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Vatican and Harry Potter
Question from Donna on 2/7/2003:

I realize this may not be the appropriate forum for this question, but I do need some assistance as I would like to pen a timely letter to the editor. On Feb 4/03 an Associated Press article appeared in my local newspaper: "Vatican just wild about Harry - Best-selling Harry Potter books receive church's seal of approval". In a Vatican news conference associated with the release of the Vatican document on the New Age, Rev. Don Peter Fleetwood, a member of one of the two councils which drafted this study stated, "I don't see any problems in the Harry Potter series". He went on to say, "They aren't bad. They aren't serving as a banner for anti-Christian ideology", and, "If I have understood well the intentions of Harry Potter's author, they help children to see the difference between good and evil. And she is very clear on this." Of course it is typical that the news media would select a comment from one member of the two pontifical councils which drafted the provisional report on the New Age and suggest it is a Vatican "seal of approval". It is my understanding the Vatican had not commented on the Harry Potter series to this point, and certainly an offchance response to reporter's question by a member of a council does not qualify as Vatican commentary. Given there is much archived Christian commentary on the dangers of the Harry Potter series, can you, or any other EWTN Q&A Forum moderator, comment on this AP article? It seems highly improbable that Rev. Fleetwood was offering official Vatican opinion.

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 2/9/2003:

The press conference to which you are referring took place on February 3 in Rome and involved various officials of the Pontifical Council for Culture and other offices of the Roman Curia. The occasion was to announce the publication of a new 93-page handbook, a Vatican reflection on the New Age movement. The document contrasts the New Age expectation of the so-called Age of Aquarius with the faith of Christians in Christ. Aside from a very useful explanation of New Age terms, the reflection also details the ways that the movement has influenced such trends as the growing mistrust and opposition to institutional religion, obsession with self-realization against salvation, denial of the existence of God, and the decline in reverence for the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

It was only during the press conference that the question of Harry Potter came up. Both Fr. Peter Fleetwood, who helped draft the document while an official at the Council and Teresa Osorio Goncalves, of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Interreligious Dialogue, expressed the opinion that there were no problems with the Potter books. As often occurs, the unofficial and offhand comments overshadowed the important document and its valuable contents for Catholics confronted by the many forms of the New Age movement in modern culture.

In reference to the Harry Potter books, it is worth noting that the Vatican – so far as I am aware – has never condemned the books, and the last year or so has seen the publication of various books arguing for a more favorable interpretation of them. From the little that I know of the matter, Rowling has stated on several occasions that she is a Christian.


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