A Catholic priest has removed the seven-part Harry Potter series from the library of his parish school because the books present “magic as both good and evil.”
Father Dan Reehil sent an email Aug. 28 to parents and teachers of St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville, Tennessee, noting that “the curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”
“These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception,” wrote the pastor of St. Edward Church.
Reehil elaborated on how the “books also glorify acts of divination; of conjuring the dead, of casting spells among other acts that are an offence to the virtue of religion—to the love and respect we owe to God alone.”
All forms of divination are to be rejected.
“Many reading these books could be persuaded to believe these acts are perfectly fine, even good or spiritually healthy,” he added.
Several exorcists both in Rome and the U.S. recommended removing the books from circulation after Fr. Reehil consulted them, the priest says, supporting his decision with a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
In concluding his email Reehil affirmed, “St. Edward is committed to advancing the Catholic faith and teaching the standards of sound doctrine to instil strong Catholic moral values. Books and other materials which present a possible threat to our faith will not be promoted by our church or school.”
A number of parents reacted by posting an anonymous letter online accusing the pastor of “unilateral decision-making and poor communication” and of having a “fanatical obsession with the devil and sin.”
Commenting on the priest’s decision to remove the books from the school library, Rebecca Hammel, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Nashville said, “Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school. He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”
Hammel insisted that the diocese doesn’t “get into censorship” beyond making sure that the books in school libraries are age-appropriate since the Catholic Church leaves it to parents to determine what’s appropriate for their children and “guide their sons and daughters to understand the content through the lens of our faith.”
When Church Militant contacted Fr. Reehil for comment he responded with a quote from one of his favourite saints—Padre Pio: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
“Since the publication of the Harry Potter books I’ve noticed an explosion of interest in the occult.”
Harry Potter fans, however, mocked Reehil’s decision on social media pointing out that the collection is a work of fiction and that there is no evidence that the spells and curses described are real.
“If the school thinks there are *real magic spells* in *Harry Potter* then it cannot be trusted to teach your child real scholastic skills,” Jason Cross tweeted.
Fr. Reehill is not alone in his concerns about the Harry Potter books. Catholic writer and deacon Nick Donnelly told Church Militant:
As someone who is being taught about demonology by a world famous exorcist, I share Fr. Reehil’s concerns about the Harry Potter books. The author, J.K. Rowling, admitted in 2004 that the most evil spell in her fictional universe is based on an actual ancient Aramaic spell. This real spell has a long history in occult practices, being found in 17th century occult amulets and used by the 20th century Satanist, Aleister Crowley.
Since the publication of the Harry Potter books I’ve noticed an explosion of interest in the occult. Go into any mainstream bookshop and you’ll find more books on witchcraft and casting spells than Bibles. Also over the past couple of years I’ve found evidence of occult practices and spells in a ruined chapel, which I have had to take action against.
At a 2011 film festival in Umbria, Fr. Gabriel Amoth, former chief exorcist of the Vatican, said: “In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” adding, “Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter.”
Fr. Chad Ripperger, Ph.D., an American exorcist also agreed “the spells in the books are actual spells,” dismissing the books as “total garbage” and “not worth reading on a literary level.”
When asked how he knew the spells were real, he replied: “Well, because witches tell us they’re real.”
“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter” — Fr. Gabriel Amoth
In her book, Harry Potter: Good or Evil, Dr. Gabriele Kuby, German sociologist and atheist convert to Catholicism, explains how “the confusion of good and evil, which happens in Harry Potter all the time, is dangerous because it’s the foundation of what the Pope calls relativism.”
In 2003, Kuby received a letter from Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, in which he endorsed her book and said the “Harry Potter phenomenon is corrupting the Christian faith and souls.”
“It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter because these are subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly,” wrote Ratzinger.
Sources from Fr. Reehil’s parish revealed that the priest is well supported by faithful Catholics who believe the Church’s teaching. However, they pointed out that Fr. Reehil’s predecessor Fr. Joseph Breen was a liberal who preached heresy and was censured by Pope John Paul II.
Breen, who was parish priest at St. Edward’s for 33 years, continued to have a “cult like” following in the parish and that made things more difficult for the current incumbent.
In a television interview on News Channel 5, Breen said that it was “very sad” and “unfortunate” and his successor’s action was the first step towards intolerance.
“I believe the Harry Potter controversy is coming from former parishioners who were unhappy with Fr. Breen retiring,” a source told Church Militant.
“I came to know Fr. Reehil because I happened to be at a retreat where he spoke. He was the first time in years I saw a priest who I knew actually believed. It was apparent to me he knew Jesus personally and he believed in miracles,” she said.
In his testimony, Reehil describes how he left the church at the age of 12 and pursued wealth, becoming an affluent Wall Street financier who turned Catholic priest after his conversion.
Saint Edward teaches students from pre-K through eighth grade. Attendance at catechism classes and twice-weekly Mass is compulsory at the school.
(Originally published in Church Militant. To comment on this piece, click here)