Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fr. Eutneuer on Harry Potter

Halloween and Harry Potter
Many have asked me my opinion about Harry Potter. There is, among good Catholics, a general unease about the series, but the sense of disquiet is very, very difficult to define. I am at a bit of a disadvantage to comment on any particulars of the books since I have not read any of them or seen the movies, nor do I intend to - I have an aversion to adolescent fads and not enough time to spend on questionable materials when there is so much excellent fare for the soul out there. I do, however, feel it is important to offer some guidance on this issue from a third person point of view because some things can be observed about the books without having read them.
First and foremost, all adolescent obsessions have the capacity to steep the vulnerable souls of these kids in imagery and language that strikes deeper than the sermons they may (or may not) hear on Sunday. Some people give Harry an unqualified "wonderful" rating too quickly because J.K Rowling apparently is a very good writer, but the devotees of a sweeping force like this series tend to pass off the propaganda aspect of these books as harmless because they see it as "innocent" fantasy, and, in my opinion, this is dangerous. 4100 pages of word images about magic and the occult are not harmless, even if they fit the literary genre of "fantasy." Tolkein's Lord of the Rings Trilogy amounts to 1216 pages of beautiful imagery, but relatively few of the pages are about magic, let alone imbued with magic. Indeed, Tolkein's trilogy is a self-consciously mythical representation of reality in the light of the Christian faith, something Rowling can't claim. I find the "fantasy" comparisons of Tolkein and Harry Potter to be deeply flawed.
Fundamentally, Harry Potter indoctrinates young souls in the language and mechanics of the occult. The fact that the fake curses and hexes are not able to be reproduced because the "ingredients" are pure fantasy is beside the point. Curses are not pure fantasy. The fact that "curse" as such, and other elements of witchcraft, are presented in a glorified state throughout the Harry Potter series means that our kids' minds are being introduced to and imbued with occult imagery.
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?
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.
337 million copies of occult imagery are being consumed by our youth in the Harry Potter series alone. The books may be good writing, but the writing is about something dark dressed up as something fun. That's a great way to get kids hooked on the occult.

Pilgrimage to EWTN
Pope Benedict on Harry Potter
Chief Exorcist of Rome on Harry Potter
Michael O'Brien on Harry Potter
Sincerely Yours in Christ,

1 comment:

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Although Fr. Eutneuer may be right about Rowlings aims (about which I have no first-hand knowledge), I think he overstates the case. It is unfortunate that Rowling's characters are described as witches and wizards, because of their historic connection of to the occult. It is also true that there is a clear historic connection of magic to the occult. Nevertheless, these connections have been largely watered down in the culture (at least until quite recently). Stories like "The Wizard of Oz" and TV programs like "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeanie," etc. used to be more typical of the genre. (History has transformed many pagan images before, including some that Christians hold dear.) They were intended to be mere fantasy.

Rowling's urge to make her character development increasingly serious, it seems to me, also inclined her to take magic more seriously in her story, and to more clearly identify character flaws that led to the abuse of magic. Fascination with the power of magic described in the story undoubtedly can act as a snare to naive readers. In just this way, anger, though not evil in itself, can provide fertile ground for temptation.

The indisputable connection of this story with efforts of retail outlets to pander to occult interests is certainly unfortunate, and a clear warning to future writers of how their work is likely to be taken advantage of, particularly when they stray into such ambiguous territory. It seems to me that even The Lord of the Rings has been subjected to this abuse.