Sunday, August 12, 2007

Buried in Potter's Field? A Catholic Homeschooling Father Reads the Harry Potter Series

With the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series, I have finally decided that it's time to break down and read it all start to finish. Why would I do such a thing, you might well ask, when the Pope has warned the faithful about the series, along with Fr. Amorth, the well-known exorcist? The answer is for the same reason I read the noxious and comically ill-written Da Vinci Code. The series has become a cultural phenomenon and I've been asked repeatedly for my opinion of it. Well, if I'm going to comment on it, I should at least have the common courtesy to read it first.

Plus, it has come to my attention that a number of family members and friends, all sterling Catholics, are fans of the series and several well-known Catholic lights have come out in defense of the Potter books (eg. Amy Wellborn and Cardinal Pell of Sydney). Then, there's the recent creation of the "Papists for Potter" Yahoo Group. But the thing that sealed it for me was the rumor that the final volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, contained a lot of Christian symbolism and futhermore, that J.K. Rowling is, or at least was, a member of the Chesterton Society.

So I have decided to read and review all of the Potter books from the perspective of a Catholic homeschooling father of five. For the record, none of mine are old enough to read Harry Potter yet--the oldest is five and still working on his phonics. But they're going to grow up in a world where Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon and the series will, no doubt, eventually become an issue in our house. One way or another, I want to be prepared for it.

I'm also coming from the view-point of a someone who grew up in the 1980s having spent hours-upon-hours playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and a variety of sword-and-sorcery type computer games, such as Gauntlet and Bard's Tale. I was also a heavy consumer of such wholesome musical acts as Guns 'n' Roses and Iron Maiden. In the interest of full-disclosure, I did fall away from the Church for a few years in my late-teens. But this had less to do with metal music and video games than exceedingly poor catechesis in high school, simple adolescent sloth, and the generally hedonistic atmosphere at the formerly Catholic university I attended. I never took D&D, video games, or metal very seriously. However, I did know people who took such things very seriously and this attitude certainly had detrimental effects on their development as mature adult Christians.

That said, I embark on reading and reviewing the Harry Potter series with some trepidation. A wise man does not take lightly warnings from both a famous exorcist and Benedict XVI (admittedly, while he was still "merely" Cardinal Ratzinger). Therefore I begin this series of reviews the same way I begin when sitting down to read the books. With a prayer to St. Michael—just in case:

Sancte Michael Archangel, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis, Satanam aliosoque malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen.

No comments: