On the First Sunday of Lent every year, we read in the Gospel of the devil tempting Our Lord. First he tries to tempt Him to gluttony, and Our Lord resists. Of course, Our Lord, because He is God, cannot be inclined to sin. But the devil, not knowing that, first tries to tempt Him to gluttony, and then to pride and power and materialism. He says to Our Lord, “Why don’t you throw yourself off this high elevation? God will save you.” Our Lord refuses. Then the devil pulls out his trump card. He shows Our Lord all the glory of the world and says, “I will give all this to you, if you will just bow down and worship me.” Of course, Our Lord refuses again. What the devil was saying here, in a sense, was “I’ll give you magic to do something that is not morally right, but it’s something you would enjoy.”
It should be evident to us, my dear parishioners, that the devil is after each one of us, tempting us in similar manner to sin and to pride. These temptations take different forms, so we must be on our guard. The devil is trying to tempt us away from serving God, from obeying God’s commandments. He is so crafty, so subtle, that often you don’t even know, unless you are very careful, how he is insinuating himself.
I believe it my duty to talk to you today about a series of books and its accompanying movie because I believe that they contain an insinuation of pride and ungodliness. I think you know what I am talking about: the Harry Potter series. I will speak both about the books and the movie, because if one reads the books, he will want to see the movie, and vice versa. I believe there are some real problems here, real spiritual danger — possibly grave spiritual danger. I will explain why.
Believe me, I have refrained from saying anything about this for a long time. When the books first came out, I began to gather information on them. I wanted to analyze them to see whether or not they were good for children to be reading, and to write an article for The Reign of Mary. I haven’t said anything up to this time because I wanted to study the matter, rather than say yes or no before I knew what I was talking about.
Let me also preface this explanation by saying that I speak now from the consciousness that one day I will have to answer to God for how I accomplished my duty to instruct you in matters of faith and morals. I certainly believe that there are matters of faith and morals involved in this particular matter.
The first problem I would like to point out are the words that are so casually used in the books and in the movie, words that are so casually used that children may start using them — yet these words are matter of mortal sin. Specifically, I am referring to such words as: sorcery, witchcraft, casting spells, communicating with the dead (necromancy). The Catholic Church very clearly tells us that these are mortal sins, and they must not be presented as though they are something permissible to try. I believe it is the devil trying to insinuate himself through the medium of human beings, trying to draw us away from Christ. These are not your usual Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Remember that children do not have the same critical ability that adults have. They read fantasy much differently than we do: they read it in a believing way.
I am going to give you some quotations. This is from the Canadian Catholic artist and author Michael D. O’Brien, author of A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind. He says, speaking about the books, “The series uses the symbol world of the occult as its primary metaphor. This has the potential of lowering a child’s guard to the actual occult activity in the world around us, which is everywhere and growing.” We would be naive to the extreme, my dear brethren, if we thought that the devil isn’t trying to do his work.
Here’s another quote from a reliable source, a person who was once involved in witchcraft. He says that the names used in the books are names of actual demons. I quote:
“The first book of the series, entitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, finds the orphan Harry Potter embarking into a new realm when he is taken to ’Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.’ At this occult school, Harry Potter learns how to obtain and use witchcraft equipment.”
This is not harmless white magic! We’re talking about something far more serious.
“Harry also learns a new vocabulary, including such words as Azkaban, Circe, Dracho, Erised, Hermes, Slytherin, all of which are names of real devils or demons. These are no characters of fiction.”
There simply is not a clear distinction between good and evil in the Harry Potter books, such as there is in the C. S. Lewis Narnia series. The following is taken from an interview with Michael O’Brien on this subject (as reported by ZENIT, Dec. 6, 2001):
INTERVIEWER: “Critics of Harry Potter see a big difference between authors such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis who, they argue, use magical elements in a Christian way, and the books of J.K. Rowling, where magic is presented in an agnostic and pagan fashion.”
O’BRIEN: “The differences are great, I would say absolute. The resemblance between the works of Christian fantasy and Rowling is only superficial. Yes, there is magic in both, yet Tolkien and Lewis repeatedly warn about the danger of magic throughout their novels.
“Tolkien is especially clear on this. In his great epic, The Lord of the Rings, and in his foundational work, The Simarillion, he shows that powers that do not rightly belong to man always have a corrupting influence on man. Only higher ranks of creatures in his imagery would exercise supernatural powers, and then only as a gift of God.
“The evil characters in the tale have corrupted these gifts, or else — in the case of humans — they have tried to seize them as personal possessions, only to be deceived and finally destroyed by them. Moreover, the ’magic’ in Tolkien’s subcreation does not really resemble magic practices in the real world...
“In his fantasy series for children, The Chronicles of Narnia, and in his cosmic trilogy for adults, C.S. Lewis also repeatedly demonstrates the seductiveness of powers which are not rightly man’s, especially when they are seized as a form of Gnostic quest for power.”
So, Harry Potter is NOT the same thing as more traditional fairy tales. In Harry Potter there is even a desensitization to sin. O’Brien goes on to say in this same interview:
“There are other serious problems in these books, notably the question of authority and obedience. Harry’s faults are rarely punished, and usually by the negative authority figures in the tale. The positive authority figures actually reward Harry for his disobedience when it brings about some perceived good. His lies, his acts of vengeance and his misuse of his powers are frequently ignored. The message of ’the end justifies the means’ is dominant throughout.”
Now remember, Harry Potter is attending witchcraft school. O’Brien then describes a shocking and terrifying scene:
“In one class, the students are taught to cut up mandrake roots, which are living human babies, for use in a potion. At the least this can cause a subconscious desensitization to abortion.”
Harry also speaks the language of snakes, which is called Parseltongue. From another source:
“All of these images, moreover, seem to be derived from occult materials, suggesting a sophisticated knowledge of the occult on the part of the author. Regarding Harry’s ability to speak Parseltongue, or the language of snakes, the books are suffused with serpent imagery, beginning with the early pages of Book One, when young Harry, still unaware of his magical gifts, has a conversation with a boa constrictor in a zoo. After the snake communicates a desire to escape his confinement, Harry unwittingly vaporizes the glass enclosure and the reptile escapes. In Book Two Harry discovers that the secret menace attacking the students at Hogwart is a basilisk (a giant snake with looks that kill, literally) while in Book Four we meet Voldermort’s vile familiar, Nagini, a serpent that feeds on Voldermort’s victims. The serpent, we need hardly remind the reader, is one of the most ancient and pervasive occult and pagan motifs; the Satanic serpent of the Garden of Eden finds expression in most pagan systems as the Serpent God, from the ancient Egyptian god Set to the sacred cobras associated with both Vishnu and Shiva” (Harry Potter’s Hocus-Pocus by Steve Bonta).
I think you see the picture, my dear parishioners. This is dangerous. I know there are well-intentioned people following it or involved with it, but I hope that my words today will give you great pause for consideration and concern.
There is available in the Secretary’s office the Preview Family Movie & TV Review magazine, which analyzes movies from a godly perspective; it is only for the adults to pick up, by the way. It will tell you whether a movie is worth watching or not, pointing out the problems with each. This is what it says about this particular movie:
“Some mild and moderate violence occurs, such as sports roughness and property destruction, but along with the learning of incantations, potions, wand-waving and broomstick-riding, HARRY includes other elements which the Bible also takes a negative view of. More disturbing is the concept of an evil wizard spirit co-habiting another’s body.”
What is referred to here is diabolical possession. This is the most frightening thing, I believe, that can happen on earth — for someone to be possessed by the devil.
“It will be difficult, if not impossible, in most families, Christian and secular alike, to deny their children’s desire to see the film, but witchcraft, conversing with the dead, and possession should be maturely discussed. Despite its positive messages and honorable characters [far too nice an assessment, in my opinion], we cannot in good spirit endorse Harry Potter as recommendable.”
This past week we celebrated the glorious feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose place of apparition in Mexico City is one of the the foremost Marian shrines in the world today. Upwards of 20 million pilgrims visit there every year. I was just reflecting this past week how our Blessed Mother helped to save, in a powerful way, the Aztec people from paganism. As pagans, they had their shamans and their species of witchcraft. They also had a serpent god. Our Lady came to teach them through that miraculous image that the religion being preached by the missionaries was indeed the true Faith, and only in this way would they be able to save their souls, to be given the light of the Gospel, to know Jesus Christ, to know the truth of the Faith.
It is true that the conquistadores were sometimes guilty of some very grave injustices. We do not condone that. But we do rejoice in that the missionaries brought the Gospel. At first, the conversions were not all that plentiful. But when the Aztecs saw the miraculous image on the front of Juan Diego’s tilma (which exists to this day — it’s a miracle every day that it continues to exist), they saw the little cross there on Our Lady’s brooch, and it made them realize that this is the true religion. Millions were converted within just a couple of years — 9 million according to one account.
It is interesting in light of what I have said today that the real name of Our Lady’s apparition at Guadalupe is “she who crushes the stone serpent.” She gave her name to Juan Diego in the Aztech language as “Tecoatlaxopeuh” (te — stone, coo — serpent, tla — the, xope — crush or stamp out), and when Juan Diego told the Bishop, he thought he heard “Guadalupe,” the name of a shrine of Our Lady in Spain. (This shrine has a statue of Our Lady that had been given by Pope Gregory the Great around the year 600 and was lost for many centuries and found again.) So then, the real Patroness of the shrine is “She who crushes the head of the serpent.”
Let us pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe to help us crush the serpent in our lives so that he does not make inroads into our Catholic Faith or lead astray our children. Let us pray to this humble Virgin who considered herself the handmaid of the Lord, and to the humble Redeemer, Who taught us so much. If we are humble we will then seek always to do the Will of God. That is always the mark of humility.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.