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The Vatican, Harry Potter, and Why My Brain Wants to Flee

Wait a minute. Let me get this straight.

According to Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist — and doesn’t it just gladden your heart that, in 2011, the Vatican still has a chief exorcist, or indeed any exorcist at all?

Sorry. Getting off topic. Although not really. Anyway. According to Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, the Harry Potter books are bad because, quote, they “encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry.”

Okay. Wait a minute. Let me get this straight.

The Harry Potter stories encourage people to believe in black magic and wizardry.

And exorcists don’t.

I think my brain just tried to escape my skull by gnawing its own foot off.

Comments

  1. Sheikh Mahandi says

    Probably the same guys who wanted to ban Dennis Wheatley’s overblown books like “To the Devil a daughter”, “The Devil rides out’, etc.
    Strangely when the movie versions came out and the fanatics were demanding the films be banned, my uncle who managed a cinema in Arbroath reported a huge increase in attendance and takings.

  2. Jehapters says

    What do you expect from a guy who uses magical Words of Power and who mutters spells over a bowl of water so that a supernatural being may endow it with magical properties?

  3. julian says

    Well…

    Harry Potter has inspired a bunch of fantasy themed role play sites where we pretend to be doing Black Magic and such in a Hogwarts (holy shit, that gets recognized as a word but not contrarian?) like setting.

    I haven’t seen any such games inspired by the Holy Bible. Acts of violence towards women, doctors, gays and transpeople. But no, no Black Magic.

  4. says

    Oooh, now I want to make a Bible-based RPG. You can be a warrior for god or a priest for god or a king for god, and all of these are men. You can be a woman for god, but your only class abilities would be “sinning” and “making babies” and you’d only have one hit point.

  5. says

    To fear black magic and wizardry might indicate that this guy believes it is real. It’s bad enough that he believes his theism, but the thought that he may also believe in witches riding broomsticks just makes this fantasy world he lives in more disturbing.

  6. davidct says

    I agree with longjocks. For someone to be that worried about fantasy stories, indicates a deep investment in magical thinking. This is the catholic church’s stock in trade. Small wonder that the only growth in attendance is in parts of the world where education is not generally available. Many first world catholics are voting with their feet. Watch out father, Voldemort is going to get you.

  7. HP says

    This is one of those verb-conjugation exercises, isn’t it?

    - They believe in black magic and wizardry.

    - He, she, or it is superstitious.

    - You blaspheme.

    - I exorcise demons.

  8. says

    Magic and wizardry as shown in Harry Potter show that wand-waving and incantations should have immediate, tangible results. Next to that, the “say the magic words and assume whatever happens next is God’s answer” shtick of prayer is pretty weak tea.

    But I think that what really bugs Amorth about HP is that its portrayal of authority figures isn’t 100% trustworthy and perfect. The folks in charge run the gamut from “honest but not all-powerful” to “evil.” In order to take an exorcist seriously, you pretty much need to have NO resistance to authority.

  9. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    It’s quite simple. Harry Potter uses the wrong sort of magic. Hocus pocus is evil, hoc est enim corpus meum is holy. Abracadabra bad, pater noster good. What Chief Exorcist Amorth is complaining about is people using the wrong brand of magic.

    And no, that is not hyperbole.

  10. Trevor says

    I think the trick is to assume he means something different by “believe”. It makes perfect sense if you replace “believe” with “put emotional investment in”. He doesn’t want people to invest in magic over the Church.

  11. says

    We at the Ministry of Magic are deeply grateful to our muggle friends in the Roman Catholic Church, Department of Demon Nullification. By allowing themselves to act as the public face of mystical power and spells they act as a screen for every day wizarding activities. When a spell to bake cakes goes awry the Catholic Church helpfully puts forth a cover story about dragon fire. When a young wizard first develops powers and things move around her home unbidden the Catholic Church blames demons. They mutter a few helpful but meaningless phrases in a dead language and splash a bit of water around to gull the muggles.

    Most recently the Ministry extends our gratitude to Father Gabriele Amorth. His comments and efforts to limit access to the unauthorised biography of The Boy Who Lived are appreciated. The fewer muggles who have access to this series of books the better. The Ministry has had to expend a great deal of effort relocating wizards and altering memories when curious muggles intrude on innocent wizarding lives. Anything that distracts from this is very helpful. Our anonymity is our protection after all.

    Wizards living in the muggle community are encouraged to refer to Father Gabriele Amorth as a figure of great wisdom. The Ministry has determined that this is a very effective way to get ordinary muggles to avoid your company.

    The Minister thanks you for your time.

  12. Emmet says

    “…Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist — and doesn’t it just gladden your heart that, in 2011, the Vatican still has a chief exorcist, or indeed any exorcist at all?”

    Sorry to dampen your gladdened heart Greta: Fr Amorth isn’t in fact “the Vatican’s chief exorcist”. No such position exists. Amorth is *one of* the Diocese of Rome’s exorcists – he is its most well-known because quotes from him make good copy. He seems to be a bit of a loose cannon.

    (The moral, as always, is not to take your information about the Catholic Church from the mainstream media. I’ve said it before – argue against what the Church actually believes, not what one reads about what somebody heard about something somebody said about what the Church teaches/practices.)

    Ed Peters, a lawyer and Catholic observer, has some comments about Amorth here: http://www.canonlaw.info/2006/08/fr-amorths-latest-contribution-to.html

    He links in that to his review of one of Amorth’s books which expresses his reservations about the man and his work.

  13. says

    Just to be completely off topic here

    I’m sure you don’t have any sort of control over the ads on your blog am I correct? Cause I keep getting offered biblcal hebrew courses from “The Holy Land’s best teachers” :p

  14. steve oberski says

    @Emmet

    He seems to be a bit of a loose cannon.

    All the RCC spokesmen (and I emphasize men) are loose canons (a bit of a religious joke there).

    This is in the interest of plausible deniability so that when the RCC takes a position that is especially odious (though these days it would be hard to single out any particular position as not anti human/woman/homosexual etc.) they can claim that “Ur Not Doin It Rite”, this is not the official position of the RCC.

    Sort of a Vatican version of whack-a-mole or the shell game, you can never win if you play by their rules.

  15. The Lorax says

    They’re getting it wrong. You see, they’re fine with children believing in ghosts and ghouls and devils and spirits and magic and woo and bullshit, they just want children to believe in THEIR ghosts and ghouls and devils and spirits and magic and woo and bullshit.

    So, once again, “It’s bad because I don’t like it, but I’m going to wave around an ancient book so I can pretend my opinion is an argument.” Same old song and dance.

  16. carolw says

    The only thing the HP books and movies made my nephew do is talk with a bad fake British accent for a little while.

  17. Emmet says

    @Emmet

    @ Steve Oberski #20

    “All the RCC spokesmen (and I emphasize men) are loose canons (a bit of a religious joke there).
    This is in the interest of plausible deniability so that when the RCC takes a position that is especially odious (though these days it would be hard to single out any particular position as not anti human/woman/homosexual etc.) they can claim that “Ur Not Doin It Rite”, this is not the official position of the RCC.”

    Nonsense. Can you give an example of one of these “especially odious” positions that the Church might wish to deny?

    I suggest that anything you might think of is in fact spelt out in black and white in Church documents or teaching.

    Amazing, the theories that people come up with. More and more I think atheism is so often for so many people not a philosophy *for* something but merely a philosophy *against* the Church, and any old hasty slapdash argument (like Oberski’s, above) will do.

  18. says

    Perhaps The whole pedophilia thing, Emmet? A lot of priests seem to be all about that, and a lot of others seem to think it’s a funderful pastime if engaged in quietly.

  19. jbrock says

    Among other things, Amorth makes some rather extraordinary claims about the number of exorcisms he’s performed.

    I’m not sure whether he’s lying, exaggerating (if there’s a difference), or just plain nuts. The Harry Potter thing sort of points towards the latter–although, granted, it would mean he’s far from uniquely nuts.

    Oh, and for johnbrockman: There actually do seem to be a number of Christian RPGs. This is just the first one that came up on a Google search. (No surprise, I’m sure.)

    :)

  20. steve oberski says

    Emmet

    Sounds to me like you agree that the rcc position on most anything is odious but you disagree that they have ever tried to back pedal on a previously held position.

    Now that’s really odious.

  21. Emmet says

    JB #24: “Perhaps The whole pedophilia thing, Emmet?”
    Good grief – you’re either seriously suggesting that’s a “position”/teaching of the Church that an official spokesman would speak to, or you’re having a laugh.

    SO #26:
    “Sounds to me like you agree that the rcc position on most anything is odious but you disagree that they have ever tried to back pedal on a previously held position.”

    Nope. That’s why I put it in scare quotes. What previously-held position are you suggesting the Church has backpedalled on? Are you thinking of something in particular? If so, are you sure it’s dogma (unchangeable) or practice (changeable) – (big T Tradition or little t is how some put it).

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