Wednesday, February 4, 2015

To the Harry Potter Finger-Waggers: Sorcery in the Bible vs Living in a Magical World


Dear Lady Who Commented on My Instagram Photo,

I can't remember your name, because I deleted your comment very quickly. I don't usually delete comments, but I just didn't want a whole big thing to get started. I had a party to plan.

The photo was this one . . .


of the handmade wands of paper and glue and paint that my daughter made to give to her friends at her birthday party. I can't remember exactly what your comment was, either, but it referenced "all magic" being "evil" and "dangerous." I do remember that much. 

I'm not here to say that you, or anyone else, has to like the Harry Potter books. I'm not here to say that you, or anyone else, even has to READ the Harry Potter books. People get to have their own preferences. But I would like to clear up what seems to be a common misunderstanding among people who malign the Harry Potter books, or even just have heard a lot about them, but haven't read them, and don't know what to think: that the practice of magic, in any context, is inherently evil, because it says so in the Bible.

The Bible does denounce magic and magicians, (as does the Catechism of the Catholic Church, here and here) but it does so under a certain set of circumstances that we, as discerning Christians, would be wise to pay attention to. The Bible condemns magicians primarily for their deception, the way that they use "magic" to trick people into following false gods, as in the magicians of Pharaoh who opposed Moses throughout the twelve plagues, and Simon the Sorcerer who is converted by St. Philip in Acts. The Bible also condemns mediums for the invocation of dead spirits.

I actually wasn't able to find any Bible quotes that refer to magic as cooperation with or invocation of "the devil" by name, but certainly we'd agree that we would want to avoid glorifying those practices as well.

If we look at the fictional world in which Harry Potter lives, we'll see that none of those prohibitions would apply to our young wizard's situation. In Harry Potter's world, magic powers aren't something that can be sought. They can't be gained by a deal with the devil. They can't be increased by occult ceremonies. You are either born with magical powers or you're not.

In our world, some people seek to cultivate a relationship with the devil in the hope of gaining magical powers. I don't personally have any firsthand knowledge as to whether that's actually even possible in our world, but in NO way is that what happens to Harry Potter or his friends. Harry's gift of magic powers seems most akin to something like great musical talent. It often runs in families, but every now and again a musical prodigy will spring up from an unlikely place in an unmusical family. He just has a special talent. He didn't make any deals with the devil to get it.


In a couple of instances in the books, Harry is able to have momentary contact with his parents and other loved ones, who have passed away, but it isn't through any mediums or seances or invocations of dead spirits. His contact with his parents is an unexpected consequence of his self-sacrifice, and the self-sacrifice of his parents. There are no spells that can raise the dead or contact them, and the character in the books who goes to terrible lengths to try to prevent his own death, is clearly seen to be wrong. And evil. And pitiable. Again, Harry's contact with his parents is a function of the fact that he lives in a world with magic and magic wands. What happens in his world would not be possible in our own.

Harry doesn't use his magical powers to try to lead people into belief in false gods. In fact, in the Harry Potter books there is no overt mention of religion at all. As in other popular fantasy stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, the Harry Potter books use themes of good vs evil, and great personal sacrifice, to relay Christian themes, rather than writing directly about God and the devil.


But I do think it's worth pointing out to you that the author herself, J.K. Rowling, has stated that she is a Christian, and that she absolutely intended the Christian themes found in her books.

Magic in fiction is used as a plot device. In fairy tales and fantasy stories, magic allows for characters and worlds wildly different than our own, and yet familiar, somehow. We can lose ourselves in the wonder and novelty of it all, which opens us up to learn truths about ourselves and our own world.

We see this clearly in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings books. Those worlds are full of magic, and in the case of the Narnia books, that magic bleeds back and forth between Narnia and England, just as it does in the Harry Potter books. 

The end of Harry's story is about ultimate self-sacrifice, redemption, the fight of good against evil, and as with Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, death and resurrection. In the final book we see that Harry is, like Aslan, truly a Christ-figure.

Unlike Aslan, Harry is imperfect. He disregards rules. He loses his temper. But, that makes him relatable and inspiring. (In an I-can-also-overcome-personal-tragedy-and-triumph-over-evil-and-my-baser-inclinations way, not in a hey-I-should-be-a-wizard way.)

If you yourself, our your particular children have a temptation towards the occult or new age practices, perhaps none of these fantasy series would be a good choice for your home. But if you don't find yourself in that situation, I would encourage you to pick up the books for yourself, and read what the stories are really about, and not blindly accept as true the unfair characterizations presented by some Christian fundamentalists, or exaggeratedly attributed to a future pope.


I would encourage you to read these books. Maybe you just won't like them. Some folks don't. But most folks do. And if you like them, you'll get to share them and their whimsy and humor and tragedy and powerful messages with your children.

My own policy for most children's entertainment is three steps: share, discuss, repeat. Harry turns eleven in the beginning of the first book, and, for my own kids, ten or eleven has seemed like an appropriate age at which to let them start reading the books. The Harry Potter books seem to be a good bridge for after they have read The Chronicles of Narnia, but aren't yet ready to read The Lord of the Rings.

Kids who started reading the Harry Potter books as they were coming out had to wait a year in between each release, which meant a boy who started reading the first book at eleven, would have been eighteen when he read the last book. It feels like the author wrote them with a maturing audience like that in mind. Certainly the books get more complex and intense and have heavier themes as they go along. But the darker themes of the latter books are war and politics, and difficult decisions, and deaths of beloved characters, not the occult or moral relativism.

I plan to evaluate my own kids on an individual basis, but I was comfortable allowing my oldest son to read all of the books as a tween, and I plan to let my newly-eleven-year-old daughter do the same. I'll be available to answer any questions she has about Harry's choices, and to comfort her if the ending makes her cry (as it did me). But the magic won't worry me one bit. I hope all this helps explain why.

Cheers,
Kendra


P.S. Stay tuned for the party recap post, coming soon!


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84 comments:

  1. Great post! I think there would have been such a void in my reading if I hadn't been able to enjoy the Harry Potter books growing up. I loved them (and still do)!

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  2. Yes, yes, and yes. I was so bummed when the "Harry Potter from a Christian Perspective" class at our co-op got dropped because not enough people signed up for it. You share some excellent points. I like your take on when to start reading them. What do you do about the movies? Do your kiddos watch them after they finish each book?

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    1. My big kids have seen all of the movies, and my little kids have seen the first (pre-bedtime) half of all of them. My oldest son had read the books and wanted to see the movies, and it turned into a family event. There is just so much more detail and character development in the books that I really don't think they can be "spoiled" by the movies. There are certainly scary parts in all of the movies, but for whatever reason, none of my kids is bothered by it.

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  3. I'm so glad you brought up C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. It amazes me how many people can somehow recognize the Christian themes and see that those books are okay, yet they still have a problem with Harry Potter. And so often people who criticize them start the argument with "I've never read the book but...."

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  4. I would go so far as to say that some of us are called to perform magic....we call them miracles....case in point every priest has been given the mystical power of changing mere bread and wine into the true body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.....magical, mystical, miracle!

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  5. Great explanation. I also feel like the fictional stories of magic add a little charm and magic to childhood. My youngest thinks snow is pixie dust :)

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  6. Re-typing. I forgot your site always loses my comment when it tries to log me in.

    So! I agreed with everything you said here, except I thought it was funny that you felt Harry Potter was a good bridge between Narnia and Lord of the Rings. My children got LOTR on audio book for Easter last year, and have played it (nearly) nightly ever since. (My oldest is 10, and shares a room with his 6-year-old brother). They LOVE it! :-) But I haven't felt that they were ready for the deep emotion, trauma, and darker themes of the last three Harry Potter books. And since I know once they start the series that they will probably read non-stop 'til they've finished the whole thing, (and I won't see them for two weeks in the meantime,) I have just felt like they needed to wait a bit longer before they dive into that. I think they will love the first few books, and I know they'll want to read them all to know what happens, but there's a lot of heavy stuff in those last three books! So, for my family, that's what has worked for now, but I am really looking forward to sharing these books with them, hopefully soon. Maybe we should read them outloud together, and that way it will go a bit slower and they'll have more time to process. Hmmm.

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    1. My kids have all HEARD The Lord of the Rings books, my husband is reading through them aloud for the second time now. But the language is more complicated in Tolkein than in either Lewis or Rowling, so I don't think my kids would be able to handle reading them themselves yet. That said, I feel like the intensity of Lord of the Rings is at a similar level to Harry Potter, there's war and great violence, although the deaths of main characters in Harry Potter are more difficult (and more lasting.)

      I love the Harry Potter books as a family read aloud. My husband and I read them aloud together when we were engaged and newly married.

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  7. As a further thought, don't you find the last bit, where Harry asks his gone beloved ones to walk with him during his final moments quite Catholic?? Cause booyah. I was reading that part going, where are all the Protestants and their rage?

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    1. To clarify... In reference to the communion of the saints... Not the souls in purgatory.

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    2. Yes, absolutely Carolyn. Quite Catholic. :0)

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  8. LOVED this. Growing up, I went to a Lutheran grade school, and when we started to read the first book in 3rd grade, my over-zealous but well meaning mother protested and I wound up sitting out in the hallway while the entire class read the book. (Talk about embarrassing!) I never really held it against her, but it's because of thatevent that I never really "got into" Harry Potter. I eventually read the first and second book, but just kind of fell off from there, not for any moral reason just for regular "busy life" reasons. I've since read a lot of great posts like yours that definitely clear things up for those of us that may have been misinformed or confused by a lot of similar banter when the series first gained popularity. But I'm definitely in complete agreement with all you've said. Awesome perspective!

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  9. I have read the books, watched the movies, and love the story. But I was once warned by a very well-intentioned friend that the spells in the book are real occult incantations so children could be invoking evil without realizing it when casting "wingardium leviosa" or any other such spells. Any of the more educated readers of this blog (or Kendra) happen to know if there is any truth to that?

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    1. There's no truth to that at all. This is from a Dateline NBC interview in 2003:

      Couric: But Rowling’s ruthlessness has come under fire. Some parents have criticized her for over-emphasizing dark themes such as death. And some religious groups have gone as far as saying the novels are potentially harmful and promote occultism.

      Rowling: “I think that’s utter garbage. I absolutely do not believe in the occult, practice the occult. I’ve never… I’ve met literally thousands of children now. Not one of them has said to me you’ve really turned me on to the occult, not one of them. Now I’m convinced that if that’s what my books were doing, I would by now have met one child who would have come up to me, covered in pentagrams and said, ‘Can we you know, go and sacrifice a goat later together, will you do that with me?’ It’s never happened, funnily enough.”

      Couric: “You find it very annoying, I can tell.”

      Rowling: “Well occasionally I do, just occasionally I do. Because I am being accused of something quite horrible. So of course I’ve got to defend myself.”

      Couric: “What do you believe in? I’m just curious about your belief system — God, heaven?”

      Rowling: “Well, I do believe in God.”

      Couric: “You do?”

      Rowling: “Yeah, which I’ve said before, but that just seems to annoy them even more For some reason. I don’t think they want me on their side at all.”

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    2. I've read all the books. All the spells are Latin. For example, the example you gave basically means "Wing" and "to float." They are basically speaking in Latin which isn't any different than attending a Mass in Latin, singing in Latin, or in the case of doctors using Latin terminology. I don't think doctors, priests, or singers are calling down demons and neither do I think the Harry Potter kids. They are basically telling the object "to float" like a bird. No different than me arguing with my computer only I tell it in English to "load" or "work" or "no, don't do that." Sometimes it obeys me; other times I have to do something a little creative.

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    3. Thanks Kendra and Deltaflute!

      I think my friend meant that even if Rowling hadn't intended for the spells to be real, she touched on something real.

      Still, it's compelling that J.K. Rowling hasn't heard of a single case where a child was turned on to the occult by reading her books. If there was any truth to the so-called occult incantations, there would have to have been some fallout.

      And it's a good point that all the spells are in Latin, so understanding their real meaning is as simple as using a Latin dictionary.

      Thanks again!

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    4. Karen - also to Rowlings credit, everything she oversees in the HP line (the world at Disney, the online website, etc.) is very heavily ensconsed in the idea that this is make believe, detailed, yes, but still a fantasy. Notice how despite her proclivity to release "teaser side stories" and short books in the HP world (Beedle the Bard) she's never released an HP "spell book", Pottermore is not a place to actually train or encourage real forays into sorcery just an online site for fans and her to interact and Harry Potter World at Disney takes itself about as seriously as the rest of the park.

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  10. Very well said!!! I agree with everything you said and also with the comments about how so many anti-Harry Potter people start their conversations with "I never read it but..." and how at the part with the loved ones walking with him is so Catholic. Lastly, the audio books read by Jim Dale are amazing, our family has listened to them again and again.

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    1. Oh, Jim Dale! It's practically like listening to a movie except they didn't cut anything out to fit it into a 2 hr time block. I LOVE those audio books. Those are our family's go-to for long car rides!

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  11. I agree 100% -- I can't wait to share these books with my kids (they're only 2 and 6 weeks, so I have some time).

    I just wanted to add that there IS one mention of religion in the book, although you wouldn't know it if you didn't already know it: Harry's parents' tombstones have a Bible verse on them. 1 Corinthians 15:26, "The last enemy to be defeated is death." It doesn't include the chapter and verse, and Harry needs Hermione to explain to him that it's not meant the way the Death Eaters mean it, but it's there and I've always loved it!

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    1. Actually, it occurs to me that the book says, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (Instead of defeated.) Still 1 Corinthians, just a different translation, but I suddenly heard Jim Dale in my head saying the line and realized I'd gotten it wrong. :)

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  12. Karen, the spells in the book seem to mostly be just clever Latin-ish words and phrases that refer back to whatever magic is being done with them. JK Rowling is a linguist, and is very good at understanding how just the sound of a word, even a made-up one, can evoke an image or feeling. One of the most brilliant spells is the deadly "Avada Kedavra" -- this works in two way, as a play on the not-at-all sinister magician's phrase "Abra Cadabra" using hard "V" and "K" sounds that automatically seem scary and evil to us, and turning the second word into something that sounds like "cadaver"," a dead body. They aren't real spells, just really good writing!

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    1. This is an excellent observation, Rosemary. I love it.

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  13. @Karen Perez, that's what concerns me as well. Here is a quote from the Women of Grace website:

    "The spells and rituals in the Harry Potter books aren’t the figment of author J.K. Rowling’s imagination. They’re real. For instance, in the first book alone, former occult practitioner and expert Toni Collins lists the “Sorting Ceremony” described on pages 117-122, the Body-Bind spell on page 273 and brews listed in Professor Snape’s potions class on pages 136-139, as being authentic. She said only someone who has engaged in these practices would know they weren’t fantasy, and only someone who had done meticulous research into Wiccan practices could have written them. (See http://www.envoymagazine.com/harrypotter.htm )

    Collins is far from alone. Other former occult practitioner, such as Steve Wood, host of St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers radio show, also confirmed that he used many of the rituals that are casually described in Potter books.

    Perhaps the most telling confirmation that the books teach true sorcery comes from exorcists themselves, all of whom unequivocally condemn the books. Rome’s infamous exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, told the Italian ANSA news agency in December, 2001 that “behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the King of darkness, the devil.” "

    I'm not a finger wagging naysayer. I just feel that when there are people who seem like pretty credible experts to me in this field say, "HP is dangerous, don't read it," I'm not going to. There is so. much. great literature out there, it doesn't seem to me that we're missing out by not reading Potter.

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    1. I think people who engage in occult practices have a lot to gain by trying to claim the Harry Potter books, but I'm willing to accept the author at her word. She says she doesn't practice the occult, she doesn't believe in it, and that's not what her books are about.

      Again, it's fine with me if the books just aren't for you, but, as a person who writes things myself, it would take a LOT to convince me to disregard an author's own explanation of the meaning of what she wrote, especially when it squares with my own experience of reading the books.

      As for one particular priest not liking the Harry Potter books, the Catholic Church allows the faithful to make our own decisions about books, and that includes priests. Fr. Amorth doesn't care for them, I'm sure his like experience would make it very difficult for him to enjoy a book like these.

      But there are also many good and holy priests who do like them: George Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Australia, has told Christians to stop fearing the Harry Potter films are promoting witchcraft. Pell said after seeing the movie he believed the tales were full of good moral teaching. "Its important for all of us, and children to learn that good and evil are real spiritual forces, that each of us has to commit himself against evil. "Some christians have criticised both the book and film as giving respectability to witchcraft, to the occult world of good and bad magic. To my mind there is not much danger of this, because the world of fantasy is so extreme, such a clever and unusual stimulation of the imagination, its clearly unreal, interesting and totally peculiar.

      Priests, like the rest of us, get to have their own opinions about books.

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    2. I think it's wise to assume a wide chance for coincidence. Rowling wrote these books using her imagination and a lot of these "wiccan" practices coming from the use of imagination as well (my understanding is that a lot of it is very personal, and each individual is responsible for creating the practice that suits him or her.... therefore using imagination). Things like a happiness or truth "potion", a "spell" or "power" that keeps someone from moving or any sorting ceremony (we were "sorted" in girl scout camp for instance) are all things a small child could imagine up. And I'm not trying to insult Rowling, I love her imagination, but when you boil away the storytelling and all the details it's something you could find in any backyard game across the world.

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    3. Cardinal George Pell doesn't make me want to read Harry Potter more- he seems to be more on the liberal side of issues, from things I have read about him.

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    4. Okay Caroline, but you're sounding a little nitpicky here. I also personally know priests of Opus Dei who recommend the Harry Potter books, and no one has accused THEM of being liberal. My husband just had a discussion with his friend Fr. Ed on the whole Harry as Christ-figure thing. I also know a different priest of Opus Dei who can't be bothered with them. But I think that's mostly because he's an intellectual-type and I don't think he'd get much enjoyment from the genre. Anyway, Cardinal Pell isn't the only one.

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    5. I have been known to be nitpicky.

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  14. Well, you've done it! I've been on the fence about reading the Harry Potter books for awhile now. Never completely opposed, more just that I'm a bit older and was out of the typical age range for Harry Potter when they came out. But Haley has piqued my interest, and now you've just pushed me over the edge. I will be purchasing them at the first opportunity. My only concern now is when I will have the time to read. I know myself, and get very lost in books very easily. I'm already sleep deprived with a unpredictable baby! Should I wait until she's sleeping a bit better?

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    1. Audiobooks! The HP audiobooks are fantastic. =)

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  15. I love this and I totally agree. An alternate world where God isn't (or hasn't revealed Himself in the same way) is not the same as this world, contravening God. These are such great stories and the good v evil, and how love can be enough to turn someone good, and how we always have to choose good because we aren't just good or bad, are good conscience builders.

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  16. My husband, who researches medieval philosophy, claims that St. Albert the Great actually says the use of natural magic is completely acceptable. That is the sort of magic in Harry Potter. But you also see it in the legends of King Arthur with the magician Merlin, who is also a character in the C.S. Lewis' space trilogy. If you want me to send you the quotations from St. Albert, I would be happy to ask my husband for them.

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    1. Very interesting. I would be game to have them esp. Since I'm a huge Arthur fan. My email is betweenthelinen (at) gmail (dot) com.

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  17. Yes, yes, YES! Thank you! <3 I didn't read HP until I was an adult. (My family bought into the whole they-are-way-too-evil hoopla), but I was actually rather blown away by them. So was my hubby -- we read them at the same time. :-)

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  18. My only qualm with the series is the merciful killing portion of the plot. Why not use phoenix tears to heal Dumbledore? Maybe JK already addressed that. Needless to say, the rest of it is splendid and one can always discuss that part with ones children.

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    1. You make a very good point. I would need to re-read (well re-re-re-read the book), but I think the take away point is that both the victim and perpetrator are willing to do anything to prevent DM from damaging his soul (committing mortal sin). It is also necessary to the plot for the victim of the "mercy killing" to be dead and for the perpetrator to remain suspect.

      I would love to know if JKR has discussed this. As a parent, it provides a starting point for discussing the sanctity of life of people with terminal illness. It is clearly not an ideal death for the victim and is a source of extreme distress for the perpetrator. One of my favorite aspects of the books (especially as they progress) is that no one is perfect. Everyone is flawed and struggles with their own set of sins. This is another example.

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    2. It certainly is a very complex situation. And there's no getting around the fact that Dumbledore says that he wants Snape to kill him to "avoid pain and humiliation" and that he "would prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved . . . or Bellatrix, who like to play with her food before she eats it." The first quote does sound like a "dying with dignity" type request. But the second quote makes it sound more complex, like he doesn't want his death to glorify or empower his enemies.

      I think it can be argued that, given the particular circumstances they were in, it could be morally defensible. Dumbledore was offering what was left of his life, like Ali mentions above, to save Draco's soul. Dumbledore says, "The boy's soul is not yet so damaged. I would not have it ripped apart on my account." Isn't Dumbledore offering to die in the place of another (another's soul at least), like St. Maximillian Kolbe did in the concentration camp?

      And the way the story was written, Snape, as a spy, had had to make an unbreakable vow that he, Snape, would kill Dumbledore if Draco was unable to do it himself. That's what Dumbledore and Snape both wanted, to keep Draco from coming mortal sin by killing Dumbledore. If Snape broke the unbreakable vow, he would die, and then couldn't be of further use in the fight against Voldemort. If this is a just war, and clearly the fight against Voldemort would be, then spy tactics and self-sacrifice like this could be defensible.

      There's also the whole Elder Wand angle. Dumbledore planned that since Snape would have killed him by mutual agreement, and did not defeat him, the allegiance of the wand would stay with Dumbledore, and upon his death, the wand's power would die with him. But because Draco had disarmed Dumbledore, the wand's allegiance went to Draco (though Voldemort believed it to be with Snape, which is why Voldemort killed him). Then, Harry disarmed Draco, so the wand's allegiance went to Harry, so when Voldemort tried to use the Elder Wand to kill Harry, it backfired and killed himself (but only after Harry's very cool and awfully Catholic afterlife scene). Then Harry repaired his old wand, and replaced the Elder Wand in Dumbledore's tomb so that, as Dumbledore had planned, when Harry died of natural causes, the power of the wand would die with him. So, again, are the sacrifices of Snape to kill Dumbledore, and Dumbledore to allow himself to be killed, morally acceptable to try to remove from the world a weapon like the Elder Wand, and prevent Voldemort from doing unimaginable damage with it?

      It's all very twisty and turn and messy and complicated, and Ms, Rowling didn't HAVE to write is like this. Still, it makes for a great story, and I think it just MIGHT add up to okay. And either way it's an interesting place to start a discussion with kids. Why couldn't Dumbledore just let Draco kill him? Why couldn't he just jump off of the tower? What is just war? Are we allowed to sacrifice ourselves for someone else? How is that different that suicide? Etc.

      Anyway. Interesting question, crazy long answer. I re-read chapter thirty-three of The Deathly Hallows and everything. That's the kind of commitment to excellence you're going to get around here.

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    3. I'm impressed! Thanks for the re-read and direct quotes. I didn't even think of the elder wand aspect of it. That adds another layer - bringing to mind sacrifices made during military combat.

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  19. Ihttp://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=4624

    Something to think about.

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    1. This is exactly the sort of life experience that would make reading the Harry Potter books a bad idea for a particular person. But I think it's important to note that the Harry Potter books are a bad idea for her because she had personally had previous involvement with the occult, and not that reading the Harry Potter books led her to an involvement in or even an interest in the occult.

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    2. I read through the entire article mentioned in the link above and it has several sections in the books, with page numbers etc., pointing out some problematic areas. Minor as they may seem in the greater story; what is your opinion of these parts in the book?

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    3. Not having the personal life experience with the occult that the author of this article has, none of the things that are problematic for her are problematic for me. Of COURSE there are spells and rituals and (my goodness) candles in the books, they are about a magical world at a school for magic. The magic in the books isn't attempting to communicate with demons as was the magic of the former-wicca practitioner that the article mentions. And that's the HUGE IMPORTANT difference. Occultists in our world use magic to cooperate with the devil. No one in the Harry Potter books -- not even the bad guys -- do that.

      Then she lays claim to particular words like "glory" and "transfigure" and claims no author may use them unless specifically speaking about angels or the Transfiguration of the Lord, which seems like a bit much. Authors get to use words, even words that Catholics use.

      Again, this article's author has had a damaging life experience dabbling in the occult. I'm sorry she went through it and I'm very happy that that is all in the past for her now. It necessarily colors how she experiences these books. I absolutely understand her not enjoying the books herself, but that's because of her own past, not because of any agenda within the books.

      There are a handful of different articles like this, written by people with a personal history of the occult or new age practices, then reading the Harry Potter books and not liking or recommending them. But I think it's telling that I can't find a single one in which a person even claims to have read Harry Potter FIRST, then become involved in the occult. Maybe it's out there, but I can't find it. And I'm not going to do a lot of looking, and I don't recommend others do either. I have zero interest in reading at all about actual occult practices. Even clicking on those websites gives me the willies.

      Harry Potter doesn't give me the willies, it makes be feel wonder. But that's colored by MY life experience.

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    4. Kendra, I really loved your post and I really loved this response. The Harry Potter books were so wonderful for me and just like the Narnia and Lord of the Rings books, HP really helped me think about my fears, losses, sins, victories, loves, and my God. I appreciate how your logic, faith, and love of a good book have all come together here. Kudos.

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    5. I agree with your summation in the comment above Kendra. I tried reading the (well intentioned) article linked in the comment which you responded to and could not finish it. I have no knowledge of actual occult practices, but even reading the descriptions in that article were too much for me.
      Harry Potter has never left me feeling sick or creeped out. To me, the "magic" in Harry Potter is an allegory for our God given abilities. We have free will to use our talents altruistically - acting from a place of love and trust in the inherent goodness of others - or selfishly - acting from a place of fear and pride. Every magical character in Harry Potter (well, every major character, magical or not) faces that conflict.

      It is reiterated throughout the stories that love is the greatest magic of all - capable of defeating all other magic. (1 John 4:8 - The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. & 1 Peter 4:8 - Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins) The author makes it quite clear that the type of love described by Dumbledore as the strongest magic must be pure true love - it cannot be created or imitated and it often comes at great personal sacrifice.
      I think one of the beautiful aspects of the series is that this most potent magic (love / God) is the only "magic" described in the books that is available to people outside of Harry Potter's fantasy world.

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    6. Awww . . . Ali, this is beautiful.

      And I agree with you on the creep-out factor of these articles. I keep having to say St. Michael prayers all day long reading these descriptions of real-life occult practices.

      It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote in the preface to The Screwtape Letters: "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

      I believe in the existence of devils. But I'm not at ALL interested in finding out more about them. I just want to think about fizzing whizbees and quaffles and how useful Hermione's little evening bag would be in my daily life.

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    7. Wouldn't that purse be AMAZING? Better than an invisibility cloak for sure. Also I admire your thoroughness with these comments. My kids got in trouble while I just read it

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  20. If I could give you a standing ovation from my desk without disturbing everyone around me, I absolutely would. I will also try to refrain from writing a novel of a response.

    Basically I love all things Harry Potter - I was one of those kids who grew up reading the books, attended/hosted release parties, and was 17 when the last book came out. When I was about 13 (I think the 4th book was out) my dad, who is Protestant, tried and failed to ban the books from our house because he heard some Bible expert denounce them on the radio. That was a frustrating few weeks but eventually he came around and now enjoys the movies (he still refuses to read the books, though). The books were banned in my private Protestant elementary/middle school but by high school we were all reading them anyway.

    Because the books mature as they progress (the characters mature, the plot progresses, it makes sense that darker themes are explored) I think it's great that you're evaluating the maturity of your kids as individuals to determine when they're ready to read them on their own. I feel like your kids are really comfortable discussing what they read with you so they can have that time to reflect on the characters' choices and the effects of those choices.

    As for those who continue to say that J.K. Rowling and her work promote the occult in young children, I've basically adopted a policy of rolling my eyes and letting them naysay, especially when those comments are so often prefaced with, "I haven't read the books, but..."

    I hope Betty's party was/is (?) fantastic - Harry Potter themed parties are still a favorite of mine.

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  21. The magic in Harry Potter is also simply a substitute for technology most times. Notice how no one has cell phones or computers?

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    1. Great point! Often the magical convention is a poor substitute for technology.
      Although I think the books were meant to start sometime in the early 1990's - so pre-cell phone for the average person. But I don't think they use regular phones either.

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  22. What is Betty doing in glasses? Has she recently been found to need them? It looks like Louise can't walk yet but has mastered reading at a very early age. I didn't notice any connection to the occult at Betty's Harry Potter birthday party but rather a group of kids having a wonderful time to a magical theme..

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  23. Here's a great article about HP.
    http://www.traditioninaction.org/HotTopics/d003ht.htm

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    1. The author of the above article seems not to understand what fiction is. Or fantasy. It's as if she believes that Harry Potter lives in our world and performs magic here. Which isn't the case. I hadn't read this article before, but it's EXACTLY the viewpoint I was writing against in my post here. Harry Potter lives in a fictional, magical world. He is none of the awful things she claims. There are no demons involved.

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  24. Thank you so much for this post!! I was just thinking about Harry Potter and the Catholic (or just Christian) perspective the other day, and I was really hoping I wouldn't have to give up HP. I am currently in the middle of reading all the Harry Potter books aloud to my husband who has never read them (we're on Order of the Phoenix), and he loves them too. Thank you for this great post that explained the nuance in believing in a magical world versus all that evil stuff.

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  25. "The end of Harry's story is about ultimate self-sacrifice, redemption, the fight of good against evil, and as with Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, death and resurrection."

    Yes.

    And thanks for the link!

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  26. My wife sent me this article to dissuade me from my current position. I am not totally opposed. I did read one book and watched all 8 movies twice. I enjoyed them because in totally love all things British and Michael Gamblin and other cast are amazing. With that said I still have reservations on two counts.
    First, the danger is not that you are letting satan in by watching but any degree you allow him he will take. The number one google search following several movie releases was "how to cast a spell". That is dangerous.
    Secondly, and more directly related to the occult is that in the fourth movie (and book) they show a satanic ritual. It is done by the antagonist, yes, but it is there (where wormtail brings voldemort back in the flesh at the end of the maze). The style this was done literally presents us something from the occult.
    These are my reservations and my wife and I don't see eye to eye. I err on the side of protecting what comes into my household with everything we watch and read.

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    1. My wife says I was supposed to leave name. I'm Daniel Schmit, and my wife is Juliana.

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    2. Until recently, I have never had any desire to even look into the Harry Potter books- I am 43 years old, so when the books first came out I was already in my late 20s. Now I have started reading all these Catholic mom blogs and have found them for the most part, to be in favor of the books. I have four children, the oldest being 9, and an avid reader who just finished re reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and so I thought, well maybe I will see about these Harry books... but the more I read about them here, the less inclined I am to set them before her. No, I have never read them, but I think I have enough information to decide that she won't be any the worse for not having had the Harry Potter experience. I know there is the good vs. evil theme in the books, but there is also the occult in them throughout the stories, and I agree with the comment above about protecting what comes into the home. I am currently reading Surpised by Joy, by CS Lewis, which deals with his reversion to faith. I had always thought he had been an atheist his whole life, but it turns out he became an atheist in his early teens, when he became interested in the occult and "other-worldly" subjects, and he states that it happened quite unexpectedly in conversations held with a respected matron at his school, who was "still in her spiritual immaturity, still hunting, .... for the truth and a way of life. She was flounderinng in the mazes of Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Spiritualism, the whole Anglo-American Occultist tradition. Nothing was further from her intention than to destroy my faith; she could not tell that the room into which she brought this candle was full of gunpowder."

      He then writes "It is a great mistake to suppose that children believe the things they imagine; and I long familiar with the whole imaginary world of Animal-Land (which I could not possibly believe in since I knew I was one of the creators) was as likely as any child to make that mistake. But now, for the first time, there burst upon me the idea that there might be real marvels all about us, that the visible world might be only a curtain to conceal huge realms uncharted by my very simple theology. And that started in me something with which, on and off, I have had plenty of trouble since- the desire for the preternatural, simply as such, the passion for the Occult. NOt everyone has this disease; those whoo have will know what I mean. It is a spiritual lust., and like the lust of the body it has the fatal power of making everything else in the world seem uniteresting while it lasts." Chapter Four, pages 59-60, Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis.

      Now, this alone gives me pause to introduce my kids to anything with the occult, even when it is portrayed as practiced by the bad characters in the HP books, although it seems by what I read in these posts that some of the spells are being practiced by the good characters too. Perhaps there is no documented case of a child or person who read these books has gone onto practicing the occult seriously, but there does seem to be a rise in evil when it comes to video games, shows, etc., not to mention the casual way the press seems to treat the rise in black masses going on in this country. I may sound alarmist to some I suppose, but again, why put more unnecessary danger out there for my kids, when there are so many good books to read? There are so many exciting stories of saints to read for instance, by Louis de Whol.

      I mean no cause anyone any indignation regarding their love for the Harry Potter books, it sounds like you have many good memories of the books as you read them in your childhood and youth, and perhaps it is because I was not a part of that craze due to my age when the books came out... but after reading all these posts, I have actually been convinced to not bring these into my home, because there are threads of the occult in them with all the spells, and I agree with the above post from Unknown that it may indeed lead some to keep searching for the next thing.

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    3. Hey Daniel, thank you for leaving your name. I do appreciate it. To address your concerns . . .

      My older two kids have read the books, and all of my kids have seen at least some of the movies, and they have been known to run around outside playing Harry Potter and casting spells on one another, but in our home, it's been completely innocent. They can't actually DO it, because it's not real. Anymore than they can actually fly when they play superheroes. It's just pretend.

      My kids have no knowledge of the occult, other than that demon exist, and that we don't mess with them. They are playing at fantasy and make believe, not at anything Satanic.

      I don't know of a single person, in real life or even online who claims to have been led into occult practices by reading the Harry Potter books. There are plenty of people who have been involved in the occult themselves who warn that it is a possibility. But I don't know of any actual cases myself. Because there is no reference to Satan or any occult practices in the books.

      Which brings me to your second concern. The ritual you mention is NOT a satanic ritual. There is no mention of Satan in any way. There are no pentagrams or satanic imagery. It is a magic ritual with a magic spell because they live in a magic world. Voldemort uses a combination of elements: bone of his father, flesh of his servant, blood of his enemy, to restore himself to a physical body. It's magic, but there is no Satan.

      It's all made up, it's all pretend.

      Again, if you feel like your family would be tempted to make the leap from reading about a fictional magic school to researching Satanism, then I certainly support your decision to not read the books. But there are no occult references in the book.

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    4. Caroline, it's hard for me to understand how the same people can support their kids reading the Chronicles of Narnia, but be against Harry Potter. I could understand dismissing both. But both are written by non-Catholic Christians and contain purposeful Christian themes and imagery, and a case can be made that both are Christian allegory. Also both series contain magic and spells.

      Both series are set in actual England AND a magical world. Lucy Pevensie herself performs magic spells from a spell book on the island of the Dufflepuds. She casts a spell to save the Dufflepuds, and she casts a different spell for herself, that she regrets. But still, she's casting magic spells from a magic spell book in the home of a powerful magician.

      Jill and Eustace stand in a circle and chant Aslan's name until they are summoned to Narnia (albeit with the specific disclaimer that it's not one with queer letters in it, and they're not reciting charms and spells and it doesn't work right away). In the Last Battle, Uncle Andrew the magician creates magical objects, the rings, that Jill and Eustace then choose to use in our world to purposefully magically travel to another world.

      Now, I don't personally have a problem with any of that, because it's a fantasy story. But I just can't understand how the same people who love to let their kids read Narnia are so worried about Harry Potter. If Harry Potter would make kids google "how to cast a spell" why wouldn't Lucy Pevensie do the same?

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    5. The same goes for Lord of the Rings, though the descriptive magic is not as prevalent or any Disney/Fairy Tale. The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella says "Bibbity Bobbity Boo" and turns things into something else (and for a lot shallower purpose than defeating an evil wizard), yet no one is boycotting that story as show an occult practce, same for Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, etc., etc.. Almost every Disney Fairy Tale involves the audible and visible casting of magic. If you're going to deny HP on those grounds you'd have to refuse a lot of stories and children's movies.

      I grew up with a deep love of anything escapist and fantasy in terms of novels. If it had a wizard or elves or anything of the sort I loved it and still do, when I started to show an interest, as a young child, in wondering if these fantastical things could actually happen I was taught quickly and succinctly that there is not "good magic" in our world like exists in my favorite stories barring "for the glory of God" miracles, because of the natural order I was told that anything resembling these fantasy books existed in the real world that it would be from an evil source. It was as simple as that; magic was perfectly fine as a game of pretend, but anything resembling those fantasy's was to be avoided at all costs in the real world. It was actually a good conversation to have with a young child.

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    6. I am not against fairy tales, and the magic that goes along with it. We have all sorts of fairy story books, Grimms, Andersen, etc. We've watched the Disney movies and The Smurfs cartoon, Gargamel and spells and all- Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanne. I am NOT against these fantastical gems of childhood, I grew up with them too. I've read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc. etc. etc. The only thing that I can see is that the degree of wizardry and spells SEEMS to be more ENTRENCHED in darkness, and is deeper in the Harry Potter series. It also is a bit worrisome that people who HAVE formerly dealt in the occult should be so opposed to these series, and why.

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  27. Kendra, I think you mean The Magician's Nephew, rather than The Last Battle when you reference Uncle Andrew's rings. It is the creation story of Narnia rather than the end stry of Narnia.

    I feel mixed. I can see both sides. I don't know. I have a problem with Harry not because of the "magic" but because (it seems to me) he never seeks out grown-up help to resolve the issues, but "has to" takeon things himself. The plot in some of the earlier books depends on Harry and co. doing it all on their own. Harry is so much like a normal every day kid, that making those that choice to NOT seek out help, is a big issue. The children who end up in Narnia etc. they are on their own without grownups, give or take. It is not a different version of my child's world where magic = tech. It is a COMPLETELY different world. Ditto LOTR. It seems like the grownup in Harry's world would love to help him, but he inevitably doesn't ask for help or goes out of his way to avoid it. I made that mistake as a teenager and don't want to enchant my kids with that kind of hero (cue personal choice and thus my own literary choice). Just my two cents for my own little family. I like the HP books as an adult but don't like them for my kids .... at least right now. And maybe it would be a great way to start a conversation with my kids about that, but I have a hard time introducing them to such an almost anti-hero and having them absorb that particular Harryness. Hmmm.

    Kendra, Thank you for this. This is the best argument I've come across defending HP. I am thankful to have read it.

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    Replies
    1. You're right, they use them in the Magician's Nephew, but if I remember correctly, they are made to do so by Uncle Andrew, whereas in the The Last Battle they choose themselves to use them to magically travel to Narnia (which I support and would TOTALLY do myself, given the opportunity).

      I'm a big fan of self-reliance. So that aspect isn't problematic for me. I think Harry shows a lot of respect for the most of the authority figures around him. The ones who don't appear to be trying to kill him anyway. But, as in Narina, and countless other children's books, victory really DOES depend on Harry. How cool is that? And really, by the very end, he's an adult anyway.

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    2. Ditto, I think Henry has a lot of respect for authority, but one of the issues that gets resolved around book 5 or 6 is the adults (Dumbledore and McGonegal in particular I think) realizing that the reason the kids were doing so much on their own and was that the grownups weren't actually paying attention to what they had to say. The Trio seeks out Dumbledore and other teachers repeatedly in the first three books only to be shutdown, told it's none of their business, etc. I thought it was a large plot developement in the later books that showed that kids have good idea, that kids are reliable, trustworthy, etc. if only us adults take a moment to listen.

      In the first book particularly I took away that Voldemort almost suceeded because the adults thought their defenses were perfect, and the kids had to go it alone because no one would listen to them when they started pointing out the weaknesses (even though they came to the wrong conclusion as to which teacher was the enemy).

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  28. Another good read on the subject: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=3814&repos=1&subrepos=0&searchid=1487306

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  29. I can't add much to this conversation, other than to say I agree with you, Kendra, and you stated your points beautifully. No parent has to allow his children to read any book, and every parent should engage with his children in all their reading choices. Personally, I'd be sad to miss out on sharing these excellent books with my children!

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  30. Sorry, but the evidence points to the contrary, Kendra. I say this not to cause you or anyone else to be angry. I promise! True charity is helping one another grow closer to Our Lord, even if it causes one to be upset for a time. Kendra, your blog helps me to grow me closer to God! :)

    Gabrielle Amorth, the Vatican's Chief Exorcist for 25 years, stated that both the Twilight series and the Harry Potter Series "led to evil". Now, I know this is just one guy here saying this, but this guy was appointed by the Vatican and has performed over 70,000 exorcisms. I defer to him.

    Here is the article:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/exorcists-warn-vatican-over-beautiful-young-vampires-and-satanic-yoga-10174001.html

    This is from Women of Grace:
    http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=39037

    And here is a homily given through Audio Sancto ( you can trust these priests with your soul ):
    http://www.romans10seventeen.org/audio-files/20130617-The-Occult-Harry-Potter-and-Combating-the-Demonic.mp3

    I hope that this helps us all to make informed decisions that are in accordance with our Faith! God bless you and your beautiful family! :)

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    1. I've addressed the Fr. Amorth issue in response to other comments, but that is one priest's opinion and not a point of doctrine or an official teaching of the Catholic Church. Fr. Amorth's personal life experience dealing with the occult would necessarily color his personal opinion of and ability to enjoy or recommend the books. I do not recommend the Harry Potter books to anyone with a personal history with the occult, or even a deep interest in the occult, for or against it, as that interest (rather than the content of the books) could cause the books to be a near occasion of sin for those people.

      I personally know good and holy and conservative priests who enjoy and recommend the Harry Potter books. Including my actual confessor, with whom I am actually entrusting my actual soul.

      As for Women of Grace, that's a blog and it carries exactly the same doctrinal weight as my blog, which is exactly none. It's just one opinion, which you are welcome to prefer to my opinion, but it is not binding on other Catholics.

      I think it's important to remember that there ARE practices and opinions that are required of all Catholics. But not all opinions and practices that any one particular Catholic has found helpful in her own journey will be helpful to all Catholics, and they are certainly not required of all Catholics.

      This is an issue upon which good Catholics are allowed to disagree.

      And thanks for your kind words. :)

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    2. Thank you for your patience, Kendra. I'm guess I'm just of the school of thought that if there's ANY chance of a risk to my children's immortal souls, I'll err on the side of caution. God bless!

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    3. Of course I understand that motivation Robin, but, of course, that's a completely impossible position to defend. And I think it's a very Puritanical, rather than a Catholic position to take. I think that's how some religions have ended up with no alcohol, and no dancing, and only prairie dresses. JUST to be safe. I take a hard line position in my home against things that are actually not allowed by the Catholic Church (Ouija boards, pornography, contraception, etc.) but I cannot attempt to ban every single thing from my home that could possibly pose any risk to my children's immortal souls. No one could actually do that. Their own little brains are the most dangerous things they own.

      SO, beyond following the guidelines of the church, I feel like my efforts are best spent addressing actual specific issues my children are struggling with. But not attempting to defend them from something that, for my own kids, is VERY unlikely to be problematic. And also is super cute and fun and creative and has been a source of shared joy for us.

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    4. How can I argue with cute and fun? Alas, you've got me beat. While I completely disagree, and am absolutely dumbfounded as to how someone can dismiss an exorcist's opinion on evil as "just another" opinion, I respect your patience and perseverance. ( Just for the record, we don't live like puritans and wear prairie dresses, although I did, admittedly, use the same fabric that I made a curtain from to make a skirt for one of my daughters, lol! ) With that being said, I genuinely wish you all the best! Thank you for your time! :)

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    5. Thanks Robin, I do really appreciate being able to have a pleasant discussion about something about which we both have strong opinions. The answer to tour last question is that I do consider an exorcist's opinion to be just an opinion and not binding unless it's a matter of doctrine. Also, I'm not actually convinced he read the books. Everyone was quoting Pope Benedict (whom I love)'s opinion about the books, but he never claimed to have read them. He was just answering one woman's opinion. Anyway, thanks :)

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  31. Quick question! I know ouija boards are not something to be messed with, my father always warned us about them, but is there actually an official Vatican ban on Catholics using them?

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    1. Yes there is! Ouija boards are used for divination, which is specifically condemned in multiple places in the Bible. It's also banned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone" (CCC 2116).

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    2. Duh. Of course, shoulda made the connection there myself. Good to have the source, thanks for the quick reply.

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    3. "...a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers" Hmmm....sounds like magic to me.

      The problem, Kendra, is that not all children have good parents like yours do. There are countless thousands who are more or less at the mercy of whatever secular schools and the media throws their way. Children who feel powerless and friendless and alienated are going to enter into this fantasy world Rowling has conceived and become lost in it because they have no other spiritual frame of reference to balance their perspective. Spiritual realities have been removed from the daily lives of most children in the U.S. and Europe and they are absolutely starving for anything to fill that void with a good vs. evil theme, whether it's Star Wars or Potter. Sadly Rowling's books do not present them with the truth of the matter, that only God (not magic, personal attributes, luck, destiny, or friends) can save us. For children who learn that message at home, Potterworld is probably harmless. It's the others I'm worried about. Zachary King (allsaintsministry.com) became a wizard at age 11 and ended up a satanic high priest.

      Here is a link to his Facebook page, and a post written by his wife, in which she says:


      "...an exorcist friend of ours constantly is dealing with families who have let Harry Potter into their homes and have since been struggling with demonic presences. We are told that we will know something by its fruit, but what is the fruit of Harry Potter? I don't see much of an uprising in selfless, sacrificial love. But I do see an uptake in occult obsession, a surge of occult books, even children books that contain actual spells and instructions on how to use magick related items, in book stores and libraries, and above all... possessions, oppressions, and obsessions of people and their homes."

      https://www.facebook.com/Zacharykingallsaintsministry/posts/899841030044577

      With all due respect, the fact that you may not have heard of any of these cases doesn't mean they don't exist. And an officially appointed exorcist isn't just any priest, any more than a cardiologist is just any doctor. We listen to the specialists when it comes to medicine, why not when it comes to demons?

      As parents we need to make balanced, informed judgments about what our children are exposed to. In order to do that, we need to look at all the information and not rely solely on our subjective feelings and experiences. And when the available information conflicts, it may be best to err on the side of caution.

      Is it really okay for impressionable children to read four thousand two hundred and twenty-four pages about magic? (As charmingly, enticingly entertaining as those four thousand pages may happen to be.)

      Julie A.

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    4. All that Zachary King stuff happened years before the first Harry Potter book came out. I can't imagine how we can blame Harry Potter for that.

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