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Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and L'Osservatore Romano

Fourth Sunday of August 2011:
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

In a short, sympathetic treatment of the final Harry Potter movie, L'Osservatore Romano cautions that the tale is “almost too dark,” and some viewers may be troubled by the violence in it. But the review raises no questions about the content of the stories, which have been assailed by some Christian critics. L'Osservatore's analysis concludes:


  • The finale is epic, with a battle worthy of this saga of unequaled planetary success. The decisive meeting between the forces of good and evil is truly the final one, played out in an atmosphere that is almost too dark. The games of magic played by the baby wizards are a thing of the past. The little students of Hogwarts have grown up and the sorcery they learnt now serves to fight against the evil of the dark master and to save the world from his plans. They are fighting a real war. And risking their lives.

  • 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. In a unique and long story of formation, through painful passages of dealing with death and loss, the hero and his companions mature from the lightheartedness of infancy to the complex reality of adulthood.

The problem with literature, as with everyone’s actions, is that evil is not always blatant. Subtle evil is much more harmful since it is more disguised. Most harmful of all is evil under the guise of good which lures us with the power of attraction. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is exactly this—evil that seems good. Here are a few items from a past but still relevant article in The Angelus by Andrea Stoltz:

  • The novel blurs the lines between good and evil, contrary to those who praise Harry Potter for “hav[ing] a strong moral message and clearly portray[ing] good and evil.”1 Yet, time and again, characters who were portrayed as evil turn out to be good, while the good guys end up being villains. Even Harry, the hero of the series, bears striking resemblance to Lord Voldemort, his mortal enemy and the most evil wizard around. The problem materializes when too many of the characters are unreliably good or evil; when you never know who’s who or what side he’s on.

  • Harry is a shining paragon of courage and loyalty, one who is worthy of emulation and awe. Nevertheless, the end justifies the means is a running theme throughout the series. Every time Harry comes out victorious in an endeavor, he has usually used some kind of immoral or at least questionable means to overcome his obstacles.

  • As an example, in the fourth book, Harry is forced to enter the Triwizard Tournament, a “friendly competition.” But had he not had other students, ghosts, Ministry employees and professors giving him the answers to clues and riddles, he never would have been able to complete the tasks set before him. Moody gives a justification for this when he says, “Cheating’s a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament and always has been.”

  • Obedience, to Harry Potter, is not “obeying one’s lawful superiors.” Rather, it is more along the lines of “making it look like you’re not doing anything wrong.” Usually Harry and/or his friends are rewarded for disobeying a professor or a school rule, not reprimanded. If they are reprimanded, it is usually by the professor that is law-abiding, and therefore “out to get them”.

  • Not only are the Harry Potter books full of fact-based, occult drama, but they often involve exceedingly gory details which leave little to the imagination.  For instance, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, a Mandrake is a plant, the root of which is an actual baby.

  • Perhaps the most alarming quality experienced is dangerous curiosity about magic and the occult. Rowling says that she had no intention of luring children into the world of witchcraft when she wrote these books.2 Yet, she herself admits that she has based about one-third of her material on actual occultism.3 She admits that children are really becoming curious about occult practices after reading her books. This is because they just don’t see it as fantasy. The scary thing is―they can do it, and they know they can do it, because Rowling and her world of Harry Potter are telling them they can. Her not so Christian thinking is: “Do what you want, not what your parents want.”4

All in all, perhaps L’Osservatore has not observed enough the full picture of the English novel series, and needs to see that an otherwise thrilling story is not quite sufficient to offer a cheap nihil obstat to a pernicious piece of writing.


1 Bloomsbury Publishing representative. Bloomsbury is Rowling’s UK publisher.

2 Richard Abanes, Harry Potter and the Bible (Camp Hill: Horizon, 2001), pp.22-24.


4 Ibid.

Thanks to Contraception

Third Sunday of August 2011:
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost


The aging population of the United States and European nations is the “true origin of the current economic crisis,” according to the president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. “The costs of an aging population cannot be sustained by young people, who, in addition to being fewer, might also ask themselves why they should do so, especially if they are immigrants.”

To ignore our aging population is dangerous and it has become unavoidable to define a strategy to concretely support families in their natural vocation to have children. Only in this way can a real economic recovery be triggered. Often a two-income family today earns less than the same family thirty years ago earned with only one income. This is mainly a result of the growth of taxes precisely as a means of absorbing the financial consequences of aging due to the decrease in births. “In the end, nature itself teaches us that if a man and a woman do not generate children it is difficult that someone takes care of them when they age. The State can try, but at a very high cost.”1

In the same context, the United States bishops “strongly oppose” a proposal to mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health insurance plans nationwide. “Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

The committee of the Institute of Medicine mandated by the Human Health Resources recommended “the full range” of federally approved contraceptives and sterilization procedures, including the abortion-inducing drug Ella. It would probably also recommend mandatory coverage for surgical abortions, if such a mandate were not prevented by law.

The cardinal added: “I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children,” and for its part, the Institute of Medicine “missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate.”

In simple words, the Church authorities rightly advocate what nature clearly encourages. Welcome children in your families as God wants them: they will turn out to be a blessing for all of society. Do not use medicine which prevents fertility; it not only goes directly against nature but also the Hippocratic Oath presumably taken by doctors.


Padre Pio in the confessional

Let us take to heart the refreshing, although not so diplomatic, words of St. Padre Pio. He explained that abortion is not only homicide but suicide: “You would understand this suicide of the human race if with the eye of reason you could see the ‘beauty and joy’ of the earth depopulated by children, burnt as a desert.” To a penitent who confessed of having provoked abortions, he exclaimed: “Go, away, animal! Go away!2 To another who excused his faults since he received advice from “doctors who said we could procreate a monster”, the saint replied: “You would have deserved it!


Thank God, many are not tempted to abort their children. But this last quote of Padre Pio is especially interesting because the saint's anger was also strongly directed against the sin of contraception. Is there not a danger for many to fall victim to a contraceptive mentality at times? Do many wish perhaps they could decide for themselves how many children to have? Is there not a tendency to carefully avoid conception in conjugal relationships without the grave reasons which could excuse one to do so? Let us remember to trust in God and His Providence; He knows what is best for us...


1 Cf. an editorial of July 21, 2011 at, titled: “Economic strategy for the oldest countries: Children are the engine of recovery”.

2 The Angelus, April 2011.

St. John Nepomucene
St. John Nepomucene (1340-1393),
Martyr for the confessional seal

The Catholic Church
will never violate
the seal of confession

Second Sunday of August 2011:
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

The regent of the apostolic penitentiary, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, firmly stated that the Catholic Church will never divulge the confession of a penitent.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny promised to introduce a new law that would establish a prison sentence of five years for priests who do not inform civil authorities about cases of sexual abuse revealed to them in confession.


Ireland can pass whatever laws it wants, but it must know that the Church will never submit to forcing confessors to inform civil officials.” The proposed law contradicts Canon Law, which defends the inviolability of the seal of confession. “A confessor who breaks the seal of confession is subject to latae sententiae excommunication—which is automatic—by the Church.”

If they want to violate confession, the Church's answer will always be no. All criminals have the duty to render an account of justice for the crimes they have committed, but this does not involve the confessor violating the seal. Confession is a private affair that allows the penitent to amend and purify himself. The seal is a necessary condition,” he said. “This does not mean that bishops should not guard against pedophiles and, once appropriate investigations have taken place, ask these individuals to pay for their crimes,” he added.

The ecclesiastical authority in charge of the protecting the seal of confession explained clearly that we are dealing with two very different “courts”: the court of justice for external deeds which has its own legislation and means of investigation, and the court of mercy, instituted by Christ for the amendment of the penitent in the forum of the conscience.

It should be evident to any sane mind that, had the confessor been placed under such a strain when the events occurred, they would have in no way helped the situation. Misbehavior of this kind is soon known by several persons and surfaces sooner or later. Moreover, any Catholic confessor has the duty in actu confessionis to urge the victim penitent to reveal the crime of the predator to the external authorities so as to stop it all.

If tomorrow the Irish State were to propose this law, any Catholic priest would be a potential criminal between a rock and a hard place: while escaping the civil penalty by denouncing a penitent, he would fall prey to the Church's strictest excommunication. This would virtually render the conversion of poor souls impossible as the penitent would presumably be denounced by the first confessor! This would render any confession odious to any penitent since the principle of secrecy of the seal would be broken!

In fact, the prime minister is following the urge of the media to downgrade the Catholic Church and its function to sanctify and save souls. Hard cases make for poor laws. The reality is that, on the whole, in the United States as in Europe, most accusations like this refer to cases 10 or 20 years old. The Church has strong preventive legislation regarding the matter. In fact, the like is not found in other suspect groups—proportionately as delinquent, if not more—such as religious pastors, school teachers, and policemen. Have these groups reached the media and been the object of detailed scrutiny? It is open season on the Catholic Church alone. She is still too powerful and does still too much good. It is déjà vu, like the blasphemous cry of Voltaire: “Ecrasez l’Infâme!”—Crush the Infamous (Church)!

Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFMcap
Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFMcap

On State Interference
and Archbishop Chaput

First Sunday of August 2011:
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, recently appointed to Philadelphia, has warned Catholic social workers against the danger of Church institutions losing their religious identity amidst increasing hostility from the government and society.


At a June 21 address to the Catholic Social Workers National Convention in Denver, he said that civil society consists “not just of autonomous individuals” but communities as well. “Those communities also have rights. Catholic institutions are extensions of the Catholic community and Catholic belief,” he emphasized. “The state has no right to interfere with their legitimate work, even when it claims to act in the name of individuals unhappy with Catholic teaching.”

These remarks were made against the backdrop of Catholic Charities in several dioceses across the United States shutting down adoption and foster care services after their local states enacted civil union laws. Catholic ministries “have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues. And if the state refuses to allow those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying,” he added, “then as a matter of integrity, they should end their services. Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, it isn’t Catholic.

He warned that “a new kind of America” is emerging in the 21st century, one that is likely to be “much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation’s past.” The reason for this, he said, is that “America’s religious soul—its Christian subtext—has been weakening for decades.” He said that in the years ahead, the nation's religious communities will encounter more attempts by civil authorities to interfere and will find less “unchallenged space” to carry out their work in the public square. “It’s already happening with Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, and even in the hiring practices of organizations like Catholic Charities.”

To these sober but true statements, we wish to make a couple of remarks:

  •  The Archbishop is explaining the Catholic position on faith and morals and hoping that the Church at large holds the same front. Yet this is obviously not the case. Many individual bishops, priests, and religious are not taking a firm stand against abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc…

  • The United States of America is a country based on religious freedom which, in itself, is not going to promote the one true Faith which is the only sound foundation of the city and State. “There is no civilization worthy of the name except Catholic civilization”, said Pius XI, echoing St. Pius X’s letter on Le Sillon.

  • Because the state is founded on religious liberty and not on religious truth, the Catholic Church will necessarily be “begging” for a seat at the table instead of “ruling” as Mistress and Mother over the State. This creates an awkward situation in which, as usual, beggars are not choosers. Although the Catholic Church enjoyed relative freedom and expanded in the midst of prosperity and success for a century or so, it is still legally hampered by the ruinous democratic mentality and pluralism of destructive forces, religious and civil. When both parents in a household are separated or divorced, the children play one against the other. This is exactly what takes place when you accept in principle the separation of Church and State, always condemned by 18 centuries of Catholic thinkers until the ill-famed French Revolution.

Obviously, we have to deal with the problems at hand and with the weapons we are given in the awkward position of today. But this should not let us forget what Christ wanted his Church to be in society.

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