Michael O’Brien Responds To Critics Regarding Harry Potter

The following is a post by Patrick Madrid who has also warned against the spiritual dangers of Harry Potter.

First, some preliminary comments by Fr. Richard Heilman: I have to admit that up until I invited a very holy priest, Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea, to my parishes to give a Lenten Mission on the Four Last Things (listen here), I simply had never heard any of the warnings in regard to Harry Potter. And so, like any good pastor who is concerned for the spiritual well-being of his flock, I did some checking (via google). There it was … with little more than a ten minute search on the internet, I found concerns raised by none other than Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger), Cardinal Arinze, Cardinal Burke and the chief exorcist to Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth. See previous post).

Moreover, I was not prepared for the inordinate intensity of push-back on this topic. I was simply stunned by the over-the-top outrage toward someone who simply wanted to warn others about the potential spiritual dangers of HP. Frankly, it was in the realm of creepy to me, because it was so very intense. It left me wondering if the supernatural was involved here.

Fair warning to pastors … your choice to broach this subject will, in all likelihood, bring assaults that are severe and personal. For me, I simply chose to pick other battles for now … I did not feel it was worth going to war over this while there are seemingly endless things to warn our flocks about. In the meantime, I plan to do more research to see why these most prominent Roman Catholic Church figures are warning us about HP.

Here is Patrick Madrid’s recent post:

Among the odd things I’ve seen in the Catholic world, one of the oddest is the capacity of some Catholic Harry Potter fans to go zero-to-60 on the manic meter instantaneously at the mere suggestion that there might be something spiritually deleterious about HP. Someone who’s done more than suggest this is Canadian Catholic author and artist, Michael O’Brien, earning himself some, at times raucous, push-back from those who disagree with him.

I’ve known Michael personally for about 16 years now and know him to be astute, prudent, humble, deeply intellectual and, to be frank, a sage in the area of Catholic spirituality. In my estimation, his critique of HP, while unpopular with most HP-lovers, is bang-on-the-bullseye accurate. (Some years ago, he and I recorded a two-hour discussion of the problems involved with the HP phenomenon that showcases his lucid and compelling reasoning on this issue.)

My guess is that because Michael’s critique of HP is more sophisticated and substantive than any of the arguments I have yet seen mounted in defense of it, he gets under some people’s skin when they realize they can’t invalidate his analysis. One also notices at times a sharp contrast between the calm restraint which characterizes Michael’s presentation and the asperity of some who attempt to rebut him.  In any case, as reported the other day by Lifesitenews.com, Michael O’Brien has recently taken the occasion to rebut the rebutters.

The July 18 LifeSiteNews story, Harry Potter expert criticizes Vatican newspaper’s glowing review of Deathly Hallows 2, was widely read and elicited many comments both pro and con, especially regarding the statements of Potter critic Michael O’Brien. In response to this, LifeSiteNews conducted an additional, in-depth interview with O’Brien to allow him to expand on his views and respond to some of the many comments readers posted beneath the story.

In the interview O’Brien explains why he became involved in critiquing the Harry Potter series, his views on why the series has become so popular and the astonishing and at times hateful criticism that Potter critics have received, such as O’Brien himself being called “the anti-Christ” by a Potter fan. O’Brien also answers the question of what he means by “the evil means” used by Harry to defeat Voldemort, why Harry Potter is not just “entertainment”, why it is appropriate for LifeSiteNews to cover the Harry Potter issue, how Rowling’s pro-homosexual views may be reflected in the novels, and more . . . (continue reading)

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  1. Sean Stiennon says:

    First, Father, one area where I can very solidly agree with you: whatever the moral content of Harry Potter, pro or con, there are MUCH more important matters we could be spending our time and energies on. In my experience, Potter wars create more heat than light, and tend to spawn division and resentment more than anything else.

    As to the reaction of people who find the Harry Potter books to be, at worst, mediocre, against those who condemn them as satanic. . .I think this is a perfectly natural reaction. Look at it this way: Those who condemn Harry Potter as baldly satanic are not simply making a critical judgement. They also, in my experience, slip into casting aspersions on the critical, moral, and spiritual judgement of the many faithful Catholics who find nothing dangerous, and much good, in Potter and similar works of fantasy.

    I’ve read a good deal of O’Brien’s work, and he strikes me as a very good man of deep spirituality who is, at the same time, deeply wrong about a number of matters concerning literature and fiction. Patrick Madrid is sticking up for his friend, and that’s admirable, but it doesn’t mean O’Brien’s arguments shouldn’t stand or fall on their own merits.

    I’ve found that O’Brien’s arguments tend to draw most of their strength from fear–the fear of parents for their children, the anxiety of us have about our own goodness, and the fear of making the wrong decision. But as powerful a force as fear is, it’s a terrible basis for decision making. In the words of our Lord: “Be not afraid.”

    There are numerous Catholics–good men of sound judgement–who enjoy the Harry Potter books and think they present praiseworthy morals alongside high entertainment. Critics like O’Brien try to sell us on the idea that these Catholics, to a man, have been duped by the Prince of Darkness. That’s a serious claim which, if it must be raised, must be raised with charity and humility, including an open ear to what good real, faithful people do see in these books.

    It also can’t hurt to recall that J. K. Rowling is a real person (who is also a baptized Christian) and deserves our charity as much as anyone. To accuse her of seducing children into Satanism should not be done lightly or histronically, nor without regard for her own viewpoint on what it is she wrote.

    Don’t want your kids reading Harry Potter? That’s your decision, your conscience. And you’re welcome to discuss the matter with me. But don’t accuse me of being a servant of Satan if my conscience and judgment lead me to a different decision. It gets my Irish blood up ;).

    • Hi Sean,

      Getting your Irish blood up is in fact the response that has stunned me as I have watched these over-the-top reactions to good and holy men (B16, Cardinal Arinze, Cardinal Burke, Fr. Amorth, etc.) warning against the potential spiritual dangers of HP. I simply fail to see why these men (and others) deserve admonishment for these warnings. As I am just being made aware of their warnings myself, I continue to be stunned by the (supernatural?) protection surrounding HP. It just makes one go hmmmmm ;-)

  2. amber says:

    I haven’t read any of O’Brien’s other books or articles except for this:
    http://www.studiobrien.com/writings_on_fantasy/the-potter-controversy-or-why-that-boy-sorcerer-just-wont-go-away.html
    To me it seemed he was merely trying to give fair warning & instruction, not condemnation, to those who have already or may read or watch HP. It certainly didn’t sound like he was calling anyone a “servant of satan” or being uncharitable in his reviews as in the accusation by Sean above.
    So, unless I’m missing something (which I may very well be as I’ve only read the one article thus far) the backlash against him (& others) does seem to a bit over-dramatic at best & possibly supernatural at worst; and does, as Fr. said, cause one to pause & go hmmmm.

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