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

In its review, the Vatican newspaper had called the film an “epic,” a “saga of unequalled planetary success,” and “another blockbuster.” The review is being reported by other Catholic services such as Catholic News Service and Canada’s Catholic Register, among many others - minus the balance of concerns that have been expressed about the Potter series by Christian critics.

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

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

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

In two letters first translated and published online by LifeSiteNews.com, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to a German writer of a book critically analyzing the Potter series. “It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly,” he wrote.

However, praise for the latest Potter film also came from the National Catholic Register which characterized it as “something approaching greatness.”

Cardinal Ratzinger’s was not the only Vatican voice to express grave concern over Potter.  The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, has repeatedly condemned the Harry Potter novels.  In 2006 he said, “You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likeable wizard, but you end up with the Devil … By reading Harry Potter a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil.”

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

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

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

See follow up article, Michael O’Brien responds to his critics, in-depth interview.

* See the LifeSiteNews Feature page, Harry Potter Problem.

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