Catholic Priest Reveals Harry is “Soft Occultism”

There are pockets of resistance to Harry Potter to this day, if, post Deathly Hallows, the equivalent of a surrender at Appomattox seems to have been signed and sealed — despite the absence of, say, Richard Abanes or Michael O’Brien at the ceremony. Here is Mark Shea’s critique of the latest Catholic Harry Hater, a Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, a Catholic priest and author who asserts that reading Harry Potter has helped “educate younger children in the language and symbolism of the occult,” an education that will “inundate” exorcists with work in the coming decades.

The Catholic News Agency article, “Priests Will Soon Be ‘Inundated’ With Exorcism Requests,” writes about the “pro-life leader’s” new book, Exorcism and the Church Militant:

In regard to the need for this pastoral ministry, Fr. Euteneuer asserted that “priests are going to be inundated in the next decade or so at least with requests for exorcism because I can already see it happening now where the younger generations especially have been affected by a lot of hard and soft occultism.”

“Soft forms of occultism are like Wicca and New Age,” he explained, adding that “Harry Potter contributes to that with over 400 million books being sold.” The popular book series, he claimed, has helped educate “younger generations in the language and the symbolism of the occult.”

Although many young people have treated the books merely as “entertainment,” he observed, “it actually leads them more deeply into occult practices.”

“All of this is inevitably, with the lack of faith, going to lead to serious spiritual problems for younger people and those problems are going to be laid at the foot of the Church.”

As Mark Shea says, this is just “silliness from people speaking out of their field of competence.” But, to risk another unfortunate end-of-war-time analogy, I don’t doubt that the true believers in the idea of Harry’s acting as the Gateway to the Occult will hold on like the Japanese soldiers in the jungles of the Philippines and Marianas Islands did.

Your thoughts? (H/T to Perelandra!)


  1. Just popping in to say that your analogy at the end of this post got a chuckle and a snort out of me. “…true believers in the idea of Harry’s acting as the Gateway to the Occult will hold on like the Japanese soldiers in the jungles of the Philippines and Marianas did.” LOL

    The whole thing is quite silly, to say the least.

    –Donna the Librarian

  2. Oops, forgot to check “Notify me of followup comments via email.” Doing so now.

  3. revgeorge says

    Wait, WWII is over? Why didn’t anyone tell me?! 🙂

    Anyway, I agree that there is a problem with occultism & quite possibly there will be a lot of problems with it in the future, possibly including exorcisms.

    But it’s not going to be because of Harry Potter, sheesh. One would expect a Catholic priest to rise above the level of a Jack Chick tract.

  4. Perelandra says

    Exasperated as I am by the bulldog stubborness of the Harry-haters, what particularly alarmed me about Fr. Euteneuer’s opinions was the suggestion that parents need to be educated to watch for signs of demonic possession in their children. That’s a great way to set up another Salem! I worry about over-enthusiastic exorcists making ridiculous claims, such as the one said to accuse HP of using real names of demon. (Where, pray tell?) Or that “many” exorcists are finding children possessed after reading HP. There seems to be a lot of Catholics and other Christians overmastered by fear. Yoo-hoo: Christus vincit!

  5. Incredible. I find it hard to even pay any attention to these people who, if they did read the books and I doubt it, totally missed the point. Possessed children? And there’s evidence? I thought everyone knew that the article from the Onion that circulated as an alarmed e-mail all those years ago was just a spoof. The problem of hearing this from one’s priest is what’s alarming. Many people refuse to question their spiritual leaders or to do any of their own research or thinking.

  6. Sayf Bowlin says

    Without having time to hash this out further, just two points:

    1. For a young person with no faith at all (which in this day is more than possible), the contents of the Harry Potter books do have enough similarity to occult practices that they can (barely) predispose children – though let’s not burn them.

    2. The devil does not need to possess anyone in order to influence them. Possession might have been too strong a word for Father to use. We cannot, however, disregard the fact that the devil has been working overtime, the effects of which have been quite clear in the last 100 years

  7. maggiemay says

    Perelandra, you are right in your concerns about parents watching for signs of demonic possession in their children. As painful as it is to admit it, I was actually there 10 years ago! My 10 year old daughter was enthusiastically reading Harry, despite the warnings of our pastor and her christian school. Why did I let her read them? I have an ivy league degree and must have possessed a modicum of common sense despite being heavily into the evangelical world. However, every time the poor kid showed any degree of pre-teen normalcy I convinced myself that she was being demonically influenced by Harry and would yank the books away from her for awhile. It’s hilarious now and thank God she has forgiven me for being such a freak. I guess my only defense is that I had 4 kids and had temporarily lost my mind!

  8. If our point is that “Harry haters” too easily exaggerate the occult imagery and language of the Potter series, then shouldn’t we also avoid exaggerating the claims of Fr. Euteneuer? He’s not saying, as some here seem to realize but others it’s not so clear, that Potter-reading leads directly to demonic possession.

    He’s saying that it creates a curiosity in those who are poorly formed in their faith, or who have no faith at all, about dangerous REAL occultism. But this shouldn’t be controversial. Haven’t we all seen stories in the news about how Wiccans are reporting more inquiries thanks to Potter? Look at Barnes and Noble – see how the occult/”spiritual/new age” section uses Potter to sell books. What he’s saying here is actually clear to any thinking person, and maybe his empirical observations as an exorcist also grant him an insight that the rest of us don’t have.

    I’m not saying dump Harry. I’m a fan of the movies, but haven’t read the books. I’m not worried about being possessed, although I’ve always been a little creeped out about adults who slavishly buy into this fad (like they do with other kid fads) while eschewing other, greater literature for their children. But before mocking this priest, try examining more carefully his argument.

  9. Perelandra says

    Oh my, but don’t we have an exalted image of literature, not to mention sweeping knowledge of literary taste among adult HP readers? How do you know, Steve, that young HP readers are not also reading classic children’s books? Or that books for younger readers are unworthy of adult attention? I think one needs the perspective of age to appreciate something as beautifully simple as the stories of Beatrix Potter.

    I’ve followed the fibrillations of the Harry-haters for about ten years. Their charges thrive on obtuseness, ignorance, outright misrepresentation, and above all, fear. Fr. Euteneuer’s HLI publication ran one of the first examples, in which Voldemort’s philosophy was identified as Rowling’s message!

  10. Perelandra, can you show me where I claimed to have “sweeping knowledge of literary taste among adult HP readers” or even knowledge about what books young HP readers are reading other than HP? My point was simple, and yet apparently, not simple enough for you. My problem was with those who show slavish devotion to a series – on their children’s behalf – but do not expose them to the classics. Your huff seems to imply that you understood this to apply to all HP devotees. What do other HP readers think about Ms. Perelandra’s assumption?

  11. revgeorge says

    If Steve can offer up unproven assertions, I don’t see why Steve would object to Perelandra doing it. But I don’t think she did. I thought she asked a valid question: “How do you know?” And also showed that she’s done some research on this too.

    Anyway, as to your statement, Steve, “But before mocking this priest, try examining more carefully his argument,” did you ever pause to consider the fact that many, if not most of us commenting, have already done that for the last 10 years or so & found arguments like his wanting? Which is why we give such short shrift to people who continue to argue in his vein. It gets tiresome having to response to the same tired, ignorant assertions about HP and the occult.

  12. RG: please show me which “unproven assertions” I’ve made, and I’ll be happy to either prove them, or correct my error. And please be specific, or just say that you’re making stuff up and be done with it.

    And are you really saying that you don’t need to read something to criticize it? (In this case, Fr. E’s argument). I mean, you can say that, but do you expect anyone in the HP crowd to take you seriously, since this is always what HPhiles are complaining about re: HP haters?

  13. revgeorge says

    Sorry, “having to respond” not “having to response.”

  14. “What he’s saying here is actually clear to any thinking person”

    “My point was simple, and yet apparently, not simple enough for you.”

    “I’m a fan of the movies, but haven’t read the books.”

    Why is it that the uncharitable compound their failings with condescension even when speaking from a position of ignorance?

    Steve, you couldn’t know this, I suppose, but Perelandra has written quite a few books on the subjects of popular and more reputable fiction, is a frequent contributor to Catholic journals on the intersection of faith and culture, and is a noted Medievalist. You couldn’t have known it, but you might have assumed something like it if you wrote from a less self-important posture.

    As things stand, I’ll pay closer attention to what Perelandra says in her sleep than to what you and this priest, a man who is also speaking, as Mark Shea noted, from outside his area of knowledge or competence, have to share about Harry Potter, literature in general, and about matters of faith.

  15. Gotcha, John. I’m sorry to hear that you would pay attention to what someone who agrees with you says in their sleep more than you would one who disagrees. You’re free to do that, of course. I suppose I responded to the oozing uncharity in the several posts before my own (uncharity and intellectual laziness, actually) with uncharity, and I shouldn’t have. But I stand by each one of the quotes you’ve used as germane to the conversation, and since I haven’t made a claim about the content of the books, I’m perplexed as to why the last is relevant. I like the movies, but since I haven’t read the books I have no problem avoiding comment on their content.

  16. “And are you really saying that you don’t need to read something to criticize it?”

    But you, a non-reader, feel qualified to criticize those of us who have read the Harry Potter novels.

    Egad, man, snap out of it. We are the “uncharitable” and “intellectually lazy” ones here?


    If you want to lecture Potter fans, read the books. Until then, you’re really making something of a fool of yourself on these boards, which are for those who want to discuss those books and how they re best understood.

  17. revgeorge says

    Steve, I find it hard to respond to someone telling me to read something when you haven’t even read the HP books themselves.

    And there’s another assertion, that I haven’t read the Father’s argument. How do you know that? Did I say that?

    So, let’s just drop all the questions about unproven assertions. I apologize for even saying that or claiming it about you. Let’s instead deal with Fr. E’s arguments in particular.

    First off, I don’t disagree with everything I read in the news piece. I think he’s bang on about exorcism being part of the pastoral care of the church & the need to more thoroughly explain it in light of the conceptions people have about exorcism, most of which they’ve gleaned from Hollywood.

    I don’t even necessarily disagree with his statements on Wicca & Paganism. Here is where I specifically disagree with him & think he’s making unfounded claims. Here are specific quotes from the article:

    “…’Harry Potter contributes to that with over 400 million books being sold.’ The popular book series, he claimed, has helped educate ‘younger generations in the language and the symbolism of the occult.'”


    “Although many young people have treated the books merely as ‘entertainment,’ he observed, ‘it actually leads them more deeply into occult practices.'”

    Anyone who has read the HP series knows that the way magic is presented therein has nothing to do with the “language & symbolism of the occult.” In fact, anything that could be connected to the occult like crystal balls & Tarot cards is either openly ridiculed in the books or not much is thought of it.

    Prof. Elizabeth Baird Hardy had this quote about a conversation she had with a Pagan author at a recent book signing they were both attending: “…I was particularly intrigued by her assertion that the Wiccan crowd generally find Harry cute, but not even close to being a representation of their beliefs, and kind of demeaning, probably the same way the Puritans would regard Thanksgiving decorations. She was very clear that the magic in HP was the not the feminist/ Goddess-worshipping/ animist faith of modern pagans.” You can find this quote in the text of her article on this site here:

    So, Fr. E’s statement about HP educating children in the language & symbolism of the occult seems to indicate he hasn’t done much research on either or else he’s misrepresenting or misunderstanding what goes on in HP.

    As to his statement that HP actually leads children more deeply into occult
    practices, where’s any kind of proof for that? It reminds me of all the hysteria in the ’80’s about how Dungeons & Dragons was leading kids into devil worship. But when actual studies were done hardly any evidence could be found.

    Anyway, to make a long comment longer, I don’t necessarily disagree with some of his premises, but the Fr. biffs it in regard to Harry Potter.

  18. Perelandra says

    John, you overpraise me. I have a good background in medieval studies but I’m hardly a “distinguished medievalist” in an academic sense. But I have a lifelong interest in fantasy literature. I criticized, written it, and edited it. I have even written entries for f & sf reference books. HP readers and readers of “good” literature are most certainly not separate categories. If the principles of CS Lewis’s EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM were applied to HP, I’m confident that the Rowling would come off quite well.

    The reactions Catholic foes of HP have displayed over the past decade manifest ignorance, weak powers of discernment, and pervasive fear. If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that we’re going to see a teary story about some tyke afflicted by the Devil for reading HP. It would be such a hit on the conference circuit, DVDs etc. just like those “eye-witness accounts of Ritual Satanic Abuse” were.

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