Harry Potter and the Pope

I’ve had two emails from people asking me my thoughts on the Pope Hates Harry story. One email was very nice and simply wanted to know my thoughts, as a Harry Potter fan. The other was rather spiteful, sneering that since the Pope didn’t like Harry I would now have to distance myself from the books or risk being a “hypocrite” and a “bad Catholic.” Because we Catholics are “mindless sheep.”

What nonsense.

Pope Benedict XVI is a good an holy man whom I respect and revere, but I needn’t take his advice on matters of entertainment. This is his opinion, not an infallible teaching (must we say again how very RARELY the pope speaks ex cathedra?)

Truth be told, I can understand the pope’s fear of the books:

a) He has not read them, and I am sure that with his being such a scholar he would have difficulty seeing them in anything but the most complicated light (sometimes being of average intelligence is not a bad thing) :-)

b) Benedict KNOWS how poorly catechised the world is, how badly trained in spiritual warfare most of us are, particularly the Boomers and their children – he knows that a populace equiped in shoddy spiritual armor is a populace vulnerable to dark enticements that seem romantic, fantastic and “fun.” I’m sure that Benedict understands that for the spiritually untrained (and intellectually incurious) these books will seem full of the allure of “magic,” and will tempt people to darkness.

His trepidation is not groundless. There is cause for concern that Harry Potter might be taken the wrong way, but that risk exists in many, many things. It exists when you bring a television into your home and allow your children to watch without supervision or controls. Such risks exist wherever parental oversite and spiritual training are lacking.

But…I think our good pope doesnot trust perhaps that many of us have the spiritual grounding to see beyond “magic” and into the strong eucharistic and Christian themes of the books – themes that many people (even friends of mine who were simply not looking for them) have found very easily.

And, remember, too, that much is being made of this story – the headlines are breathless – precisely because the press wants the world to hate this pope. We saw that back in April. To them this is all just a juicy headline: See, the pope is an old-fart reactionary with no imagination, what could you expect.

I think the Holy Spirit works through any means it can, including through books like these, and God gives us reason and light so that we can make some decisions on our own…otherwise the church could never have survived as it has. For some there will always be a scandal somewhere, some reason to gasp – there are some who would look at Michelangelos paintings and see obscenity. The Holy Spirit’s gifts of Light and Reason have a way of transcending that.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • SigmundCarlandAlfred

    I wonder how many pope bashers expemded words on the Mullahs demanding death?

    The phrase, I believe, is ‘stunning hypocrisy.’

  • http://www.iammykidsmom.blogspot.com valerie

    I was trying to explain this (unsuccesfully) to some friends of mine. Thanks for giving me the words to use thenext time I find myself defending why I let my teenagers read this series!

  • RJGatorEsq

    Anchoress, well-said.
    Good literature (and the Harry Potter books are, and if you dislike the books, deal with it) can be read on any number of levels.
    E.g., Spenser’s The Faerie Queene can be read on the fictive level as simply outstanding epic poetry (about knights, damsels in distress, and damsels who put knights in distress). Or, it can be read as complex religious allegory.
    My daughter (age 7) just read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She thought it was just a good kids’ story; she was shocked to learn that Aslan symbolizes Christ (and delighted–it was great to see her eyes light up with the realization that there was a lot more to the book than the fictive level).
    Likewise, a child can (and almost always will) read Harry Potter on a fictive level. At that level, the books are getting darker and darker (as you would expect; the older one gets, the less innocent and more dark life becomes). The symbolism, however, is not evident unless you are sensitive to the fact it is there. In any event, if the child understands the symbolism, it seems constructive–J.K. Rowling is a Christian–not destructive.
    I wouldn’t want my 7-year-old reading beyond Books 1 and 2, but that is because of the darkness, nothing else. As she ages, I’ll let her read others.