Por Sr. Beatriz Liaño, SHM
Each one of the seven books in the Harry Potter series that have been published, have been accompanied on the one hand, by huge editorial success and, on the other, polemics and conflicting views, even within the Catholic Church. Indeed, the division is irreconcilable between those who view Joanne Rowling’s novels to be inoffensive and fantasy adventures of a sorcerer’s apprentice, and those who consider that serious dangers can stem from its reading.
It is obvious that reading Harry Potter can encourage its readers – and in fact it does – to dabble into the world of magic and esotericism. No one can deny this because we are surrounded by overwhelming evidence provided by universal internet access, whose very accurate navigation leads to the discovery of stories strewn with clues and key words left by the author. Yet, supposing that no one takes interest in dabbling into the world of the “occult” (which is a lot to suppose), there are more problems with the popular series. With this article, I do not pretend to provide an exhaustive examination of the stories and problems that stem from this controversial series, but rather make a specific point that seems to me to be crucial because the conscience of those who reader Harry Potter can be seriously damaged, most especially those who are more receptive and vulnerable: children and teenagers.
Let us get to the heart of the issue. The main character of these stories is Harry Potter, a young boy who is presented as a “positive hero”; that is, he fights for the good and justice in the midst of “innocent” adventures. The problem is that the means used by Harry Potter in this supposed “battle for the good,” is magic. Magic is a means this is objectively evil and condemned by the Scriptures and the traditional teachings of the Church, as can be found in number 2117 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion.” The virtue of religion is, after the theological virtues, the most important of the virtues, because through it we fulfill the First Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” In the face of this, it must be pointed out that there exists a fundamental criterion when it comes to forming the conscience of children, and that is to make them understand that the end never justifies the means. The adventures of Harry Potter decidedly attack this basic principle.
Our children should understand that, if the means is evil, the end is not good. I do not resolve anything with a sin. On the contrary, everything becomes even more complicated. No apparent good justifies one of my sins, not even if that sin were going to save an entire nation. Nothing justifies a single sin. Instead, Harry Potter is telling our children the complete opposite. He says that the end justifies the means. He says that if what we want is good, everything is justified, even magic. However, magic – we can color it whatever color we want: white, black, or yellow – always supposes the invocation of Satan, it supposes entering into contact with the “Father of Lies.” Harry Potter takes away the fear of magic from children, and thereby takes away the fear of entering into contact with Satan. It seems to me to be a grave error, therefore, to present him as a role model, and even more so when I direct myself to Christian families that try to transmit the faith to their children. The Catholic Church relies on thousands of true role models. I encourage parents and educators to present as role models for their children the Saints, and so many exemplary men and women that – thanks be to God – surround us, and not to confuse children by offering them points of reference that are very far from being examples of Christian lives.
I would like to remind you of a comment made by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on March 7, 2003, in response to the publication of the book by Gabriele Kuby, “Harry Potter – Good or Evil?” in which the author critiques the novels of J. K. Rowling. Cardinal Ratzinger thanked the author for sending him his work with these words: “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 would also like to remind our readers of declarations made by the once widely known official exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth: “Behind Harry Potter is hidden the signature of the king of darkness, the devil.”
We cannot offer our children a “heroic” role model that is embraced without scruples, with whatever means, as long as it allows me to reach the proposed end. In the face of this affirmation, perhaps there is – hopefully – someone that considers and asks, “But then, it’s not just Harry Potter, right? There are many other books, movies, and magazines that we shouldn’t let fall into the hands of our children” – to which I respond, “Exactly.” I understand that this “selection” is a much harder job for parents and educators to do, but it’s absolutely necessary.
If I have a plant and water it every day with salt water, in a few days, its leaves, stem and even its roots will have dried out. The little plant needs fresh water. Similarly, our children need clean books. If I permit my children to see any kind of movie without a filter, I will soon see their ruin, both on a human and spiritual level. Many parents ask why, in spite of their efforts to transmit the faith, their children take distance from the Lord and from virtue, especially purity. I understand that during these processes of losing one’s faith, many factors can influence, and that each case is a world in itself. But “innocently” thinking that what children watch in cartoons and movies does not negatively influence them, that they are going to automatically take away the good values that the main character presents – be it Harry Potter or any other character – and filter the rest so that it does not do harm, is dangerous and naïve, and can have dire consequences for the faith of our children.
©HM Magazine; nº196 May-June 2017