Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter expert criticizes Vatican newspaper’s glowing review of Deathly Hallows 2

by John-Henry Westen

VATICAN CITY, July 18, 2011 ( – “The positive review of the latest Harry Potter film in L’Osservatore Romano is symptomatic of serious problems in the condition of many modern Catholics,” Michael D. O’Brien, author of “Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture,” told LifeSiteNews last week. 

In its review, the Vatican newspaper had called the film an “epic,” a “saga of unequalled planetary success,” and “another blockbuster.”

While prior to becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had expressed concern over the Potter books, the unsigned review in the Vatican newspaper says of the new film: “As for the content, evil is never presented as fascinating or attractive in the saga, but the values of friendship and of sacrifice are highlighted.”

O’Brien argues that the Vatican newspaper’s review springs from a “habit of making a split between faith and culture, and most strangely by straining to praise fundamentally disordered cultural material.” 

The L’Osservatore Romano review, said O’Brien, begs the questions “Who is behind the editorial policies at the Vatican’s newspaper? Why would they posit as good a tale about a violent, morally confused sorcerer as a Christ-figure? Why, moreover, have they simply ignored Pope Benedict’s critical insight into the Potter series?”

In two letters first translated and published online by, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to a German writer of a book critically analyzing the Potter series. “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,” he wrote.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s was not the only Vatican voice to express grave concern over Potter.  The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, has repeatedly condemned the Harry Potter novels.  In 2006 he said, “You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likeable wizard, but you end up with the Devil … 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.”

O’Brien, regarded around the world as an expert on children’s fantasy literature, explained the tendency for confusion. “All too often, when cultural material arrives in intense pleasure-inducing forms, and contains some positive ‘values’ mixed with highly toxic messages in its role modeling and its anti-values, we are easily seduced. To believe that the Potter message is about fighting evil is superficial. On practically every page of the series, and in its spin-off films, evil is presented as ‘bad’, and yet the evil means by which the evil is resisted are presented as good.”

O’Brien warns, “As charming as Harry may be (and in the films he is much more charming due to the persona of the actor who plays the role), he is a type or metaphor of Antichrist, mutating Christian symbols and then absorbing them into a more dangerous worldview — moral relativism saturated in the symbology of evil and various manifestations of the occult.”

“In the novels,” says O’Brien. “Harry is called ‘the Chosen One.’ He chooses to rise from the dead. He defeats evil with the instruments and gnostic powers of sorcery, wielding the ultimate instrument with which he saves the world because he has become ‘Master over Death.’ At the climax of the seven-volume Potter epic, having saved the world from evil, the resurrected Harry is treated with reverent awe, various characters pressing forward to touch him, ‘their leader and symbol, their saviour and their guide.’”

To contact:

Vatican newspaper
Editorial office
Telephone: + 39 06 698 83461/84442
Fax: + 39 06 698 83675


  1. All the Harry Potter books and movies and related materials are forbidden in my home. At first they were very appealing to my children because they are all boys. But now they understand the spiritual danger in those books. Years before Gabrielle Amorth warned us of the danger, when the first book ever came out, I was appalled at the similarity between the chapters of the book and actual spells and "works" that satanists and witches use in reality. Later I learned that JK Rowling had expressed in an interview that even though she doesn't believe in the devil, she actually talked to witches and satanists to make her book more believable. How about that? For all above stated, I am disturbed by the review of the last movie in L'observatore Romano. I will not change my stand towards all the Potter paraphernalia, but I am concerned some people might be confused. Elvia Leyva, Houston, TX

  2. This is the same O'Brien who feels Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is suspect. The word "daft" comes to mind.

  3. Whenever I read such rigorous criticism of the Harry Potter series, I'm strongly inclined to wonder if we would've given such demanding care to Tolkien, Lewis, or Disney if we'd been about when those men provided their works.
    If someone wants to tell me that Gandalf, Aslan, or some of Disney's characters have few faults for the Catholic mind, I must suggest re-reading or re-watching those series.

    It's plausible to argue that Rowling's stories make much more vigorous use of magic, or that there's a much more determined vanguard of people about who'd be happy to use such materials to promote witchcraft or similar concerns. It's also plausible to point out that any parent who's monitoring their kids can help their children understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

    Then too, if we're going to blast the Potter books for sorcery, I think we also need to condemn those series related to Superman and other superheroes. We DEFINITELY need to hammer the X-Men! These characters bear little resemblance to the real world for most people; they certainly don't even mention the existence of God.

    If we want to argue about the risk associated with making magic look normal and routine, that's one thing, but let's remember that these stories have lots of interest precisely BECAUSE the characters seem to have lots in common with the average man.

    If we really want to grouch about the Potter series, seems to me we need someone to write an equally compelling bunch of books focusing more thoroughly on Christian themes. ..Or maybe we ought to focus more vigorously on those we already have.

    Either way, I think the average person who's come to some degree of spiritual maturity can handle the Potter series. I think Rowling wrote them following the characters through about 7 years precisely to allow us to watch the kids mature.

    I think keeping things in perspective helps a great deal.

  4. The problem this article exposes is with the editorial philosophy of the Newspaper the Vatican publishes daily. A bishop needs to be the editor of the paper. Period. All too often the paper slips into this, and worse, deviations.

  5. Having read harry potter was what enabled me to enjoy reading and lead me to read the twilight series, which then lead me to the chronicles of narnia which then lead me to the bible. I think when people make it a bigger deal than it is that actually makes the opposite happen. Our holy father has not read all the books I don't think but if he said not to then I would listen and no longer have anything to do with them. But I think in my case jk rolling lead me to Christ and for that I am grateful. Don't know if I could have had that opportunity if the church was the bad guy and forbid me ever finding her.

  6. @ John, okay, let's see so Cardinal R. expressed concern over the Potter books, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, has repeatedly condemned the Harry Potter novels and you John say....I think the average person who's come to some degree of spiritual maturity can handle the Potter series. Okay, so now I'm left deciding if I want to believe the church of John OR . . the church of Cardinal R., now Pope, a man who has studied God and his church and salvation history his entire life and the chief exorcist, the single person who probably has the most encounters with the devil on earth and possession. As usual, I’m sticking with the general (Pope) on this one. I think there are MANY more useful ways to spend my time, say reading one of Benedict’s many books, or studying philosophy, rather than engaging in Harry Potter. I too could watch tons of rated R movies with lots of violence, and say as a mature male of 40 years old, that I have come to some degree of maturity with violence, and can handle it. But at question is, I don’t want that junk in my brain. I want God’s light in my brain and frankly don’t want Potter, rated R, violence, sex or anything else in my brain. There’s just no need for it. I’m trying to clean house from the secular world working me for 30 years and I don’t have much time left to purge and fill with the light of Christ. Also, the more I think with the mind of God, I think the better chance I have getting to heaven and since His Church and vicar of Christ on earth says he has problems with this series, that’s good enough for me. Obedience, a lost discipline.