Harry Potter and the Caster-Out Of Demons

The Catholic Church really isn’t good with the mainstream media, are they? First they condemned The Da Vinci Code, providing Dan Brown’s potboiler – which no-one halfway to sane could conceivably have thought was real – with a massive free marketing campaign. Opus Dei’s outrage in particular gave credence to his silly story about self-flagellating monks. Now, the Pope’s personal exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, has condemned Harry Potter as evil and satanic. (I’d have started with Voldemort, but apparently Harry’s just as bad.) But it’s Father Amorth who’s got me worried.

I guess it’s difficult to draw the line between fact and fiction when you devote your professional life to taking a book full of supernatural stories completely literally. So literally, in fact, that you swear off sex forever – in other words, it’s a pretty big call. After all, one book you read describes Jesus walking on water, and another describes Harry Potter flying on a broomstick. One’s provides the path to eternal life, the other is children’s fiction. Someone should probably save Father Amorth a bit of embarrassment and explain this to him.
Do readers really believe that Harry Potter is real? That the magic described could happen? Let’s just say that I’ve never heard of anyone breaking their nose running into a wall at Kings Cross Station.
Father Amorth takes particular issue with the distinction in the book between black and white magic – presumably on the basis that it isn’t possible for magic to be good. It’s all Satan. But unfortunately for Father Amorth, the bit that it’s most sensible to take issue with is whether any magic is possible. It’s not terribly sensible to get lost in the moral details of something that doesn’t exist.
The most worrying part of this story is not that Harry Potter may contain “the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil”, but that Pope Benedict employs a professional caster-out of demons. I’m not particularly reassured that the spiritual leader of hundreds of millions of people believes in demons enough to employ a professional Ghostbuster. Especially one without Bill Murray’s sense of irony.
What’s more, if demons exist, Father Amorth is doing a rubbish job, frankly. A simple process of vetting for demons before appointing candidates to the priesthood could have saved the church – not to mention the victims – an enormous amount of grief.
Father Amorth also said that Hitler and Stalin had been possessed by the devil – which might have been a more useful insight from someone inside the Vatican ahead of Hitler’s rise to power, as opposed to their initial support for fascism over communism.
While Father Amorth isn’t particularly convincing on the subject of demons or Satanism in Harry Potter or elsewhere, he has certainly provided ample evidence of the existence of fruitcakes within the Catholic Church.