Jul 22, 2007

Exorcizing Harry Potter

Who's afraid of the fastest selling fiction in modern history, the seven-novel, 325-million books in the Harry Potter saga? Is it the buyers of the 12 million advance copies of the newest J.K. Rowling book? No, it is the 3rd National Conference of Catholic Exorcists that met in Mexico City, July 16-20, 2007.

Almost 300 priests and others involved in exorcisms listened to international experts, including Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the Vatican's chief exorcist, and the author of An Exorcist Tells His Story, and An Exorcist: More Stories. The agenda of the conference focused on a systematic course of instruction for priests who have responsibility for the Church's mandate by Christ to perform exorcisms.

Sixteen conference sessions and a case study were scheduled:
  1. The rebellious fall of the angels, according to Scripture, the Fathers of the church, Catholic theology, and Church teaching. What truths do demons affirm under the pressure of God during the exorcisms?
  2. Demonology and Satanism (dogmatic teaching) According to the Church: Who are they? What can they do? What is understood by demonic possession?
  3. Practical criteria for the exercise of the Rite of Exorcism, including the instructions given by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in September 2000.
  4. The Exorcism of Jesus and a discussion of seven cases of true possession.
  5. Demonic possession, as contrasted with physical and mental diseases. Causes, aims, varieties and degrees, limits, and distinctions between obsession, humiliation, oppression and possession.
  6. True pathologies as compared to demonic possession. Natural development of the human being: personality, traumas, and upheavals.
  7. Discernment in the Bible and the Tradition of the Church. Natural, preternatural, and supernatural events. Ordinary and extraordinary actions of a demon.
  8. Discernment in particular: Spiritual versus psychological occurrences. Errors that an Exorcist can commit and the vigilance needed to properly care for the patient.
  9. The relationship of the Exorcist to the diocese. Pastoral collaboration at the diocesan level.
  10. The required spiritual condition and training of the Exorcist.
  11. A historical overview of exorcisms in the Roman ritual.
  12. A review of the new Rite of Exorcism (1999 and 2da.), including 2004 typical edition.
  13. Pastoral recommendations for the team who accomplish the exorcism.
  14. Liturgical and canonical aspects to observe in the exercise of the greater and smaller exorcism.
  15. The ministry of the Exorcist
  16. Positive and practical conclusions, according to the practice and norms of the new Rite of Exorcism. What remains to be done?
  17. Discernment of a case with the participation of medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and exorcists, in that order--with each to diagnose the patient according to his own training.
The exorcist coordinator of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Fr. Pedro Mendoza, claimed at the above conference that the Harry Potter books allow the devil to enter children's minds to do "a lot of damage." "If you put all these ideas in a child's head, that he can become a wizard, the child believes that, and that is opening an avenue through which the devil can get in."

Fr. Gabrielle Nanni, the author of Exorcisms, noted that it is in magic and the occult where the presence of the devil is found. A third expert, Rev. Francisco Bamonte, commented that the Harry Potter books and films are a clear attempt to attract adolescents to admire and involve themselves in magic. Fr. Bamonte is an Italian exorcism expert and author of Diabolical Possessions and Exorcisms who is disturbed that witches and warlocks are identified as positive figures, and that "magical solutions" to life's problems are presented in the Harry Potter books.

In 2006, the Vatican's chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, warned readers about the dangers of the Harry Potter novels. "You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likable wizard, but you end up with the Devil. There is no doubt that the signature of the Prince of Darkness is clearly within these books." "By reading Harry Potter, a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil."

Fr. Amorth made very similar remarks in 2002, "Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil." Magic is a "satanic art" and there is no distinction between black and white magic, both of whom turn to the devil. In either case, becoming familiar with magic by reading the Harry Potter books makes magic appear less of the threat it is to a good relationship with God.

Personally, I would compare the Harry Potter books to playing Russian Roulette. For some kids, the books are fun to read and the bullets mostly miss their target. However, bullets hit some adolescents and encourage them to engage in magic--just like Harry Potter does. That's why Exorcists in the U.S. are recently seeing more diabolical possession that begins with ouija boards, Tarot cards, seances, and other occult activities. Why play Russian Roulette with the spiritual life of a child?


Alcuin Bramerton said...

Harry Potter is true. Harry Potter is scripture. Harry Potter offers a portal out of the matrix. Are these things possible?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

A couple of things to mention; first, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both used magic within their children's novels so given that Christians admire Lewis's novels especially, and Catholics in particular admire Tolkien's, and both include magic, what is significant about Rowlings's use of magic as well. Were there plenty of hippies during the 60s who misused what Tolkien wrote about smoking and other things? Yes. No doubt. For me, the most balanced view that respects those who see evil in Rowlings's use of magic in her novels is by the movie review critic for the National Catholic Register who discussed it thoroughly on Catholic Answers live, http://www.catholic.com/radio/event.php?calendar=1&category=&event=4704&date=2007-07-13

I have "walked the walk" said...

I find it frightening that so many people are promoting Harry Potter books/music for children. While some claim that these are "just books" and are "fantasy", it is important to realize that the majority of children cannot differentiate between fantasy. From a child's point of view, using magic to remove the troubles in their life, or even to escape reality, is a very attractive idea. Additionally, from a child's point of view, magic is "fun"!

My own life is a perfect example of this: From watching "innocent" movies and reading "innocent" books about magic, it slowly drew me into the occult. By the age of ten (yes, ten!) I was into just about every form of the occult and it progressed from there.

I was an above-intelligent child, with a good nature and a happy disposition, and had parents who loved me, etc. No one knew of my occult involvement (ie: I didn't run around with satanic symbols on black clothing, etc) -- I was just an "ordinary", "well adjusted" child. I didn't turn to magic to escape anything -- I thought it just sounded "cool" and was "fun".

Trust me when I say that Harry Potter books/movies are from the devil! The more pleasant magic appears, the more attractive it is to children. Isn't this the devil's MO?

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post; and a
nice piece of work on a topic
that is out of the mainstream
when it comes to Catholic blogs.

I tend to think that the Harry
Potter books are, at a certain
time in a child's life, a bad
idea for most kids. I think it
is all about what you are taught
in the home: If a child has a
strong relationship with his or
her parents and a solid
grounding in the fundamentals
of the Catholic faith, I don't
think the Harry Potter books are
too dangerous for a child of
between 13-16 to read. And by
the way -- a 'strong relationship
with his or her parents and a
solid grounding in the
fundamentals of the Catholic
faith' essentially means that a
child has to be home-schooled
these days. Otherwise, there
will be a lot more to worry about
in a child's education than Harry
Potter -- kids are now taught
about birth control and sexual
intercourse as early as the 5th
grade in most public schools.

The main issue is in making sure
that your children *understand*
that the Potter books are
*nothing more* than a light-
hearted summer read. Parents
must be prepared to lead their
children carefully into their
Catholic faith, and they must
be ready and prepared to engage
in Apologetics when something
like Harry Potter comes along.

Children respond to love, and
they are always a lot smarter
than we think they are. Talking
to your children cheerfully and
honestly about things will go
much, much further than a
scheduled, daily harangue and
lecture about the Early Church
Fathers. One must always be
careful to understand one's
audience when it comes to

My sister, incidentally, takes
things like Harry Potter far
more seriously than a light
summer read. She had a
Christian upbringing, but she
was allowed to run into the
wrong sort of friends at school.
She learned to mock everything;
and this attitude has caused her
some serious problems late in
life. She is, in my opinion,
an example of what can happen
when a child is allowed to
develop a real interest in the
occult, and things like Harry
Potter and 'wicca'. For 'wicca'
is really what many in the adult
Harry Potter crowd are all about.
Many of them, I believe, seek to
disabuse families of their
Christian heritage and are very
much interested in having your
average Christian American child
believe that 'wicca' is really
just another religion that is
just as important as any other;
and that the Christian religion
has somehow 'usurped' what
originally belonged to a
pagan/'wiccan' 'religion'.

My sister, as an adult,
currently identifies herself as
a 'wiccan', and she glories in
all things occult and Harry
Potterish. She sees the
Catholic Church as just another
institution to be mocked; and
she has become very set in her
ways. The saddest thing of all
is that she used to believe in
Angels; and she used to have
her house filled with beautiful
Angel figurines made from crystal
and glass. She also had several
paintings of Angels hanging from
her walls that were stunningly
beautiful; and she had all sorts
of knick-knacks and story books
about Angelic beings. She would
have made, and would still make,
a very beautiful Catholic person.

So, specifically, what happened
to her is this: A long-festering
interest in the occult brought
her to make a trip to
Massachussets a few years back.
She went to the town of Salem for
some Halloween fun, and in order
to buy some 'harmless' and 'neat'
souvenirs and a few books for
some 'harmless' fun and reading
back home. During her travels
through Salem, however, she found
a man there who runs a weirdo-
occultish kind of 'wiccan' store.
Through what was to her still a
casual interest, she became fast
friends with him. But soon this
man discovered that my sister had
a fascination with Angels. In
short order, he disabused her of
all positive notions about Angels,
and gave her ideas about how all
of Christianity was really founded
on pagan notions that pre-date the
Catholic Church.

I lived on the opposite side of
the country from her during the
time all of this was going on,
and I had little idea that my
sister was going through a
rather severe shift in ideology.
But one day I came home to find
all of her beautiful Angels
taken down from where she had
placed them, and replaced by
crystal 'faeyries' and 'celtic'
iconography. Her books about
Angels were all gone too; and
replaced with a large library
about 'wicca'. She also now
holds the notion that the
Catholic Church is 'evil'; and
that her 'wiccan' beliefs are
compatible within the 'sphere'
of Christianity. This is no
made-up story. Unfortunately
it is all too true; and it
happened to my beloved sister.
So, my sister is now an adult,
and only prayer can help her
now. She will not respond to
anything I or anyone else says
about what she is doing.

So, some of the posters here have
written about how Catholics tend
to love Tolkien, and that
Tolkien also writes about
'magic'. This much is true.
But most families, and most of
Western society during the time
that the Tolkien stories were
written, were a lot more
religion-friendly than they are
today. Children had a fair
enough chance at a Catholic or
Christian upbringing so as not
to make too much of the Tolkien
stories back then. This,
unfortunately, is no longer the

And for those who are looking
for any real substance in the
Harry Potter books, it might be
a good idea now to take a close
look at them, and to evaluate
the stories that they tell, on
their own merit. So: If one
reads these books carefully,
one will soon find that they
are merely part of a long,
historical line of ethnically-
British tales that have been
written and re-written in
slightly different ways for
children and young adults over
the last 200 years; and they
are stories in which quasi-
historical elements of British
and Norse mythology are inter-
twined with young people on a
fantastic, 'magical' adventure.

Stories such as these have
fascinated millions of Brits
and other Westerners over the
last few centuries. But the
Potter books, in and of
themselves, are very UN-
unique, and they lean heavily
on much of the world that
Tolkien built. And the Tolkien
stories themselves, in turn,
lean heavily on the types and
symbolic imagery that may be
found in Herman Melville's
'Moby Dick' which is, in all
truth, a superb re-telling of
parts of the Book of Genesis in
the Holy Bible; retold as a
fascinating sea-story.

One may find in 'Moby Dick' the
Captain Ahab, representing a
God-defying Israel (the
word 'Israel' means 'one who
fights with God'. And Ishmael?
Ishmael's isolation on the open
sea tells the same story of the
Holy Bible's Ishmael, who was
isolated in the desert. Ishmael
of the Bible was also a bowman;
Melville's Ishmael was a bowman
too -- a 'fore-most Jack', whose
social status and position on
Ahab's ship was as a bowman in
the extreme forward part of the
ship. And there is even a
Rebecca in Melville's tale; who,
like the Rebecca of the Holy
Bible, receives a new-found
son, after her ship's Captain
loses his own son out on the
open sea.

Going back even further than
Tolkien and Melville, though,
one can find that these books
are also part of a long
literary line of Victorian-era
British standbys -- stories
about boys who attend ancient
and extremely wealthy English
Boy's Academies and Boarding
Schools where they tend to get
into fantastic adventures
whenever their head-master
looks the other way. Such
stories have been around since
at least the 18th century in
one form or another; and the
very character of Harry Potter
is, in fact, simply the 21st-
century's incarnation of Billy
Bunter -- 'The Fat Owl of the
Remove' from 'Greyfriars
School'; a story which one can
read more about on Wikipedia
and perhaps elsewhere.

But all of these stories, it
can hardly be argued, are from
a time when religion was very,
very much more a part of a
young person's life -- the
typical child growing up in
today's Western society has no
such cushion around them. And
therein lies the problem. In
today's America, then, it is
rare even for a child's parents
or even their grandparents to
be very religious and educated
in their faith. And today's
children -- much like my sister
-- are now taught in public
schools to suspect everything,
*especially* religion.

So, that's my carefully
considered opinion. I urge
parents everywhere to be
careful at all times about
what their young children are
doing, whom their children are
interacting with, and what they
are reading. I also urge
parents everywhere to teach
their children the Catholic
faith; and to be honest about
Christianity's enemies. And --
at some point in their child's
life -- to make sure that their
children also understand who
Christianity's enemies are.
Enemies can one day become
friends, that much is true, but
an honest understanding of
history keeps one from being
fooled much too easily; and it
also keeps one from becoming
too worldly.



Dust I Am said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust I Am said...

Erick, Your comments are much appreciated and comprise a very good and lengthy post on its own. dustiam

Elliot said...

With all due respect, I'd like to offer a different view. When I read book 7 of the HP series, I was amazed at how open the Christian symbolism was. Harry's confrontation with the forces of evil is cast in Christian terms, as he lays down his life for his friends. The chapter heading immediately following this act is "King's Cross," which makes the Christian symbolism more explicit. Harry experiences a kind of resurrection as well. And there are also two scripture quotations included which are important to the plot.

I don't think Rowling set out to write a Christian allegory in the style of Narnia, but the final book holds up Christ's example as the highest ideal of heroism.

Perhaps some children will pick up a fascination with the occult from these books, but I think the overriding moral lesson is a Christian one. Christians concerned about children's literature would be much better off worrying about Philip Pullman than J.K. Rowling.