Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Nervous Pope

In the U.S., the Harry Potter series has often raised the hackles of Christian groups fearful that the best-selling books would turn God-fearing Muggle children away from religion and closer to the occult. Pope Benedict XVI has voiced similar concerns. In 2003, when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he engaged in correspondence with a religious writer in Germany who had written a treatise on the potential dangers of J.K. Rowling's work. In one apparent letter of encouragement to the religious author, Ratzinger wrote, "It is good that you enlighten us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable, and precisely because of that have a deep effect and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it could properly grow." A venerable man of the cloth, Ratzinger must have brooded long and hard over which subtle seductions Hogwarts would have extended to young readers. The atheist venom of butterbeer, perhaps? Or the serpentine allure of that tantalizing golden snitch? Whatever the case, the Vatican has since had a change of heart: a 2009 article in its official mouthpiece, L'Osservatore Romano, praised the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for its "clear line of demarcation between good and evil."