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?