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Former Vatican Exorcist Goes After Harry Potter Again

By Alyssa Rosenberg on December 5, 2011 at 11:06 am

"Former Vatican Exorcist Goes After Harry Potter Again"

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Father Gabriel Amorth, the former Vatican chief exorcist who’s been warning about the risk that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels will tempt children into Satanism since 2000, is at it again, and this time he’s inveighing against both kid wizards and yoga practitioners. Per the New York Daily News:

“Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” Father Gabriele Amorth said this week. Those seemingly “innocuous” Potter books convince kids to believe in black magic, he said. “In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said Amorth. As for yoga, it leads to Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation,” the 86-year-old priest said.

In an odd way, I respect the honesty of this kind of statement, even as I think it’s ludicrous and somewhat paranoid to see the Harry Potter novels as anything other than a reaffirmation of the power of Christian theology. There’s a refreshing honesty in admitting both the power of ideas, and the fact that your doctrine may have trouble competing with other worldviews. I tend to want to be in the scrum, in part because I think well-articulated progressive visions tend to have a pretty good shot at winning the battle of ideas, and because I don’t think those ideas can survive only if they don’t face competition or opposition. But I do respect people who withdraw from the things they consider temptation entirely.

The problem for folks like Amorth is that abstinence, whether from sex or from generation-defining young adult fantasy series, isn’t likely to be a particularly effective pitch. And when you can’t convince people to abstain from culture voluntarily, bans or purges from libraries like the one instituted by a Catholic priest in a Massachusetts parish school in 2007, who said he was just instituting a “spiritual peanut butter ban on Harry Potter,” like rules that are meant to avoid exposing children to possible allergens, seem likely to result even if only on a small scale. But if I were a member of the Catholic hierarchy, I look at book bans as a fallback position rather than a victory. There are only so many enclaves you can carve out that are untouched by the larger culture. And settling for enclaves at all is an acknowledgment that your ideas have a limited appeal.

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