Harry Potter and the Exorcists
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
The concern that these exorcists have for the salvation of souls is commendable, but is their interpretation of this work of literature accurate?
What is an Exorcist?
Every bishop, including the pope, has the ability and authority to perform an exorcism within his jurisdiction.
Every priest has the ability (or power) by virtue of his ordination to perform an exorcism, but has to have the permission of his bishop in order to perform the Rite of Exorcism.
An exorcist is an ordained priest who has been appointed by his bishop, and given permission by his bishop, to perform the Rite of Exorcism within that diocese.
A priest may be appointed to the office of exorcist either on a stable basis or for a particular occasion (ad actum) by the diocesan bishop. In either case, the exorcist should work closely with, and under the direction of, the bishop.
If you want to know a little more about who can become an exorcist, you may find this article from Aleteia helpful).
The Rite of Exorcism
What is an exorcism?
Exorcism is a specific form of prayer that the Church uses against the power of the devil.
This means that there are certain prayers, words, and actions that the priest uses to enact the power given by God through the sacrament of ordination over a demon.
Demons are fallen angels, which means that they rejected God and are separated from Him for all eternity. They are still angels by nature, but we call them either demons or fallen angels to distinguish between them and the angels in Heaven who are in union with God.
As angels, they still have the same natural powers that the angels who are in Heaven with God have, but since they rejected God, they don’t have the grace or union with Him that the angels have. Being separated from God means that their abilities are limited to
This is why even the highest ranking demons are terrified of the lowest ranking angels. In Jude 9, a letter written specifically to address the problem of false teachers, he tells us that even Michael the Archangel doesn’t dare rebuke a demon on his own. But Michael cast Satan and his minions out of heaven because he was acting with the grace of God.
In the book of Tobit, the Archangel Raphael bound the demon Asmodeus who had killed Sarah’s first seven husbands. Raphael told Tobit that he is one of the seven who stand before God, constantly interceding for him.
Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are the only angels whose names we know. Even though they are among the lowest ranking angels, they are still more powerful than the most powerful demons because of the grace of God.
So What Does this Have to do with Harry Potter?
There are some exorcists who say that reading and/or watching the Harry Potter stories are spiritual dangerous. What they mean is that it opens the door to the occult, and puts our souls in danger of possession, and puts our salvation at risk.
And there are definitely people who have become involved in the occult and begun practicing magic after reading the Harry Potter stories.
So of course that’s something to be concerned about!
If reading these books or watching the movies leads to becoming involved with a demon then it should certainly be avoided.
This issue is the reason I wrote this series. I think that their criticism of the occult and Harry Potter is well-intentioned, but incorrect, so I’m going to show you why I think that.
What Should We Expect to See in a Story that Encourages Involvement in the Occult?
We should definitely see people who practice magic.
Those people should get their ability and power from something that is outside of themselves
And there should be some kind of supernatural creature involved who encourages or otherwise helps them to acquire magical abilities.
They should not be magical beings who develop their abilities based on skill, the way human beings do with natural abilities of the intellect, which is developed through education, or physical abilities, which are developed through exercise. Developing an innate intellectual or physical ability is part of the natural ability of every human being. Controlling objects without direct physical contact (moving an object using our thoughts, or controlling the weather), or foretelling the future is not within the realm of human capability.
In the Harry Potter series, some of this is within the realm of specific beings who are born that way, but it is not something that a mere human being is able to do—in the world of Harry Potter, you are either born as a magical person or you are not. The skill to move an object, cause changes to objects by speaking specific words, etc. are developed in the same way that athletes and students develop their bodies and minds. Characters who do not have those abilities, are unable to acquire (much less develop) those abilities despite the shysters who try to take advantage of that ability (Filch in particular was susceptible to those shysters).
Magic in Stories
If magic itself is the problem, then what do you do with C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?
When Aslan comes back from the dead, he says that the witch was unaware of the deeper magic that rules Narnia, and knowledge of this would have prevented her from acting the way she did when she killed him on the stone table.
There are several examples within that series where magic is used, and it’s used by characters who are not magic but are just human beings:
Lucy uses a magic potion to heal people, even when they are at the brink of death (LWW)
Susan uses a magic horn that will always bring help (LWW, Prince Caspian)
Lucy casts 2 spells, one of which Aslan himself obeys (Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
But the question to ask is: is this similar to the magic in fairy tales, or is this the occult?
The Occult and Harry Potter
This is the issue that is the heart of the concern some exorcists have about the series.
As I said earlier in this post, there are certainly people who become involved in the occult after reading Harry Potter.
But are the books the direct cause of that involvement?
Let’s look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and the occult:
The Renaissance Faires, which have nothing to do with the Renaissance itself, are really attempts to re-enact living in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. And there is no doubt that some of those who are involved in them are also involved in the occult.
There are some vendors who sell magical objects and books about real magic.
Not everyone who enjoys going to them is involved or even interested in the occult, but it’s undeniable that this element is definitely present.
Does this mean that reading his books, or watching the cartoons and movies that are based on his books is directly encouraging readers and viewers to become involved in the occult?
Or that Tolkien himself encouraged people to become involved in the occult?
It’s obvious to most people that the answer to that would be a definite, “no.”
Why is it a definite "No?"
For the same reason that we would say that Lewis was definitely not encouraging people to become involved in the occult.
First, they were both devout Christians
Second, they wrote stories that were faerie stories and fairy tales
Third, the stories themselves were clearly works of fiction
Fourth, they never (after Lewis’s conversion) engaged in occult activity, much less recommended it
The same can be said about J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series.
So when some people, including some exorcists, say that the Harry Potter series directly encourages involvement with demons, I think they’re well-intentioned, but mistaken. What needs to be shown is how these stories encourage this, while Narnia and Lord of the Rings does not. That’s especially difficult to demonstrate with Lord of the Rings, when so many occult activities that are engaged in today are taken almost directly from Tolkien’s series.
Next week’s post in this series is where I’ll show that the Harry Potter books are really fairy tales.