Thursday, January 04, 2007

Harry Potter books

An anonymous blogger recently asked, “What about Harry Potter books?” in a comment under my post on “Horoscopes and magic” (Nov. 14). The Church has not made an official statement about the Harry Potter books that I have seen, and probably won’t. But, there have been many personal opinions given on the incredibly popular series. I have listed some below. I have not read the Harry Potter books because they are based primarily in fantasy and magic. Personally, I like to deal with reality. The world of fantasy, while appearing fun and exciting, can be very dangerous and seductive.

Please keep in mind two things:
1) Harry Potter books are fictional.
2) The statements below are personal opinions

In a letter written in 2003, then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote the following to a German critic of Harry Potter:

“It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.”
"I like Harry Potter, a more pleasant escapism for me, but also much more superficial, predictable and sentimental than Tolkien's world... The Harry Potter series are brilliantly written children's books, which many adults enjoy."
- Archbishop Pell of Sydney
"There's only one reason the Harry Potter books are in the least bit controversial. Just one. Wicca. That's it. If we didn't have this ridiculous little 'religion' bustling around, forming 'covens' in dorm rooms and getting army chaplains, I doubt one parent in a million would even think to waste even a minute being concerned about these books. . . .
- Amy Welborn, Catholic author of “Sorting Through Harry Potter
"I was not impressed by the four books in Rowling's series…The Potter series takes the old Gnostic worldview and makes it look glamorous and exciting, in a way proving to be far more seductive and successful than similar books in this field of children's literature. Early Gnosticism was a combination of cult and heresy that came very close to undermining Christianity during the first few centuries of the Church. It was only defeated by the efforts of the Church Fathers as they taught, corrected, exhorted and debated with the naive devotees of this perversion of genuine faith. And here it is again, popping up with unprecedented force, but now aimed at the most vulnerable, most impressionable part of the Body of Christ - our children."
- Michael O'Brien…. the author of eleven books, including several best-selling Catholic novels, notably, Father Elijah. He has authored children's books as well...


At 10:01 AM, Anonymous HSPrincess said...

I enjoy the Harry Potter books alot, and i think that as long as you keep in mind that Harry Potter is fiction, it shouldn't hurt you in any spiritual way.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

As long as we remember that fiction and fantasy are not reality then using books/movies to momentarily escape and relax should not be a problem. The problem with fiction/fantasy happens when people get so wrapped up in the fantasy that it overtakes their lives or takes the place of important things such as faith, family, job etc. Fantasy, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Babylon 5, etc are products of a fruitful imagination and are on their own level a creativity that I could only dream of. The gifts these authors have in telling stories is amazing, the telling of a great story weather it be the heroics of a warrior or the life of a Saint or something that is purely fiction is a true gift. Using fiction to escape is not a bad thing as long as you live in reality and not in fantasy and realize that fantasy is only entertainment not a basis for life or morality.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous hsprince said...

I too loved "The Lord of the Rings."

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there adoration tonight?

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Christine R. said...

I have read most of the Harry Potter books, and I agree with the quotes in the post. Yes, when reading any fictional book that involves fantasy, we as Catholics should be aware of what could be crossing the line as far as our religion goes. However, I actually believe that depending on how you approach Harry Potter books, it could actually be beneficial to your Catholic faith. Yes, the "world" of the books is fictional, and one should not believe it is real, but so is that of The Chronicles of Narnia. The reason why The Chronicles of Narnia books are beneficial to our faith to read is because the situations and characters in the books are symbolic of our faith and provide a deeper understanding of the Passion of Christ. Now, I'm not in any way comparing C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling, because I don't know of any religious agenda of Rowling, wheras Lewis obviously did. However, in reading the Harry Potter series, I have noticed many powerful religious allusions to Christ. I'm not saying I'm right, because again, I don't know Rowling's religious beliefs or if she had a religious purpose in writing the series.

For example, in the second book, The Chamber of Secrets, the phoenix bird, I think, represents Jesus Christ. The phoenix periodically catches on fire and dies when it is old, but the same bird is born again from the ashes. When Harry is fighting a giant serpent (Satan?), he calls upon the phoenix and the bird defends Harry by killing the serpent, getting injured in the process. Then the phoenix's tears heal the gashes on Harry's arm. At the end of the novel, it flies Harry and his friends to safety.

I know I may not be right, but as I was reading it for the first time, the first thing I thought of was Jesus and how in His Passion, He was cruxified for our sins and through that suffering, He gave us the gift of new life in Heaven. I saw the phoenix killing the serpent as a strong allusion to Christ killing sin by dying on the Cross for us. When the phoenix gets hurt by the serpent and its tears that fall completely cure Harry's gashes, I saw that as symbolizing the sacrifice Christ made for us, and the hurt He experienced from His own people who condemned Him to death. Though He was hurt, His love and His sacrifice for us enabled Him to heal our sins and bring us to eternal life.

Though I may be wrong, it doesn't change the experience I had when I read this passage. Once I recognized this possible metaphor and kept it in mind while reading, I came to a deeper understanding and appreciation of Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross. When I was thinking about Christ while reading this, the message was only more powerful and the words were more beautiful. It taught me that like Harry called upon the phoenix for help in defeating evil, if we call upon the Lord for help in defeating evil, in His sacrifice for us on the Cross and giving us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, He has brought us the gift of eternal life.

Even if J.K. Rowling did not intentionally make the connection between the phoenix and Christ, I personally saw value in the story to my faith. Maybe the phoenix and the serpent could just symbolize good vs. evil, but the choice of a phoenix and a serpent and the actions that take place seem too much of an obvious religious metaphor to me. And besides, I was always taught that in literature, no symbol is an accident by the author. By keeping my mind open and looking for religious metaphors in Harry Potter books, I have found plenty of other religious metaphors and it has enriched my appreciation of my religion and of the books. What do you all think?

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think what you wrote was amazing! I never thought of reading the series keeping religious imagery in my mind and I am going to do that.


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