Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So Now the Vatican Likes Harry Potter?

While I disagreed with the arguments put forth by the Roman Catholic Church when it issued the recent ban on Reiki, at least from the standpoint of univalent Christianity they made some sense. If you believe that the use of your own deity's spiritual power is automatically good when applied according to doctrine while any other use of spiritual power is automatically evil, it follows logically that you would be opposed to any magical practice that is not part of your own spiritual tradition.

For years the Roman Catholic Church has come out against the Harry Potter books and movies on similar grounds. Because the books and films portray the use of magick and magick is considered evil by the Church this is to be expected, although a lot of people over the years have pointed out that since Harry Potter is a work of fiction it is not exactly teaching anyone the magical arts. I mean, I would love to be able to levitate something just by flicking a wand and intoning "wingardium leviosa" - but of course it doesn't work that way.

Strangely enough, the Catholic Church appears to have finally seen reason in its review of the latest Harry Potter film. Contrary to all of the Church's previous statements, a positive review of the film was recently published in the official Vatican newspaper. So what changed? Here's what the review had to say:

"There is a clear line of demarcation between good and evil and [the film] makes clear that good is right. One understands as well that sometimes this requires hard work and sacrifice," the newspaper judged.

The broadsheet paper also praised the film's clear message that "the search for immortality epitomised by Lord Voldemort" was wrong. It even approved of the film's treatment of adolescent romance amid the halls and corridors of Hogwart's, saying that it achieved the "correct balance" and made the teenage stars more credible.

Aside from the comments on adolescent romance I don't see how any reviewer could have missed these points upon viewing the first film, let alone the sixth. Was Voldemort not "evil enough" for the Vatican in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?

Let's see - he killed Harry's parents, murdered unicorns and drank their blood, tried to steal the sorcerer's stone twice, and tried to kill Harry multiple times (or at least ordered Professor Quirrell to do so). That seems pretty evil to me. And seeing as Voldemort killed the unicorns and tried to steal the sorcerer's stone in order to obtain immortality, hasn't the message that trying to obtain immortality as Voldemort does is wrong been there the whole time?

As recently as last year, the same Vatican newspaper condemned the Potter books.

The newspaper wrote: "Despite the values that we come across in the narration, at the base of this story, witchcraft is proposed as a positive ideal.

"The characterisation of common men who do not know magic as 'Muggles' who know nothing other than bad and wicked things is a truly diabolical attitude."

The newspaper called the teenage boy wizard "the wrong kind of hero", comparing the books unfavourably with two other British children's classics, the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

I'm left rather confused here, to tell the truth. While I'm of the opinion that the original condemnation of the books and films was pretty silly, the Roman Catholic Church is usually pretty consistent in its positions. Could it be that the previous denunciations were simply based on the presence of buzzwords like "witchcraft" in the story and only now someone actually sat down and watched one of the films?

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Susanne Iles said...

Does that mean no more summer book burning? (and I was so much looking forward to a barbecue...blows out match...) Just jesting...I wrote an article when the first Harry Potter book was published because of all the hue and cry about magic. If the Church was so quick to condemn the Potter books, where would that leave C.S. Lewis' Narnia, or even all of mythology for that matter in the eyes of the Vatican? The short article can be read here if you are interested...thanks for continuing to create such a refreshing blog...

Scott Stenwick said...

To be fair, the few book burnings that I heard about were organized by Protestant Evangelicals, not Roman Catholics. The Catholic Church has criticized the books and films harshly, but that's about as far as they've been willing to take it.

A number of reviewers over the years have made the point that coming down on the Potter books because they have characters who use magick would mean that just about any traditional fairy tales must be similarly bad. Narnia tends to get a pass from the anti-Potter folks because of the thinly veiled Christian allegory and I do understand that, but where were all the critics denouncing just about every animated Disney film that has come out since what, the 1930's? The vast majority of them, even those not based on traditional fairy tales, include characters that can only be described as magical.