Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Today brings us another in the series of "Catholic Church Takes Stupid New Position" articles. And, as before, conservative Catholics are partly to blame, in having pulled in a Church voice of authority in order to back up their pet topic, aided by the mainstream press which is all too willing to make the Church look silly and "out of touch".

LifeSite is to blame, it seems, having dug up a couple of brief letters from two years ago in which then Cardinal Ratzinger thanks a German writer for sending him a copy of her book Harry Potter - gut oder böse (Harry Potter- good or evil?).

What did Ratzinger say to create all this fuss? This is it:
Many thanks for your kind letter of February 20th and the informative book which you sent me in the same mail. It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.

Now, from what I can make out, it seems unlikely to me that Ratzinger has read any of the Harry Potter books, nor did he go out of his way to make any statement on them. He simply replied to a letter by the author of this book saying in moderately generic terms that she was doing good work.

Needless to say, papal opinions on light fiction are not binding on Catholics, and it would be well if both LifeSite and the mainstream press would keep that in mind. Unfortunately, certain people seem all to willing to grab this as a major statement in order to support their own opinions. Here's author Michael O'Brien, quoted in the LifeSite article:
The most prominent Potter critic in North America, Catholic novelist and painter Michael O'Brien commented to on the "judgement" of now-Pope Benedict saying, "This discernment on the part of Benedict XVI reveals the Holy Father's depth and wide ranging gifts of spiritual discernment." O'Brien, author of a book dealing with fantasy literature for children added, "it is consistent with many of the statements he's been making since his election to the Chair of Peter, indeed for the past 20 years - a probing accurate read of the massing spiritual warfare that is moving to a new level of struggle in western civilization. He is a man in whom a prodigious intellect is integrated with great spiritual gifts. He is the father of the universal church and we would do well to listen to him."

The Anchoress has a good discussion of the "Harry Potter issue" on her site.

Amy Welborn also has a thread.

Finally, Pontification offers some sound reflections, and Pontificator's daughter profices some good thoughts from a younger reader's point of view.


Kate said...

Let me join you in that sigh:


I enjoy Micheal O'Brien greatly, but he has a bee in his bonnet about Harry Potter (and a lot of other children's lit) that springs from a rather limited typology. I need to dig up the statement where JPII called for artists and authors to develop 'a new symbolism' and send it on to him. Not that it would make a dent.


Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for blowing things out of proportion! Without it, some people wouldn't have a life...

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing again thinking about this whole thing....since Ignatius Press publishes Michael O'Brien's books, (by the way, have you ever read his fiction?) does that mean you have a problem with them also?
I was listening to Catholic radio this afternoon and they were discussing this whole evolution bit, and the more I thought about it, the more I was laughing thinking...who cares how God created us?....He did it and we're all here and our job is to strive for holiness and follow our Lord, not worry about creationism vs. evolution. I think I'll go back to reading something that has an impact on my spiritual growth, instead of worrying about how I got the way, I left a comment on your Tuesday entry today.. God bless!

Darwin said...


Actually, I'm a big fan of Ignatius press. (Just spent about a hundred dollars on their books this month, so perhaps they're even a fan of me...)

Nor do I necessarily have "a problem" with O'Brien. The bits of his fiction I've read are seriously interesting, and parts of Landscape with Dragons strike me as seriously insightful. Indeed, the frustrating thing about it is that while parts are really, really good, other parts just seem thick headed. Which, of course, is how people are...

I suppose that's the thing though. It's usually the things that we don't like that we notice, and so it's easy for commentary to become negative after a while.

Anonymous said...

You said that there are transitional (the good Lord only knows why I typed transitory..hehe) fossils. Where did you read about this?...I was discussing this with my husband and he was interested in knowing where you got your info.
The part about spelling Cincinnati wrong was my poor attempt at husband and sons all struggle with spelling, but the females in the family have no problem with it (except for writing goofy things like transitory instead of transitional), so we always kid around here about it being a guy problem....I also apologize if I sounded a bit uncharitable yesterday; I normally always try to stay positive and charitable in my comments....I've been thinking about why your site always has this effect on me...More about that later. Hope you're having a blessed day..

Darwin said...


No, certainly no offense taken. A certain portion of the posts lately have been "well here's something I dislike" posts. I'm working on some more demographic work, but it's a while in cooking a good research post.

On transitional fossils, here's a page that has some pictures by a evolution supporter who is Christian:

Here's a non-scientist but fairly interesting theistic creationist writing about human evolution with the aid of some nice photos:

These two examples actually typify pretty well the two types of evidence we find. The first shows some "smooth transitions" where we have examples at nearly every stage. However, we mostly have these only in "boring" species that change slowly and are very easily fossilized (read simple sea creatures with shells). The response to these is sometimes either "they don't look any different to me" or "who cares about little stuff like that". As seen here:

Note, that the trilobite changes on the ClarifyingChristianity are classified as separate species and so do represent speciation (what people normally refer to as "macroevolution") however the authors feel that since the trilobites are "still trilobites" they are in fact an example of micro evolution.

Now, the piece on hominids shows major changes in a number of species in an order that would suggest commen descent (with some branches dying off) but some will argue that we're still not seeing enough "between species".

In the end, the fellow on the theistic evolution site has the most essential insight: the important thing is the God created us.