‘Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture’

That is the sub-title to the new book by Michael ‘Culture Warrior’ O’Brien, Twilight of the West.

If you want a quick look at the Catholic version of prelest or spiritual delusion consequent to Phariseeism, the preface to O’Brien’s Twilight — complete with his experience of God instructing him to read Harry Potter and write about him — can be found here.

A blessed Ash Wednesday to you all. H/T to Perelandra and Sean.


  1. Poor guy got attached by witches. Mean witches.

  2. Sigh.

    And to think I’ve been wanting to read his other well-known novels for a while now. Should I still? They’ve gotten good reviews, I think…

    Sometimes my fellow Catholics bewilder, baffle, and shame me. How do we share the same faith? I don’t get it. To all of us who have read the HP books and follow this blog, their deeply Christian nature is *obvious*. Not hidden or convoluted or super “secret,” but *obvious*.

    sigh again.

    I also cannot understand how they cannot like HP if they love Narnia, LotR, etc. Same league, people!


    Thank God there are some, at least, devout Catholics who see HP as I do.

    A blessed Ash Wednesday to you, as well, John!

  3. Rachel, I was sent this link by two Roman Catholic friends, incredulous (again) at Mr. O’Brien’s fidelity to the voices in his head he imagines are God. There is absolutely no reason to feel shamed as a Catholic because of this Star Chamber refugee! The shame is all his.

  4. I feel bad for him. It sounds psycho-somatic to me; as much as he claims to have started reading without bias, he was clearly predisposed against HP. And he fulfilled his own worst thoughts about it. Rachel, consider who the reviews of his other works are coming from, that will tell you whether you should give time to them or not. Blessings~

  5. I find it sad and frustrating. It’s sad because he seems so determined *not* to see. It’s frustrating because there is nothing in the preface with which to begin to engage in a conversation with what he is saying.

  6. korg20000bc says

    Again with the doctrine of fear and the perils of imagination!
    Oy vey…

  7. I am new at this and usually just read and enjoy others contributions. But as I read O’Brien’s preface I found myself wondering WHAT BOOK IS HE TALKING ABOUT? It surely doesn’t seem to match the any of the HP series that I have read so many times. I know we are all entitled to our own opinions, but it seems to me that opinion should be about the subject under discussion and the person with the opinion should be familiar with it.
    Hope I have done this properly and thanks for giving me the chance to express myself.

  8. As a Catholic who loves my faith (as well as HP and Twilight), I can confirm John’s statement that O’Brien does not speak for all Catholics, and certainly doesn’t come close to representing the official Catholic opinion (I have an M.A. in Catholic theology, and can say with certainty that any comments on works of fiction are always a matter of individual opinion, not revelation).

    John, I really have to thank you for writing about Harry Potter, especially “Looking for God in HP.” As a former Harry-hater, I often recommend your books to people who make anti-HP comments based on the magic in the books. I had many of the same concerns about the books, but in that book you did a fabulous job of explaining the various uses of magic in fiction, which was my biggest stumbling block. At this point, I would even say that HP baptized my imagination πŸ™‚

    As for Michael O’Brien, his book “Father Elijah” is actually pretty good, but his other fiction I thought was pretty boring. Making him the representative of Catholic thought on fiction goes too far though. He and Sandra Miesel had several debates about Harry Potter on Ignatius Press’ website, with Miesel representing the “pro Harry” viewpoint.

    In the linked article, what I found really disturbing about O’Brien’s introduction was this: “I have read books containing clearly evil elements. In terms of contents alone, Harry Potter is rather tame” and yet he blasts the books based on what he perceives as spiritual attacks that coincide with his reading of the books. Almost all of the Catholics that I know who are Harry-haters base their opinions on Mr. O’Brien’s opinions. He makes very strong appeals to the emotions through his experiences, but has nothing that is based on reason or the books themselves (What seems so absurd to me is that if this is the criteria for judgment, then almost every Catholic saint *must* have been doing evil instead of good because of the spiritual attacks they suffered).

    I would really like to see O’Brien and his followers explain how the magic in HP is evil, but the Narnia books are good Christian books, even though there is a lot of magic practiced, especially in both “Prince Caspian” and “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

  9. Dallas Carter says

    I would like to echo Amy’s sentiments. I live in Hawaii with my wife and two children. I am Native Hawaiian and I have my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Catholic theology. I am a lecturer in theology for the Diocese of Honolulu and a former grade school Religion teacher (I still lecture for the Diocese though).

    I was adamantly anti-harry for many years and all those I spoke with about it were extremely well aware of it! Then I finally actually READ the series Though I saw the triumph of love over death I was still certain there was something sinister behind it. I struggled for quite awhile trying to identify why I was so ‘anti harry’ but still SO attracted to it. . . . This past Christmas I was searching for some good podcasts to listen too and I come across the Potter Pundits. That led me to reading the entire series, and also reading Travis Prinizi’s book as well as John’s ‘How Harry Casts his spell’. Both those books truly put my heart at ease. Im happy to realize that its HP’s harmonization with the ‘Great Story’ and filling that ‘Caulderon of Story’ that truly attracts me to it. Thank you. Both Travis’ and John’s books have also made me reflect back on my undergraduate thesis on the the ‘Anthropological Principle’, i.e. That creation itself reveals a creator and a personable one at that. I think Rowling’s evident genius, like Shakespeare, makes a case for it. Not that HP is only intended for Christians, it isnt and in fact I think thats part of the genius! Though the desacralization of the world and the failure of modern society to appreciate the depth of Classic English Literature has failed to see the same sort of shakespearean genius in Rowling’s writings I think their works do great justice towards showing us her genius. I think her story not only harmonizes with the ‘Great Story’ but teaches us how to ‘read’ creation . . . revealing the ‘Great Genius’ and ‘Deep Magic’ behind its creation.

    Though based on emotion rather than sound reason O’brien’s writings, I believe, come from a genuine desire to protect the faithful. It is unfortunate, however when a writer as such is seen as representative of the Catholic Church. Such is not the case.

    Ke Akua Pu!

  10. A Christopher says

    Before you make public statements as Catholics you should consider referring to Holy Scripture, the magisterium of the Church, and the Holy Father rather than basing them on whatever happens to occur to you. I imagine none of you are in a position to speak for the Church. Never forget that the enemy, the devil, is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I hear almost silent movement among you. Turn quickly lest you are caught and dragged away.

  11. Perelandra says

    What an amazing post. However did you find this old discussion? Given that neither Scripture nor the Magisterium of the Church has denounced HARRY POTTER, I as a lifelong Catholic, well educated in the Faith before Vatican II, will go on reading, analyzing and defending Rowling just as I have in the past, using my intellectual gifts for the glory of God and the edification of Man. I write this under the gaze of many holy icons.

  12. Have to agree with Perelandra. Although I was not educated before Vatican II (was born after it occured), I would like to ask EXACTLY what teaching in Scripture or by the Magisterium or the Holy Father are we NOT referring to?

    In the interim, let me share some ACTUAL Scripture verses (not just ones that happen to occur to me) for you to ponder that are echoed in BOTH Matthew (Matthew 7:1-5) and Luke (7:37-42) as coming from the mouth of our Lord. This translation is taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition (text approved by the Magisterium and the Holy Father):

    “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

    That being said, if you would simply provide any Scripture, Magisterium or Papal teaching that directs that reading Harry Potter is not to be done, then I will VERY gladly discuss it with you. Otherwise, please keep our Lord’s words in mind as you “throw stones” at folks for something which YOU do not seem to understand…

  13. Michael O’Brien is completely correct. You are “seeing without seeing” and “hearing without hearing” but you can’t believe it, can you? You haven’t heard the spirit of his message…the literal words have killed your understanding.

    Bless you for speaking your mind, however.

  14. Tony,
    Thanks for your comment, but once again, I return to my request of showing me where the MAGISTERIUM or Papal teaching has addressed this issue, because regardless of how well Michael O’Brien might be presenting this argument, he is NEITHER, and has no authority.

    You also speak of my being literal, yet it would seem that you are taking the HP series at its LITERAL sense by regarding it as unsuitable reading material because it has witches and wizards and the WORD sorcery in a title? You can’t have it both ways, so what say you? Please share with me WHY these books are not to be read–using a source who HAS authority, and not someone who has taken on that authority by his own volition.

    I look forward to your future post! Peace be with you.

  15. korg20000bc says

    And, of course, the book doesn’t actually have ‘sorcery’ in the title. That was a marketing decision by the American publishers who thought far fewer people would buy a book with ‘Philosopher’ on the cover.

  16. A Christopher scribed: “Before you make public statements as Catholics you should consider referring to Holy Scripture, the magisterium of the Church, and the Holy Father rather than basing them on whatever happens to occur to you. I imagine none of you are in a position to speak for the Church.”
    A Vatican spokesman has defended the Harry Potter books and films. The Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano gave several of the films warm reviews calling HBP “a mixture of supernatural suspense and romance which reaches the right balance”.

    All fine and dandy but the Roman Catholic Church has no official position on Harry. But how could they? They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t πŸ˜‰

    If the RC Church directly dissuades readers, they are stepping into a quagmire of guaranteed extreme dissent from young and old alike who have fallen in love with the Septology. That’s a big number of folks. If they persuade readers to pursue the series, the conservative factions which still have powerful influences in the Church will crawl out from under their rocks and raise havoc.

    “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

    Bravery is in short order inside the Vatican walls I am sorry to report. πŸ™

  17. A Christopher says

    Hi All,

    For magisterial teaching on the subject of magic and sorcery refer to ccc1852, ccc2117 and ccc2138. These should help unless you don’t accept the authority of the Church.

    If the shoe fits, try to get it off. I’ll pray for you.

    Note: ccc = Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Peace be with you.

  18. A Christopher,
    I know the references in the Catechism you cite. (and you didn’t need to make some snide comment about my not accepting the authority of the Church–that was beneath you). I accept the Church’s teaching on magic and sorcery as contained in CCC2117, especially as I am definitely not PRACTICING magic or sorcery, and THAT is what the Church is teaching here. However, you do miss the point again as HP isn’t even ABOUT sorcery. Also, HP books aren’t textbooks for doing any kind of magic either, so I am not attempting to learn about magic, so am not indulging in an unhealthy curiousity either (as cited in CCC2115).

    As for CCC1852 and CCC2138, it would SEEM that you are implying that I am being superstitious and commiting the sin of idolatry by READING the HP books? I KNOW you can not be implying that, so could you please clarify?

    However, in case you ARE implying such a thing, let me respond by stating very simply that I do NOT practice ANY kind of superstitious practices or have ANY idolatrous items in my home or workplace–unless you wish to join with some of our Christian fundamentalist brethren who claim that blessing myself with holy water and carrying a Rosary are superstitious practices, or having statues of the Blessed Mother, images of the Divine Mercy, and a crucifix hanging in my home are worship of forbidden graven images–but I don’t think THAT is what you are talking about either is it? Anyway, I look forward to your clarification.

    Peace be with you as well.

  19. Gents, I’m afraid I’ll have to blow the whistle and wade in, here. As faculty member on hall patrol at the moment, I’m asking you to take it outside. Thank you for respecting the tone and focus of our blog by continuing your conversation with one another, should you choose to do so, off site. Thanks.