occult stories soaked in gnosticism and its accompanying snobbery.

    I tried to read the first Harry Potter. However, when Rowling began it with that sneering derision towards ‘muggles’ I just couldn’t abide it. My Savior loves every person enough to die for him.

    I did watch some of the movies. It seemed people were dying because Harry was disobeying rules. Somehow Harry is still the star wizard at Hogwarts. Harry didn’t need to go digging for the sorcerer’s stone, right? And Voldemort was basically manipulating Harry into searching and taking it out of its protected storage and making it available. This required its destruction, which meant death for a kindly wizard figure.

    Again – look at the big picture – what did Harry do, and what were the results?

    In LOTR and Narnia, magic is not for humans, just as it is in our lives. Real men don’t cast spells. Not in those stories, just like they don’t in our life. Luckily, Harry Potter is not human – or at least, not one of those contemptible muggles.

    The “precious blood” business left my wife seething.

    The dualism between Harry and Voldemort adds a strong dose of Manichaeism to the otherwise Gnostic flavor. Now this is the major theme in the series and it is non-Christian.

    I’m sorry, you can’t take the little bits of humanity and goodness and construct something more significant than this series’ romanticized occultism and its anti-Christian perspective.


    Andrew Wolfe

  106. dcs says:

    There are uses of “magic” (a term that Galadriel professes not to understand) in his books that are portrayed as unalloyed good. Luthien, Gandalf, and Tom Bombadil are powerful users of magic who have no taint of evil upon them.

    Note that none of these figures is a human being. Galadriel does not understand what Sam means by “magic” as the term doesn’t make the distinction between what Elves do (which is simply part of their nature) and what Sauron – and, by extension, his servants – do (which is a result of practicing sorcery). Luthien, Gandalf, and Bombadil are not “users” of magic; what they do is simply part of who they are.

  107. Supertradmum says:

    A serious question for moms and dads on this blog, do you think kids have to rebel against parents? I do not, at least not to the point of sin. Children can become adults without reacting to restrictions and rules if the spirit of love and obedience are understood. Rebellion is against God, not parents. And, as I understand the findings of psychologists here and abroad, strictness allows for more stability and security than does license. Before the 1920s, at least in popular culture, there was no expectation for teen-age rebellion. Rebellion brings with it two sins at least: one, disobedience and two,entering into the sin itself, such as the occult.But, not all teens rebel, nor do all college students. We should not expect this.

    Having rules about movies, books, computer games does not automatically mean the children will rebel. I guess I am puzzled by the logic which does not allow for a parent to have any means of censorship, as seen by some of the comments. Teaching logical discourse and the critical method can be done with rules and restrictions. The human will needs to conform to the Will of God, and it is the parent who helps the child and adolescent get to a point where that child can take over the process of perfection. And, if the child learns to seek the good and not evil or the mediocre, than it seems to me that prohibitions on certain dubious forms of entertainment are necessary. Whether Harry Potter is right or wrong, I do not dispute the parents’ right to restrict or ban the reading the books or seeing the movies. There are two issues here: if the books are objectively bad, no one should read them–the viewpoint of at least seven exorcists. Secondly, a distinct issue is that parents should have the right to restrict entertainment and/or literature, or anything else potentially dangerous, for that matter. The original question was on the sinfulness of reading Harry Potter. Can we not state that an occasion of sin is dangerous when dealing with the occult and that parents can and should determine these things? If a parent cannot see the danger, that is a separate issue in itself.

  108. AnAmericanMother says:

    And the magicians in Harry Potter aren’t human beings either. They are as set apart from humans as the elves, as set apart as the humans in Narnia (remember that Doctor Cornelius is half dwarf, and that the other practitioners of ‘good’ magic aren’t wholly (or at all) human either – like Ramandu and his daughter or Coriakin. Humans can however use magical objects (e.g. Queen Susan’s horn) but only with permission. The two times that ceremonial magic is mentioned, the first is proposed by the hag and the werewolf to call up the White Witch. The second is Jill enquiring as to how she and Eustace are going to escape the bullies at Experiment House by ‘magic’ – ‘you mean by drawing a circle and chanting?’ and Eustace replies that he doesn’t think Aslan would like that (or that it’s ‘rot’, or both).

    So the practitioners of magic are as separated by birth and nature from ordinary humans as elves, dwarves, and all the rest.

  109. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    dcs and Andrew Wolfe –

    Interesting point about which rational beings in Tolkien, Lewis’s Narnia, and Rowling “magic is for”: I would like to see this worked out (meaning, I ought to do a lot of rereading, among other things). But I do not think it is entirely true. (For example, does the apple Aslan gives Diggory come within this definition of ‘magic’? If not, why not?)

    I advanced the distinction between Rowling’s magic humans and Tolkien’s Elves, above, but in this context it is also interesting to note how Tolkien’s Elves can legitimately and fruitfully intermarry with humans, and his (I would say, lower angelic) Maiar with Elves. This may complicate the picture.

    Andrew, I would humbly urge you to try again and read at least the first Potter book, carefully, in its entirety. Your summary significantly distorts it (would Nicolas Flamel not have humbly given up the use of the philosopher’s stone, as a precaution, in any case?).

    If you read further, you would probably find a less off-putting treatment of ‘Muggles'(I did).

    I have read a fair bit of academic stuff about Gnosticism (Hans Jonas, Kurt Rudolf, also the interesting uses Eric Voegelin makes of modern uses), but do not see where you see the HP books as Gnostic or Manichean.

  110. Supertradmum says:

    There is actually a Harry Potter cum Gnostic site, which is not for the faint-hearted:


    and Michael O’Brien in both article and book has written that HP is based on a Gnostic world-view, which one can google.

  111. dcs says:

    And the magicians in Harry Potter aren’t human beings either.

    Yes they are – they are the children of human beings, therefore they are human beings themselves. Are not some of the wizards in HP the children of “muggles”? On the other hand, in Middle-earth an Elf can’t be born of two humans. So there is a separation between Tolkien’s Elves and men that does not exist in HP between wizards and muggles.

  112. archambt says:

    I’m somewhat amused to see the Twilight books come up on accusations of being occult. I would think the primary problem with them would be the fact that they were written with a Mormon worldview/moral structure in mind (interestingly, so was the original Battlestar Galactica).


    How far should parental oversight, and the worldview/mindset behind the writing of a book determine whether we allow our children to read it? HP may deal specifically with the occult explicitly, but you have to wonder how one is influenced implicitly.

  113. robtbrown says:

    It should also be remembered that in a lot of the medieval sources, Merlin is not presented as a sorcerer or magician, but as a scientist whose advanced knowledge is what enables him to perform what appears to be “magical.”

    There has always been a fine line between science and magic. Further, there are certain incidents in the Arthurian legends that cannot be explained by science.

    So early on there was awareness of Merlin’s magical powers being problematic from the Christian standpoint, so it was felt his character had to be reimagined.
    Comment by Jordanes

    The character of Merlin is nonetheless inserted in various texts whose sources are Christian culture.

  114. jamie r says:

    As AnAmericanMother pointed out, the “magic” in Harry Potter is only equivocally magic. It certainly isn’t dark magic. They don’t invoke any demons or make sacrifices to any pagan gods. There’re no cultic elements. All of the characters, from Voldemort to Dumbledore are apparently irreligious. If anything, the absence of anything legitimately occult is almost more problematic; despite being full of magic, the books presume a basically secular, quasi-materialistic account of the world.

    The accusation that the books and films put forth gnosticism is equally bogus. Gnosticism is about gaining hidden knowledge, or gnosis, from the One or from some Emanation thereof. But the magic-users in Harry Potter either have the use of magic or they don’t. Depending on their varying degrees of natural talents and practice, they are varying degrees of powerful when it comes to use of these spells. This is no more gnostic than education as such. At no point do any of the characters seek out the sort of hidden knowledge that typifies gnosticism — mystical knowledge of the One. The only sort of “hidden knowledge” here is knowledge found in hidden books. If “Harry Potter” promotes gnosticism, so does “The Paper Chase.”

  115. Fr_Sotelo says:

    As a child, I had complete freedom to read the various works of literature, fiction and non-fiction. There was no censorship, except of TV and books which were sexually explicit.

    I spoke to my parents about the themes I encountered in literature, and was corrected and given guidance as needed. When speaking to non-Catholics, I had the advantage of being able to engage them in discussions of varied topics. About all the popular works of literature, I either said “I haven’t read that book” or “I didn’t really understand it.” I never had to say, “I can’t talk about that, my parents forbid me to read it.”

    Today, I am a priest, so I don’t think my parents did so bad. However, I do know children who grew up in homes with constant censorship, both Catholic and Protestant, and most of them are proud, card-carrying apostates.

  116. I said it once, above, and I’ll say it again: Harry Potter is some of the finest Christian literature avaiable today, right up there with Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. It is loaded with Christian themes, especially redemptive suffering and sacrificial love. Indeed, it is through Love that the good guys achieve victory in the end.

    The books are not gnostic.

    The books are not occult and have nothing to do with the occult.

    Finally, it is the height of imprudence to attempt to comment on something that you have not read. You accuse the HP books of being satanic, but you already are doing the devil’s work by abandoning your God-given gift of reason.

    The smug and ignorant condemnation of these books by many in this conversation, who have not even read the books, is cowardly and shameful. [Moderate your tone, sir.]

  117. Maltese says:

    The books…have nothing to do with the occult. Poppycock

  118. None of the books were set in the present day, anyway. They were set in the near past, of a world with fairly significant differences from our own.

    Merlin, OTOH, was based on a historical personage and his political Prophecies of DOOOOOOM, which Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote up a few years before he wrote up the History of the Kings of Britain. This would be like having Dan Brown write a Nostradamus story predicting specific stuff about specific present day politicians, and then write the History of the World, starring Nostradamus.

    Bad Arthurian legends! Bad, occult, politicized, bad!

  119. RichardT says:

    dcs (6:04pm) said that none of the characters in Lord of the Rings who uses magic is a human being.

    That is not true – Aragorn uses magic in healing (it is not science or greater learning, because the herb in question has no efficacy when used by other people) and also in the use of the palantir (which he can wrest to his will when others cannot). Arguably also his commanding of the dead warriors is not only magic but also necromancy.

    Yes, Aragorn has elven blood, but 64 generations back – he is predominantly human (by just 20 generations you have over a million ancestors), and is a mortal (without Arwen’s choice of immortality). I’m not sure that his elven blood is even mentioned in the text of the novels (isn’t it only in the appendices?).

    Look at how Aragorn is portrayed – he is held up as the ultimate example of a good man, the best of Men, and part of this is his use of magic and magical powers. Indeed his non-scientific healing powers flow from his ‘grace’ as a king of Men.

    Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t read Tolkien – just that I still haven’t seen a decent argument that explains why we can read Tolkien but shouldn’t read Rowling.

  120. All the great legendary heroes of Christendom, except Jesus Christ and the Galahad/Percival group, are a bunch of morally dubious people who get away with a lot of crud they shouldn’t. Sometimes they try to be good and do great things; sometimes they do what they want and don’t care. Arthur, Robin Hood, Roland… all of them are like that. Why?

    That’s the way really Christian literature works; it exposes the hearts of men.

    So it distresses me when Christian people can’t even handle a wee peep at the hearts of children, even given the coziest of coatings.

  121. dcs says:

    Aragorn uses magic in healing

    No, he just uses the abilities he already has. He does not cast spells or utter incantations. “The hands of a king are the hands of a healer.”

    it is not science or greater learning, because the herb in question has no efficacy when used by other people

    Not true – according to Ioreth the elderly of Gondor were known to use an infusion of athelas (kingsfoil) to treat headaches. That the herb reached its full potency with Aragorn is because he was the rightful king. It is grace, not magic.

  122. Gulielmus says:

    No, he just uses the abilities he already has. He does not cast spells or utter incantations.

    And his use of the palantir, a magical object? His dealings with the dead of Erech?

    (I think we’ve gotten down to hair-splitting in our attempts to justify some magic-filled fantasy literature and not others.)

  123. Gulielmus says:

    Supertradmum– Do you consider the priests, Father Amorth, Father Euteneuer, Father Ripperger, Father Casimir Puskorius, Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney, as well as John Andrew Murray,and Professor Edoardo Rialti, publishing in L’Osservatore Romano, as puritanical and fundamentalist?

    No, because I was addressing the other objection to HP with that comment– that they are a bad influence because the characters display flaws.

    But I can name authorities, even exorcists, who disagree with these men, perhaps beacuse unlike Fr Eutenauer, they have read the books they are criticizing.

    “The books in themselves are not bad,” well-known exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea has been quoted saying. “They are merely literary fantasies in the manner of stories that have existed in Europe since the Middle Ages. I am neither in favor of condemning nor prohibiting them. To me, they are just unobjectionable stories.”

    (And as I said, I regard Fr Amorth as a highly suspect authority, despite his claims of having performed 70,000 exorcism, or ten a day for many years).

    I guess I am puzzled by the logic which does not allow for a parent to have any means of censorship, as seen by some of the comments.

    I am myself puzzled that you have inferred that; Father Z, and many here agreeing with him, have said clearly that parents should judge for themselves whether or not to allow their children to read Harry Potter. When others claim that no one should allow such a thing, the matter can certainly be argued– but that’s not saying you have no right to do what you feel best for your own children, and I as well have that right.

    Ms. Rowling settled with the author for over one million pounds sterling in a case which has vanished from sight. The second case of plagiarism may be found online.
    Things which start badly end badly.

    They do indeed, but you’re in error about these plagiarism cases (there are more than two). Ms Rowling has won every case brought against her for plagiarism, and the “Larry Trotter” author, Mary Burke, had to pay her damages.

  124. Supertradmum says:

    The first Harry Potter book was published in 1997 and I read Larry Trotter in 1986. I was referring to two British plagiarism cases, not including the American ones, which I have not followed. I was under the impression that Mary Burke and JK settled out of court and that Mary Burke indeed received monies from JK.

  125. Jordanes says:

    Richard T said: Arguably also his commanding of the dead warriors is not only magic but also necromancy.

    Are Jesus and the saints who raise and command the dead necromancers too?

  126. MenTaLguY says:

    Richard T said: Arguably also his commanding of the dead warriors is not only magic but also necromancy.

    Are Jesus and the saints who raise and command the dead necromancers too?

    Have you read the books? There’s no comparison!

    The dead men whose malevolent spirits Aragorn commands in RotK are the victims of a curse laid upon them by Aragorn’s ancestor (Isildur) in retribution for a betrayal. Aragorn, as Isildur’s heir, summons them to enlist their help in battle, in exchange for releasing them from the curse. It’s pretty much necromancy by definition.

  127. Supertradmum says:

    Technically, the spirits in TLOR, The Return of the King, are what exorcists call “earthbound spirits”; that is, spirits who are not either free to leave the earth because of some need for retribution, especially public retribution, as in the case of the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle, as explained by Father Ripperger, fssp, PhD; or those who are earthbound because of a traumatic death, (Father Amorth and others,including an exorcist in my home town who was called to a house in order to pray for three persons who died of a 19th century plague and were not properly buried); or, lastly, those who were so attached to the earth, that they must be released through prayers of the exorcist. Therefore, although dead, the spirits have to be released through the prayers of the Church to go to purgatory or heaven.

    Tolkien would see Aragorn’s power of demanding retribution as part of the Catholic heritage, rather than part of an occult, satanic, power. And just a reminder, power is either from God or the devil, as there is no such thing as “neutral power.”

    Technically, necromancy is opposed to healing and deliverance. The necromancer is the person who seeks to command dead spirits by the fact that he has power over the dead in general, not a specific answer to a curse or violent, traumatic death.

  128. Jordanes says:

    Have you read the books?

    I’ve read the six books of The Lord of the Rings more times than I can count. I’ve also studied Tolkien’s letters and essays on writing and on fairy stories, as well as his son’s History of Middle Earth series and the two volumes on the writing of The Hobbit.

    There’s no comparison!

    Inasmuch as Aragorn was deliberately patterned as a Christ figure, there certainly is a comparison and likeness between Aragorn’s walking the paths of the dead and freeing the spirits trapped there by the curse of their sins, and Christ’s dying and harrowing hell, setting free the spirits in Paradise who had been deprived of heaven due to the curse of Adam’s sin, and enabling them to go to heaven.

    The dead men whose malevolent spirits Aragorn commands in RotK are the victims of a curse laid upon them by Aragorn’s ancestor (Isildur) in retribution for a betrayal. Aragorn, as Isildur’s heir, summons them to enlist their help in battle, in exchange for releasing them from the curse. It’s pretty much necromancy by definition.

    Really? I thought you said Jesus and the saints who raise and command the dead are not necromancers. You really think Tolkien presented Aragorn as a necromancer? No, Aragorn’s interaction with the Dead Men of Dunharrow is in line with Christ and the saints’ dealings with the dead, not a presumptuous summoning of departed spirits to get them to do your bidding. Aragorn commanded the Dead Men because he alone had the right to do so, just as Our Lord commands the dead by right. Necromancers try to manipulate the dead having no authority to do so.

    Now, whether or not Rowling’s magic is something different from the “magic” in Tolkien’s book (I’ll let those debate that question who have read the Potter books), we should take the author at his word when he explains that the “magic” of the Elves and of the heirs of the Numenoreans is altogether different from the magic of Morgoth and Sauron, and in fact not occult magic at all.

  129. Supertradmum says:

    And, may I add, that a necromancer does not really have power over the dead, but only over demons who appear as the dead in order to deceive. We know as Catholics, that a soul (spirit), except in rare cases as those stated above, is either in heaven, hell, or purgatory. The calling up of the soul of Samuel in the 1 Samuel 28:7-20 through the witch of Endor, a medium, damned Saul, as he was breaking a holy rule which condemns such divining of spirits. God allowed that to show how wrong that action was and to have Samuel prophecy the death of Saul and his sons, thus ending his (Saul’s) kingship and family inheritance. Exorcists have expressed that mediums usually only get demons and not real spirits of real human persons.

  130. @Maltese, 10:08 a.m. yesterday: THAT website is your “evidence”? I don’t know who those nutbags are, but anyone can take anything out of context to make it seem sinister, or to portray a meaning exactly the opposite of what the author intended. People do with with the Bible all the time — as Fr. Z shows in a recent post about Bishop Gumbleton trying to say that the Bible supports women’s ordination.

    You’ll have to do better than this.

  131. dcs says:

    No, Aragorn’s interaction with the Dead Men of Dunharrow is in line with Christ and the saints’ dealings with the dead, not a presumptuous summoning of departed spirits to get them to do your bidding.

    I’m not sure that one can draw an analogy between Aragorn and Our Lord here, but still, it’s not “necromancy.” If Aragorn had summoned the Dead Men of Dunharrow from the abode of the dead, that would have been necromancy; but that isn’t what he did.

    As far as Aragorn’s use of the palantir is concerned, who says it is a magical object? There’s no reason to think it is.

  132. MenTaLguY says:

    Certainly Aragorn’s actions are benign within the context of Tolkien’s sub-created world. I’m not really convinced that there would be a way to contextualize them in a benign way in the real world.

    The fact of whether or not the palantiri are magic, properly speaking in the context of Middle Earth, is ambiguous, as with all the works of the elves. Of course, by that point in ME’s history, the palantiri are under the influence of a fallen Maia (essentially a fallen angel — a demon). Others (e.g. Denethor) were shown to succumb to Sauron’s influence as a result of using them.

    Also, in The Hobbit, about fifty pages in, the dwarves (I forget if Bilbo is included) rather explicitly lay protective spells over the troll-cache before they leave it behind.

    If I thought about it I could probably come up with other examples. Regardless, these are all things which should not be imitated in the real world.

    We can make the argument that particular characters are exceptional, but ultimately it is a question of the nature of the acts in question being “rescued” by conditions in the story-world which don’t obtain in the real world. The same defense might reasonably be made of Harry Potter, so far as it goes — I think the real difficulties with Harry Potter lie elsewhere.

    I think a stronger argument against the Harry Potter books, at least for young readers, would be that (unlike LotR) the use of apparent magic by heroic characters is pervasive and more or less central to the narrative. They are part of a larger genre which often draws on real occult practices in a more direct way than Rowling ever does. As Fr. Euteneuer puts it:

    The second dilemma for every Christian parent should be the perennial Halloween fest of negative imagination that these books generate. If Harry Potter is innocent fun, its literary spawn certainly are not. One trip to the Harry Potter section of a Borders bookstore (way before Halloween) gave me pause. Surrounding the Harry Potter rack in the children’s section of the store and in the front display were other titles that should raise the hair on the back of any parent’s neck. I recount just a few titles here: Dark Possession, The Wheel of Darkness, The Care and Feeding of Spirites [sic], The Night of the Soul Stealer, The Thief Queen’s Daughter, Blade of Fire, Secrets of Dripping Fang, My Father’s Dragon, The Dark Hills Divide, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Soul Eater, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Vampirates Tide of Terror, Nightmare Academy, Enter the Portal to Monster and Mayhem, Lyra’s Oxford (authored by vicious anti-Catholic Phillip Pullman of “Golden Compass” and “His Dark Materials” fame)…and others.

    This should give anyone pause, and needs to be taken into consideration. I don’t think that all of Fr. Euteneuer’s arguments are bunk. But on the other hand, when he and others make arguments along the lines of (from the same piece):

    Is indoctrination too strong a term? How about socialization? Should it not concern parents that Rowling only now, ten years after the introduction of the character Dumbledore, admitted that she intended this character to be “gay”? For goodness sake, this character is a father figure and a mentor in the books, and he falls in love with his evil arch-enemy! Rowling has said that her books were a “prolonged argument for tolerance” (Time, 10/20/07). Okay, so no indoctrination going on there, right?

    This is at best extremely careless. In the books, Dumbledore’s past relationship with Grindlewald, although it is not explicitly identified as a homosexual infatuation in the books, is consistently portrayed as the greatest moral failing of the man’s life; the rest of his life is essentially spent in celibate penance. At the time, a number of homosexual advocates were actually upset about Rowling’s revelation. Fr. Euteneuer needn’t even read the books themselves; just some basic research regarding their content would ensure that he (and others) weren’t making these sorts of patently absurd claims, or at least carefully qualifying them so they don’t descend into absurdity.

    (Now, if one is concerned about attitudes towards homosexuality in fandom, that may be a more legitimate problem. But “open” attitudes to homosexuality are an issue in LotR fandom as well, particularly when it comes to fanfic. Never mind Star Trek…)

    In general, we need to be concerned with whether the things we are repeating in the discussion are actually true, and be especially wary of repeating hearsay just because it sounds particularly damning or convincing.

  133. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I would encourage people to (re)read Tolkien’s draft passage for a letter to Naomi Mitchison (c. 18-25 Sept. 1954) about ‘magia’ and ‘goetia’ (No. 155 in the selection ed. Carpenter, 1981: note that the ed. annotation about ‘goeteia’ seems a bit misleading if one reads the text carefully). Among other things, Tolkien says re. “the use of ‘magic’ in this story” that “it is not to be come by by ‘lore’ or spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such.”

    I would suggest that a big difference in Rowling could be expressed by saying that ‘”magic” in this Potter story is not to be come by by “lore” or spells (though inherently “magical” characters use them); but is imagined to be in an inherent power possessed by some Men (in this story, not also in real life!) but not otherwise attainable by Men as such.” The last part needs to be stressed to(young)readers, especially since, as MenTaLguY puts it, “the use of apparent magic by heroic characters is pervasive and more or less central to the narrative”.

    Something Lewis says in the “Preface” he added to ‘Pilgrim’s Regress’ when it was republished in 1943 is also relevant, whether the delight caused in the reader by this imagination of some Men being able to use ‘magic’ extends to the experience of “Desire” he addresses there, or not. “Inexperienced people (and inattention leaves some inexperienced all their lives) suppose, when they feel it, that they know what they are desiring.” The danger is, that if such a reader “falls upon literature (like Maeterlinck or the early Yeats) which treats of spirits and the like with some show of serious belief, he may think that he is hankering for real magic and occultism.” And those promoting such things are intent on encouraging such a reader to think so.

    Literary and ‘orthodoxly’ Christian Potter fans would do well to stress this distinction between fiction and real life, whether J.K. Rowling herself does so publicly in a way that takes the dangers seriously or not.

    In MenTaLguY’s first quotation from Fr. Euteneuer, I think Fr. E. is putting it at the least very carelessly when he says, “If Harry Potter is innocent fun, its literary spawn certainly is not.” ‘Children’ can differ from their ‘parents’, but can one hold “Harry Potter” responsible for ‘spawning’? If others wish to abusively in one or another sense imitate the works of Rowling, to what – if any – extent can she be held responsible or culpable for that? To compare great things with small, we would not blame the inspired or Inspiring author of the Book of Daniel for (the details in)the welter of pseudepigraphal Apocalypic works of the Intertestamental period?

    We need to judge fictional works scrupulously, work by work. If there is some sort of case to be made against Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, or Rowling for imprudence, or worse, in writing successful fantasy fiction, it must be well made.

  134. I agree, Venerator, the case needs to be well made. So far, it has not been, especially with regards to Rowling. Most of the people who denounce her works have not read them. Worse, they rely on people, such as Michael O’Brien, who approach the books with a pathologically Puritanical mindset, causing them to grossly (and dishonestly) misrepresent what is in the books.

    Certainly, an author is not responsible for how people misuse his or her books. If that were the case, then God would have a lot to answer for. Check out any Tolkien fan page. You will find them dominated by anti-Catholic and anti-Christian New Age secularists. Is this Tolkien’s fault? Neither is Rowling to blame for people who misuse her books, and in fact has said publically that she herself (a) does not believe in magic and (b) is a practicing Christian (member of the Church of Scotland).

    Critics who take the time to read her books might learn a few things, such as that the characters do not rely on occult conjuring to work their spells, and that the ability to work “magic” is an ability they’re born with (much like Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves) and that the “magic” in the books functions largely as technology does in real life.

    There is nothing occult about pointing a stick at a candle and igniting a flame by repeating Latin doggerel. If that is occult, then we all may as well toss out our remote controls for being dangerous occult artifacts.

    I suspect Rowling was as frustrated by the limits of language as Tolkien was, and finally, like him, settled on the word “magic” because there was no other suitable word. The “magic” in the HP books is a gift that the characters are born with. As such it is part of their natures, much like eating and sexuality are gifts that are part of our natures. Like us, the HP characters, by various ways, have to learn the proper uses of their gift, and most important, the limits of it.

    So-called “dark magic” or the “dark arts” come into play when characters go beyond accepted limits, as defined by common sense and the natural moral law. This is analogous to the real world, where we have names for going beyond the accepted limits of aspects of our natures, names such as gluttony and rape. That there are gluttons and rapists in the world does not make the gifts of eating and sex evil, it only illustrates the bad uses of such gifts.

    Why critics of HP do not or cannot see this, I do not understand. Except that, if you won’t read the books before presuming to speak authoritatively about them, you grossly misuse your God-given gift of reason – about which I’ve already written, above.

  135. Supertradmum says:

    If one reads all the comments of this blog, one will see that I and others have read at least some of the books-the first three in my case-and have decided on our own the problems and dangers. However, it is nice to have the backup and reasoning of illustrious men, such as the once head exorcist in Rome and the head of Human Life International, as well as one of the main instructors at the FSSP seminary in Denton. I consider myself much less experienced and much less a scholar than these priests, and humbly submit to those who are greater than I.

    As to Tolkien, whose books and writings I have taught at the university level in great depth, his books and ideas were always firmly based not only on his imagination and studies, but on the teachings of the Catholic Church, particularly the Redemption and Resurrection. Tolkien is famous for disagreeing publicly with C.S. Lewis over Lewis’ references to Charles Williams in the last of the Perelandra Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. Tolkien felt that Lewis was stepping over a line into the occult, as Williams had done. Perhaps, as with good beers and good ales, “condition” is all.

  136. Supertradmom, I wasn’t referring to comments on this blog only, but to HP criticism in general. I have found very few Harry haters — pretty much none, in fact — who have read even a word of the series.

    Reading the first three books is an improvement on that, but since it is a seven-part series, with the last four books much longer than the first three, it still hardly qualifies you to speak authoratatively on the subject.

    I know nothing about the FSSP priest, but as both Fr. Amorth and Fr. Eteneuer (sp?) have both admitted to not having read any of the HP books, their qualifications to speak with any authority about them amount to exactly zero, however learned and qualified they may be in their respective areas of expertise. I expect more of priests than that they engage in mere rumor-mongering, as if they’re no better than a run-of-the-mill New York Times reporter.

    Were I, a layman with zero experience in exorcisms, to start denouncing exorcisms and demonic posession as pure bunk, you would rightly think that I was a fool. There is no reason why priests should not be held to the same standard.

    And where is it written than a novelist has to base his or her books and ideas on the teachings of the Catholic Church? I think Tolkien himself would sharply disagree with you there. Tolkien’s Catholicism certainly informed his writing, but he certainly did not base it on the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  137. Supertradmum says:

    Dear Sean P. Dailey,

    I think you misunderstand something. The above mentioned priests do have knowledge of Harry Potter books, but from other sources-the demonic activity itself. It seems that when someone is in the trenches of spiritual warfare, battling on the front lines, that the strategy books or the comments of the military strategists become much less important than those who are “on the ground”. These priests are not speaking from ignorance, but from knowledge. One does not have to read a book to know something is true and if one is doing exorcisms which somehow are connected to HP, then the reality of the occult link is as true as anything in the texts themselves.

    As to Tolkien and other authors: all writers have some sort of philosophical worldview behind their writings. Tolkien himself wrote that fantasy needed to be based on the Christian truth of the Resurrection-that there could no longer be any sad endings since that Event-and that the Resurrection and Incarnation changes the way one looks at reality. He did, therefore, base his writings on that worldview, which he himself admits in more than one literary critical article. Here is a sample: “I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”

    As to my reading habits, I am concentrating on Aquinas’ Summa,and Contra Gentiles, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Garrigou-Lagrange. As for novels, such as Dickens, Austen, and George Eliot, and maybe a few Indian authors, I am content to re-read my favorites over and over, as listed here.

  138. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I think the title of “illustrious” could certainly be applied to certain theologians who are of great stature and collaborate intimately with the Magisterium of the Church. Illustrious theologians are erudite, scholarly, and have researched well the mind and controversies of the Church’s various theological schools.

    However, the Church has never applied this title to exorcists, nor are exorcists considered competent to pronounce authoritatively on the questions of Catholic theology, merely because they pray over the possessed. In the ancient Church, the office of exorcist was distinct from that of teacher, the former calling for a person of prayer and docility to God’s will, the latter calling for a person who was intellectually schooled and prepared for bringing understanding to the doctrines of the Faith.

    In the questions of whether culture, literature, or the arts present a remote or proximate danger to the Faith, the Church’s hierarchy calls up the theologians, not the exorcists. An exorcist, based on the presumption of good character and prayerful life, is a priest who is given the commission to attend to the possessed using the prayers of the Ritual. The exorcist has no special knowledge, like an angel with infused truths, except the knowledge which he has from study and prayer, like everyone else. Nor can the demons ever be considered an unimpeachable source for informing the exorcist on the true dangers of the soul.

    Without going into sordid details, let me simply state that exorcists themselves can fall prey to the same sins as the rest of the clergy, and they can have the same mental, emotional and psychological sicknesses which afflict our fallen nature. They have been and to this day are removed and suspended from the ministry they give to the possessed.

    In this discussion of Harry Potter, you have made some very good points about the possible dangers that could arise from these novels. At the same time, like many sincere Catholics, you have invested in the office of the exorcist an aura, mystique, wisdom, or knowledge which is exaggerated. After Hollywood got a hold of exorcism, this is easy to do and unfortunately a ministry for souls meant to operate in the internal forum gets more and more of a fascinated audience with exorcists operating as the new stars.

    Supertradmum, it would be easy if by quoting exorcists we might all stand with gaping wonderment and silence, and say, “no more discussion. Okay, there you have it.” But there are no shortcuts for Catholics to these difficult questions. The books must be read by those who wish to pronounce on them and the reasons for concern must be hashed out in debate and counterpoint. Such has always been the case in the Catholic discernment of spirits.

  139. Thank you, Fr. Soleto, for putting it much better, and with much more clarity, than I ever could. I have no specialized knowledge in this area, just a sense that Fr. Amorth and Fr. Eteneuer were speaking outside their areas of competence.

    Supertradmom, I would draw your attention especially to what Fr. Soleto said about demons not being an “unimpeachable source of informing the exorcist on the true dangers of the soul” (an understatement if there ever was one), since you cited the exorcists’ knowledge of “the demonic activity itself” as a reason why we should listen to the exorcists. It is quite possible that the demons are lying, you know.

    Also, since you mentioned military strategy, let me speak as a former Marine. If you have reason to believe that an enemy bases his strategy and tactics on a particular text, then it behooves you to read that text, and not take the enemy’s word for it – especially if the enemy in question is demons.

  140. Supertradmum says:

    Dear Fr. Sotelo,

    I agree with your last paragraph whole-heartedly and feel that this discussion has been a good debate. However, as you know as a priest, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

    * Hamlet, scene v

    I have not given exorcism an aura, mystique, etc. as I have a very close friend who is an exorcist and I pray for him and his team. I have never seen a Hollywood film on exorcism, nor do I intend to. I do not go in for the fascination with the occult or bizarre. I do not fall into the category of a lay person who has no theological or spiritual background. I have degrees in philosophy, theology, history, and literature. As to the scholars, I believe that Father Ripperger is considered a scholar, as well as some priests who are not known to the public, who are both exorcists and scholars. Not all exorcists are as high profile as some I have mentioned. Most of my information shared here has come from solid priests, who are in good standing with their dioceses, who are exorcists or on exorcist teams, or from the books written by those mentioned above, or from lay people involved in the ministry. In fact, as the national conference at Mundelein last year for exorcists, Father Amorth’s books were recommended and sold, as one of the priests told me. I have read the books as well.

    Exorcists do have knowledge from the demons themselves and from the gifts of discernment of spirits , given to them as part of their office and as their vocation as priest. I know lay people on teams who have these gifts of discernment of spirits and who work for various dioceses. Many of the great saints, including Catherine of Siena, write of this discernment. I am aware that demons can give false knowledge, but God’s knowledge is greater and clearer, if only after a time of prayer. I am also aware first-hand of families which have been prey to horrible demonic activity brought on by involvement with HP websites, games, and indeed, the novels, as well as families connected by links to the occult through HP opening doors to other, sinister, occult activity, such as casting spells, blood offerings, satanism, and wicca. Children as young as seven, ten, and twelve, who either had read the books, or had seen the movies, became involved in such by being drawn toward these things through HP. As a teacher and as an RCIA director, I have had to deal with people breaking away from such occult groups and heard them explain how they got involved in the occult in the first place.

    I am afraid we must agree to disagree, but your long comment is both interesting and helpful. I appreciate your logical, rational mind and highly respect your comments and the spirit in which these are shared. I agree with the fact theologians are not the same as exorcists,and that the opposite is true. However, can we not all learn from each other through different means?

  141. MenTaLguY says:

    In MenTaLguY’s first quotation from Fr. Euteneuer, I think Fr. E. is putting it at the least very carelessly when he says, “If Harry Potter is innocent fun, its literary spawn certainly is not.” ‘Children’ can differ from their ‘parents’, but can one hold “Harry Potter” responsible for ‘spawning’?

    I don’t think he meant that in the sense of assigning blame — the issue is simply that, as a practical concern, HP is surrounded by other works, aimed at children, which are substantially less innocent. It is not unreasonable to suppose than an interest in HP could lead to an interest in other books in the same genre. Even many HP-themed websites and activities may not be as innocuous as the books taken in isolation.

    That, I suspect, is a point on which pretty much all of the participants in this discussion should be able to agree.

  142. Fr_Sotelo says:

    *Exorcists do have knowledge from the demons themselves and from the gifts of discernment of spirits.*

    From your theological knowledge, you would know that this knowledge is 1) very limited and 2) highly uncertain. The exorcist can never know that he has received, in his mind, an actual locution from a demon or whether the possessed have blurted out something from their own subconscious or mental pathology. Even under possession the person may still be mentally ill and not every utterance is demonic.

    *5. He (the exorcist) will be on his guard against the arts and subterfuges which the evil spirits are wont to use in deceiving the exorcist. For oftentimes they give deceptive answers and make it difficult to understand them.*

    As regards the curiosity of the exorcist to gain knowledge from the demonic spirits, the Ritual states:

    *14. The exorcist must not digress into senseless prattle nor ask superfluous questions or such as are prompted by curiosity, particularly if they pertain to future and hidden matters, all of which have nothing to do with his office.* (The Roman Ritual, 1964, Bruce Publishing Co., Trans. Weller).

    The reason I said you exaggerated the importance of exorcists is because you repeatedly referred to them as authoritative sources on Harry Potter, in spite of the obvious lack of citations which Amorth or Euteneuer make to the novels.

    I am sure these priests are wise, but it is by no means a sign of scholarship to criticize literature as dangerous based upon authority and not citations to the *actual text.* In guiding the faithful away from dangerous books, I as a priest cannot rely upon my name or authority alone. I must explain from the texts, and from statements of the Magisterium, the reasons for which the text is cited as dangerous. If I do not do that, regardless of my holiness, my opinion is just another opinion.

  143. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear MenTaLguY,

    The practical concern of surrounding works (etc.) is certainly a real one, and deserves concerted tackling (as far as I can see), as does critical winnowing (and weighing) of Rowling’s work. If that is indeed Fr. Euteneuer’s meaning, I am glad, though the expression still seems to me less than happy.

    Dear Supertradmum,

    Thank you for your contributions to help making it a good discussion. (I have not yet followed up your ‘Gnostic’ link and refs.) If it is not too presumptious a question, has anyone that you know of (on or off line) without breaking confidences, invading privacy, making life even more difficult for the sufferers, or conducing to dangers, publicly catalogued any of the specific details of the sorts of things you summarize in terms of “brought on by involvement with” and “connected by links […] through […] opening doors”?

    With reference to your comment at 1:14 pm, I have not kept up properly with Tolkien scholarship, and would be grateful for any additional background you could give for saying, “Tolkien is famous for disagreeing publicly with C.S. Lewis over Lewis’ references to Charles Williams in the last of the Perelandra Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. Tolkien felt that Lewis was stepping over a line into the occult, as Williams had done.” The only thing I can think of in this context, is what Tolkien says in the last section of his letter of 12 Sept. 1965 to Dick Plotz (Letter 276 in the 1981 ed.). It is fascinating but also tantalizing. (It is curious to read all Tolkien’s references to Williams in these letters right through, next to each other: I do not think I would expect what he says, later, on the basis of what he says earlier, but they are of course glimpses, and addressed to different recipients in different contexts.) But I am not sure I know of any references where Tolkien – or any of Williams’s friends and acquaintances – are really clear about Williams’s own “stepping over a line into the occult” until works published in the 1970s. (Robert Conquest’s “The Art of the Enemy” has it’s interesting features, in hindsight, but does not, as I recall, really attend to the occult, and is outrageous and unconvincing in various aspects.)

  144. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A semi-tangent:

    I do not know if ‘audio-books’ are any help to children with different kinds of (possible) reading problems.

    They can certainly be useful or delightful to those who, for one reason or another, cannot readily get their hands on an actual copy of a book.

    So I wanted to mention, for any who are unfamiliar with it, http://librivox.org/ which has out-of-copyright works read aloud by volunteers (mainly, but by no means exclusively, English-language works).

    For example, Fr. Finn’s ‘Tom Playfair’ (enjoyable in its own right and to compare with other ‘school stories’, and with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn), or the Life, and other works, of St. Teresa of Avila in a 19th-c. translation, or, for enjoyers of Jane Austen and Dickens who are looking for something to compare and contrast, a good lot of Anthony Trollope.

    Of course, as always, one must exercise critical discretion in choosing works (and some readers are better than others).

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