[First update posted 11:15 AM, Wednesday, July 13]
With the release of J.K. Rowling's sixth novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, planned for July 16, there is renewed interest in Pope Benedict's opinion of the series, expressed before his elevation and soon after the widespread false reports in 2003 of the late John Paul the Great's endorsement.
The then-cardinal sent a letter of support to a German critic of Ms. Rowling's books, Gabriele Kuby. According to LifeSite, the main thrust of Kuby's objection is that the books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
It is good that you shed light and inform us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable and precisely because of that deeply affect (children) and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it (the Faith) could properly grow and mature.He went on to write:
That they (children) are being cut off from God, the source of Love and Hope , so that they in sorrowful life conditions are without a foundation that supports them -that they lose the spirit of discernment between good and evil and that they will not have the necessary strength and knowledge to withstand the temptations to evil.These are serious concerns for sure. There are, of course, many faithful Catholics with a differing view, including the late pastor of our parish when we lived in Oklahoma, who emphasized that Faith requires a properly developed imagination that discerns good and evil; something with which Harry Potter can help.
Are the novels in the series just harmless, imaginative, children's adventure stories, or do they necessarily lead children to the occult and serious witchcraft? These are straw men, so naturally the answer is "neither." As with many things in life, children can realize the benefits and avoid the pitfalls if guided by involved and informed parents. Harry Potter can be enjoyed in the context of the family such that children are not cut off from God, are not without a foundation that supports them, do have the spirit of discernment between good and evil, and have the necessary strength and knowledge to withstand the temptations to evil.
For our case, it was the Harry Potter series that really turned Troglotyke #1 onto reading in general, to the point he is now a voracious reader. He didn't read the Harry Potter books alone, and he is now able to identify those things that can be taken away as good and those that are to be dismissed as storytelling props with no other positive value. Finally, I don't know whether it follows directly, but 'Tyke #1 has now taken to the Lord of the Rings and, more significantly, is able to identify that it is better.
LifeSite has the translations of the then-cardinal's letters to Mrs. Kuby.
As you can imagine, I side with Jeff Mirus' take on the matter.