Interview with an exorcist, Part II

fr euteneuer sm Interview with an exorcist, Part IIYou asked, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer answers! Here’s Part II to our interview about exorcism and his new book, Exorcism and the Church Militant. (Part I is here.)

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Q: You mentioned that secular professionals are sometimes involved in the exorcism process. What kind of reactions do you typically get from them? Do they think all this exorcism stuff is crazy, or do they agree that something supernatural is going on?

It is more accurate to say that secular professionals are involved in the consultation process but not usually in the exorcism sessions themselves. However, I have had psychologists involved in the prayer sessions, and they are always in admiration of the distinct and quite potent way that the Church has to heal people through ritualized prayer. This is spiritual healing, not psychological healing. They discover, sometimes to their amazement, that science doesn’t have all the answers or resources for healing the human person. When there is a demonic problem it will often block the individual’s psychological or medical healing, but after the person is liberated from his demons, the other types of healing are able to bear more fruit. By and large, any time I have had a psychologist join me in a prayer session they are awed by the power of God to heal a person at the core of his being.

On a related note, one other exorcist I know of invited a couple of (agnostic) journalists into a prayer session and they were just struck speechless with their inability to explain what was going on. Only faith can explain it fully. While the journalists did write about their encounter, the Church discourages any kind of publicity of such private matters, for the sake of privacy and the dignity of the person. In the case of priests who talk about this publicly like I do, it is important just to share information and stories that cannot be traced back to the individuals who are the subjects of the prayer sessions. It is done exclusively to build people’s faith.

Q: What about non-Catholics or non-Christians? Could a priest help them with demonic possession?

Yes. There is no prohibition to exorcising those who are not members of our faith or of no faith at all. In fact, if it is done correctly, an exorcism process can be a moment of evangelization for those who do not have explicit faith in Christ or the Catholic Church. Conversion to the Church is not a condition for receiving exorcism either. “What you have received freely, give freely,” says the Lord, but every exorcism is a true witness to the power of Christ that operates through His Church.

Q: I’ve noticed that you tend to get an extremely negative reaction when you say that the Harry Potter books are dangerous. Some folks hear that and think, “I know a lot of people who read Harry Potter and remained strong in their faith, or have even been inspired by the message of good conquering darkness” — and, conversely, they don’t know anyone who has read these books and gotten involved in the occult, so it doesn’t ring true for them. What would you say to that?

I would encourage anyone who holds the beliefs mentioned above to read the articles by Michael O’Brien on Harry Potter and other occult phenomena. The best one is Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture. He has recently come out with a book of a similar name. He holds that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling writes out of a completely pagan worldview, and even though there may be some points of contact between paganism and Christianity (some basic notions of good and evil, for example), the totally pagan mindset of the Harry Potter 400-million-book-onslaught is what is dangerous.

The Harry Potter series will not make a person demon possessed; it will, rather, normalize the existence of demons and infuse the occult language and imagery that celebrates them into the minds of the young. It is absolutely not true to say that this stuff doesn’t get people involved in the occult. Go and look at the Harry Potter section in Barnes and Noble and see what occult and witchcraft phenomena this series has spawned for our youth.

It is also my contention that the vampire craze is a direct result of a decade of Harry. Pretty soon the Harry Potter generation, who are now a decade older, get bored with the childish “Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” and spell casting, and they need a little more “mature” form of occult entertainment.

Q: What about other books that involve magic? A lot of people say, for example, that C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia brought them closer to Jesus, even though the stories involve magic, spells, etc. What is your response to that?

Following from what I said above, I believe that the infiltration of pagan images and occult themes into the minds of our children has a devastating effect on them.

Tolkein’s and Lewis’s works come entirely out of a Christian worldview, despite the use of magic and some occult powers. In Lewis and Tolkein, the use of these preternatural powers is not ambiguous like it is in the Harry Potter series, and the figures who use them are either totally good and Christ-like (Gandalf, for example, becomes a Christ figure in his use of power to heal and protect people from evil) or they are totally evil and use power like demons do to harm and control (i.e., Saruman and Sauron).

Q: I read in your bio that you participated in the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program in college, attended basic training at Quantico, Virginia and graduated at the top of your Company. Has this experience in the Maries helped you at all in your role as an exorcist?

It gave me a strong sense of the Church Militant — that still remains for me a defining image of how the Church should operate in confronting the evils of our day. I believe that if more Churchmen had a fighting spirit, the power of evil would not be so virulent in our culture. It is true to say that when the Church is weak, all of society is weak. By extension, when church leaders are weak the Church is much less able to be the conscience of society.

Q: You mention in the book that in some sense Satan and demons are disempowered now. Were demons more powerful before Jesus’ birth and death?

Very much so. There’s a great book by Fr. Jean Danielou, a Jesuit priest, called The Angels and Their Mission. He describes angels being sent into the world to try to lead men to God. However, because of the tendency of human nature to be corrupt, the demons won by leading men into idolatry, and only Christ could set it right. The power of Christ against evil has been delegated to the Church — he sent disciples out to heal the sick, preach the good news and cast out demons — but the Church needs to operate as the Church Militant in order to restrain the power of evil in the world. If it doesn’t, the power of evil grows.

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Thanks again to Fr. Euteneuer for taking the time to chat with me! Again, if you’d like to learn more about this subject, I highly recommend his book, Exorcism and the Church Militant.

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Enter the Conversation...

58 Responses to “Interview with an exorcist, Part II”
  1. Megan says:

    Wow, what a great interview! I have to admit that the part about Harry Potter bothers me still. I have read all 7 books and the first six I have read twice. However, I am not a fanatic, and I just enjoy them as light fun reading. I also have no interest in the Twilight series or any of the other magical books that he refers to.
    That said, I didn't read them until high school, I do feel strongly that children shouldn't read them. While the first book is light and fun, the later books definitely have parts that could be scary.
    Also, as an adult, I think it is easy to separate the imaginary wizard world from the evil occult magic etc that goes on in real life. However, I can see that this would be considerably more difficult for a child. I definitely won't allow my children to read them until high school, and even then my husband and I would decide based on the child's spiritual maturity at the time.

  2. Jaimie says:

    JK Rowling is a Christian exactly like Lewis and Tolkien were, so yes, it has a "Christian worldview." I'm so tired of hearing how Harry Potter is bad but somehow Lewis and Tolkien are okay. They're the EXACT same thing.

    Sorry to nitpick one part of the whole, but he did spend some time discussing it.

  3. Jaimie says:

    "It is also my contention that the vampire craze is a direct result of a decade of Harry. Pretty soon the Harry Potter generation, who are now a decade older, get bored with the childish "Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" and spell casting, and they need a little more "mature" form of occult entertainment."

    Which is why the next big trend is…….. mermaids.

    I'm done. I just don't like sensationalism. :)

  4. Fred says:

    The Angels and Their Mission is a great book, which draws on the Fathers of the Church.

  5. rhinemouse says:

    Oh, good grief. It is a matter of head-pounding frustration to me that people are still taking Michael O'Brien's literary criticism seriously. I've read A Landscape With Dragons it struck me as filled with shallow and often inconsistent analysis. And now he's been claiming that because Stephanie Meyer and J. K. Rowling felt like their books "wrote themselves," they must have been acting under demonic influence–a logical leap that makes sense ONLY if you have never talked to any writers at all. I think this critique of his argument makes a lot of sense.

  6. Rebekka says:

    Having read the Harry Potter books as an adult, the magic stuff bothers me less than the fact that the kid himself lies incorrigibly, steals, and uses his gift/talent to hurt other people when it suits him. He's also very poor at self-control. There's a pervasive sense of the end justifying the means (ie, lying is okay because he's the good guy and he's doing it for the right reason) throughout the whole series, which is just wrong and definitely not Christian. They're excellent stories, but the ambiguous *moral* character of the hero is more dangerous IMO than the spells and wands, which are clearly fantasy.

  7. Bethany Hudson says:

    Rebekka – applause, applause.

    As a fiction author, I must say that, while I believe children's and YA authors ahve a responsiblity toward their impressionable audience, we simply have to tell a story sometimes. Harry Potter is morally ambiguous in many ways because Harry's WORLD was morally ambiguous in many ways. So is ours! I think the biggest difference between Meyers/Rowling, Lewis/Tolkein is that Meyers and Rowling are writing from and to a secular, post-modern world, and Lewis and Tolkein were writing half a century earlier. It's that simple. Harry and Bella are contemporary characters. If you want to tell their story, you have to tell it the way it is.

    Not to imply that every story NEEDS telling or needs to be told to children, but I just wanted to say that.

    Back to the interview–This has been great! I work with youth and one of the major things we'll be exploring in our parish this year is the actual presence of Satan and demons. Too many teens (and adults, for that matter) today believe Satan is more of an "idea" or a "force" rather than an actual fallen angel who wants them to wind up in Hell. It's an important topic to be brought out into the light.

  8. Lisa says:

    Adding my two sense to the Harry Potter controversy: If someone is not going to allow their children to read Harry Potter or the Twilight series, they should not allow any books, games or television that refers to magic. That includes books by Tolkein, Lewis, Grimms Fairy Tales, the majority of children's electronic games and much of television.

    Also they will not want their children to have playmates that read/play such items either, so they should find themselves a tight-knit, exclusive homeschool group to hang out with. And for heaven's sake absolutely no youth groups for teens! I have done some reading on Wicca, etc. and I can tell you it is everywhere.

    I can also tell you from growing up in a very sheltered home and (Protestant) church, I (and my peers) were unprepared for the big, bad world out there. That is why I choose to gradually expose my children to what is out there and help them navigate through it in light of our Catholic faith.

    Just my two sense :-)

    Lisa

  9. Anonymous says:

    I respect that the good father is an expert on the demonic but he clearly is not an expert on the literary. He needs to read Flannery O'Connor's letters and essays. Anyone who can say that Lewis and Tolkien wrote from an "entirely" Christian worldview is revealing a deep misunderstanding of their works. Lewis and Tolkien were both thoroughly Christian men who nevertheless had a deep love for pagan myth. Pagan elements abound in both Narnia and Middle Earth.

    –Elizabeth B.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Jennifer, thanks so much for the interview. I would really like to read his book, but I have to admit that the subject matter (demons & possession) gives me the creeps so that I haven't wanted to delve into it very deeply in the past.

    As to the Rowling/Meyer argument, I have to admit to being a fan of the Potter series in particular. However, several years ago I was in a chain bookstore in close proximity to a young girl and her grandmother. The girl was going on and on about how she wanted to find a "real" spell book and found the whole idea to be very cool. She seemed impressionable, so I can see how young children with that sort of investment in fantasy could be easily led astray. I think the discretion must lie with the parents whether or not to allow their kids to be exposed to such fiction.

    Jen G

  11. Julie L. says:

    I read the Harry Potter books as they came out, starting at the age of 12. I spent the next 9 years as an avid fan of the series, eagerly awaiting each book release. I was also raised in a large and devoutly Catholic family. I have to take this opportunity to say that I find it absurd to look to Harry Potter as a source of anything other than a fabulous series of literature for young adults (and adults of all ages, really) that deals with the trials and tribulations that teens face everyday – choosing what is right over what's wrong. Peer pressure, school pressure, friendship and relationship issues etc. Do these books spark your imagination and make you wonder about a supernatural world? Absolutely! Do they cause you to become obsessed with the occult and lead your astray from your values? No.

    If you are raising children in a household of faith, with a strong foundation of family, I would encourage you to allow your children to read this books and let them experience this wonderful world of fantasy and imagination. It would be such a shame to keep these books away from your children. Also, let's think about all the other things your young children could be doing aside from – gasp! – reading!

    Now that I am done with that, I found the interview very interesting. Rather unsurprisingly, exorcism is not a topic that was openly discussed in my 12 years at Catholic schools.

  12. Lisa says:

    I forgot to add: a parent eliminating magic should not plan on taking the children to Disneyworld or allowing Disney movies to be viewed. Not only do they contain magic, but Walt Disney is misogynistic (kill all the mothers and vilify all the step-mothers)and sexist (why are all the heroines fair nubile creatures?).

    …stepping off my soapbox now… =D

  13. Liesl says:

    I think it's interesting how the Harry Potter question has generated most of the discussion on the comments… but I guess that's why I'm commenting too!

    I have read the HP books numerous times – in fact, I'm reading one again right now – and I have also seen the movies. I probably started reading them when I was about 11 or 12 and grew up with them. That being said, even as a child, I recognized that this was a FANTASY world. While Harry's world is very similar to ours in many ways, it is still not real. I think that's important to realize, and if you want to read these books with your kids, it's a great point to discuss with them to teach them the difference between fantasy and reality.

    I also think the books emulate a lot of Christian values. While Harry is not perfect by any means, he is like each of us in the fact that we are also not perfect and sin from time to time. Yet, he still tries to do what is best for people, and to not leave any spoilers, he goes through terrible things in order to save those he loves and cares about, as well as people he has never even met. While he uses magic at times to do these things, there are also a lot of instances where he relies on his courage, intellect, and heart to do what is right. I see nothing wrong with seeing these qualities in a positive light. Again, I also think there are some Christian themes in the books as well, whether they were intended that way or not.

    I think it also presents a view that can also be seen in our world. For example, the persecution of Muggle-born wizards and other magical creatures, especially prevalent in the 7th book where they were forced to register, submit to questioning, and in some cases, lose their rights or even lives, are very reminiscent of persecutions and prejudices that have been seen in our history and are still present today. A big example is the rounding up, registration, expulsion, and murder of the Jews and other "minorities" in the Holocaust. While this example in Harry Potter is, again, not real, it is a representation that can teach children (and adults!) that just because people are different does not mean that they should be treated as anything but a human being, or in a Christian sense, as a child of God. Why wouldn't we want the children that have grown up reading Harry Potter to learn a lesson such as this? They get this message at Mass and at Sunday School from the Bible, but it also provides another icon of what it means to love your neighbor as Jesus taught.

    Harry Potter aside, I also enjoyed the interview. I have never really thought much about exorcisms and demonic possession before – often thinking it was an archaic practice – but after reading this interview, I can't help but wonder if it's just the Devil trying to convince us that exorcisms are "out-of-date" just so that he can possess even more people. I look forward to reading more on the subject in the future.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Great interview.
    I agree with Rebekkah.
    And we never took our children to Disney World. We took them to see the real stuff.
    Why are people reading Harry Potter over and over?
    My children thought the series juvenile.

  15. Dani says:

    An interesting interview.

    I find this whole debate on Harry Potter (and other books) absurd however. Most children will be exposed to these books at some point in their life. And what is not mentioned is the responsibility of the parent to engage their children in discussion about these books.

    Do the children understand the content? What messages do they obtain from the book? We adults sometime over think the effect on children without actually asking children.

    These books are an awesome opportunity for the parent to engage their children in faith discussions and explain how/why certain parts are wrong/right.

  16. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary says:

    Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Burton B says:

    I think some of the commentators may be missing the broader perspective on the issue of the paganization of children's literature and what Michael O'brien refers to as archetype inversion. Of course the majority of anecdotal evidence will be of the "I read these books and they seem harmless to me" variety. I doubt that the interviewed priest or Michael O'brien would suggest that the average reader of the Harry Potter series will dive headlong into the occult. Rather, it is the subtle shift in the portrayal of forces of evil as in some way good or "tame-able" to serve good ends. Tolkein presents a profound counterpoint to this message in his portrayal of the the power of the Ring. If we and our children swim in this new milieu, it cannot help but imapct our spiritual perception. In our modern age of moral and spiritual relativism, we need to give our children every chance to ground themselves on the firm foundation of Truth, and the true nature of Good and Evil. The myths and stories they absorb are deeply impactful in this respect.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Fr. Euteneuer, for ALL that you do especially helping defend LIFE in all stages! (Thank you, too, Jennifer!)

    Why take the chance and let your child read Harry Potter when there is so much better for their soul out there.

  19. rhinemouse says:

    I guess in Catholic circles, Harry Potter is like mantillas: once mentioned, the topic dominates the conversation.

    Anyway, I wanted to add that I do see some moral problems in the Harry Potter books (at one point in the last book Harry uses Crucio and it's presented as a good idea, WHAT THE HECK?) and I don't mind people criticizing them on those grounds. What gets to me is when people analyze modern fantasy with a presumption of evil while giving a free pass to everything in Lewis and Tolkien. (Aragorn raises an army of the dead to do his bidding. There are extenuating circumstances and *I* wouldn't call it necromancy, but I really, really doubt anyone would be okay with Harry Potter doing the exact same thing.)

    Also: while I agree that it's a huge problem when parents let their children imbibe paganism without supervision, I think it is an equally huge problem when they become paranoid about about possible occult influences. Because it's not always just a matter of "Better safe than sorry." If you tell your children that Harry Potter is the express lane to perdition, sooner or later they will realize that not all Harry Potter fans have turned into Satanists. And when they do, they won't just doubt your powers of literary criticism. They will probably start to doubt what you say about the faith as well.

  20. catholicnurse says:

    Im a Harry Potter fan (the series even saved my life, literally, but that is a LONG story). I even have a tattoo of that series. And I am 100% catholic. I have to agree to disagree with him in that view.

  21. catholicnurse says:

    Also, you should check the podcast "secrets of harry potter" done by the people at sqpn.com. The main speaker there is a catholic priest. Just saying.

  22. Mary says:

    What a great interview! Thanks. Fr. Tom is a great priest. Wish there were more like him…(not afraid to speak for the Truth). It's not easy in this day and age.

  23. Christine says:

    Great interview Jen!

    I assume that Jen's audience is pretty solid in their faith. Myth, paganism, etc. hits their imagination and it is entertainment. Not everyone is on such solid ground. Have you seen the commercials for 'California Psychics' … do you understand how popular it has become to have seances in your home with friends… people are delving into things best left alone with no armor. Joke about it all you want, but there are people searching desperately for answers in all of the wrong places. Many of these people are parents. Do you really think they are raising discerning God-fearing children.

    (Pls pardon the paraphrasing Burton B): 'it is the subtle shift in the portrayal of forces of evil as in some way good or "tame-able" to serve good ends.' – so ripe for a hedonistic affluent society.

    [The Tolkien nerd in me can't let this pass, but Rhinemouse - your critique of Aragon is wrong. w/o going into detail, Aragon redeems their souls by giving them the opportunity/choice to make up for their past betrayal/sin.]

  24. Mary says:

    I would like to add that there are so many other great literary works out there. One doesn't have to follow the trend all the time.

  25. Ray Ingles says:

    I really wish you'd asked about the differences between his exorcisms and these: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10913297

  26. T. Wyatt says:

    I never thought there was a connection between demons and Harry Potter until I saw how vociferously and aggressively people were willing to go to the mat to defend those books, and how many hours people would spend defending those books, often using a shrill voice/tone. Totally bizarre. I've never seen anyone do that for other, supposedly harmless, books.

  27. Ray Ingles says:

    It would have been helpful to have him compare and contrast his exorcisms with these, too:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25423465/

  28. Melanie says:

    Amazing interview! I enjoyed reading both parts. What spoke most directly to me was Fr. Euteneuer's description of the heart of humility. Spiritual warfare is always fascinating and I appreciate the awesome interview. Thanks, Jen!

  29. B. says:

    Speaking as a Harry Potter Fan, I have to admit the fact that children can be influenced to a great degree by the books they read. I always had problems telling apart fiction from reality, and in some ways I was more influenced by the books I read than by my parents when I grew up (fortunately in good ways). Later, as a young adult I was greatly influenced (in bad ways) by books of Philipp Pullman and Sara Douglass.

    However, I do not understand the contrasting of Harry Potter and Narnia. In "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" there is a wizard who bewitches those dwarves (dufflepuds?) just for fun. They are terribly afraid of him and he makes them have only one leg, because he thinks it's funny. Incredibly, he is one of the good guys! The children befriend him and also take delight of his bewitching those dwarves. This is much worse than anything in Harry Potter books, IMO.

  30. Maiki says:

    The thing is, the "Vampire" Craze existed in other forms (Interview with a Vampire, BtVS) before Meyer, and both those works are a lot more "secular" and "occult" related than Harry Potter ever is. Harry Potter doesn't treat magic as the occult. There are no seances. Divination is treated like a joke/superstition. Raising the Dead as Zombies is seen as super evil. Vampires are sort of comical magical creatures. There are Christian themes all over the books — giving up your life to save the ones you love is the recurring theme of the books. Harry's school doesn't celebrate Saturnalia or Imbolc, but Halloween and Christmas. Damaging one's soul is healed by repentance, and sin damages one's soul. "Heaven"/afterlife is defined in very Christian terms, things like "reincarnation" make no sense in the Harry Potter universe.

    Are there no moral issues with Harry Potter? Far from it. The slide of "unforgivables" in the book (from being, "unforgivable" to being a tool to fight evil) is very questionable and not good. However, inciting interest in the Occult doesn't seem to be its primary concern. (Over kids reading something like Anne Rice, or watching anything on TV involving magic).

  31. c matt says:

    on and on about how she wanted to find a "real" spell book

    She should have pointed her to the chemistry and physics section. Would have been a great opportunity to get her interested in the sciences.

    Those of you who grew up with HP, can't be more thatn what – 20, 21 years old now?

    I know it sounds patronizing, but you might want to wait until you've experienced life a bit more. I am not saying HP is satanic, but I have to admit there is a difference between the way HP and Twilight treats the supernatural, and the way Tolkien and Lewis do. HP/Twighlight treat the occult as something to be aspired to, or to become part of, or as others pointed out – something to tame/control. Tolkien and Lewis (particularly Tolkien) keep it very separate – Gandalf, the elves, Sauron, and the Ring itself are shown to be something other – the powers they have are reserved to them as part of their nature, and not for men, hobbits or dwarves to try to possess – because they are not part of their nature.

    Having said that, and while there is concern, the well adjusted can take these series in good fun.

    But, not everyone is well adjusted. Have you taken a really good hard look around lately? Have you seen the average Joe/Jane and taken a close look? It is hard for you twenty somethings to notice the change, because you've grown up with it, but for us geezers, all the Goth looking, tattooed and pierced folks you see were extremely rare just a short two decades ago. They resemble the motely crew of Inkheart (who were based upon a pagan culture). It is hard to think the paganization of our culture (which the above observations reflect) isn't proceeding apace.

  32. Anonymous says:

    c matt, I'm with you on that

  33. Anonymous says:

    Agreeing with Rebekka.

    I made my children wait to read Harry Potter, and I sat down with them as I gave them the first book and explained that I did not particularly like Harry because of his lying, disobeying, etc. etc. etc. I asked them to stay aware of that while they read the books and not to succumb to that view of right and wrong. My kids seem to have come out of it OK. Daughter read the first Twilight book because her friend insisted, but she told me "I can't think of how they could have made that book dumber." :-D

    Just because someone wrote a book warning against something doesn't mean they really know what they're doing … think Hitchens and Dorkins.

  34. Anne Marie says:

    T. Wyatt, good point about the emotion around the HP books.

  35. Kat says:

    T. Wyatt — I think some of the reason that many people take criticism so poorly is because it means something to them on a deeply personal level. Many (if not most!) 20-somethings these days, for instance, literally grew up with Harry Potter. I myself recall the excitement and anticipation leading up to each book release, an excitement that I shared with my friends and family and which brought us all great joy. The Harry Potter phenomenon, including not only the books themselves but the cultural movement that they inspired, brought people together all over the world and across lifespans. It created new friendships and strengthened existing ones. It spawned vibrant online and in-person communities in which thousands of people shared theories, analyzed texts, discussed historical and literary allusions, and so on.

    Putting aside the issue of whether the books actually promote the occult, directly or indirectly, it makes sense that when you tell someone whose childhood or adolescence was shaped by these books and the community around them that the books themselves are worthless or evil, they are going to have a strong reaction on an emotional level. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are influenced by the devil. It may just mean that they are reacting to an issue that means a lot to them. People tend to get defensive when they think that something they love, for any one of a variety of reasons, is being attacked.

  36. 4ddintx says:

    First of all, I really enjoyed both parts of the interview with Fr. Euteneuer. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Jen.

    About the Harry Potter question. Some ideas that I haven't seen presented here in the comments:
    1. Someone mentioned that "HP/Twilight treat the occult as something to be aspired to." I would disagree with that statement concerning HP. (I haven't read the Twilight books and can make no comment on that front). But, the magic in the Harry Potter universe can be likened to a talent–it is something that you are born with. There are people from magical families that don't have any magic (squibs) and there are people from non-magical families that are born with magic (Hermione and Harry's Mother being notable examples). The school exists to teach the students to develop and use that talent wisely–much as a performing arts school or science and technology school might help a youngster in our world. So, a child looking for a spellbook is a child who is not separating reality from fiction–and that is the larger issue. Many books would move this particular child into scary water.

    2. The magic in the Harry Potter universe is incantational (think "bibbity bobbity boo") and not invocational (Calling on a demonic or otherwordly force for power). That is why, instinctively, so many parents find Harry Potter ok for their children, even if they can't articulate it. In contrast, the newest Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog, has the bad voodoo doctor invoking demons to fight. (As I understand it anyway, I haven't seen it for this reason). The instance mentioned in Voyage of the Dawntreader is also incantational magic, as Lucy is able to undo the invisibility spell on the Dufflepuds by reading from the spellbook. (Did you remember that Lucy did magic?)

    3. Do Harry and his friends make some bad choices? Absolutely! I certainly made poor choices growing up, and still do. They were largely without moral oversight, being at boarding school. That has been huge fodder for discussion with my children, though. Also, the characters grow in maturity and morality as they grow up in the books.

    4. JK Rowling is a Christian–a postmodern Christian, as she lives in a postmodern world, but a Christian. There are differences in her work and that of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien because they are of different generations, but her books are full of Christian symbolism and themes. (Harry is saved at the end of the first 4 novels by a Christ image/symbol).

    If anyone would like to read further on the Christian symbols and themes in Harry Potter, I would recommend any of the books by John Granger. "Finding God in Harry Potter" and others. He does a good job opening up the books and their underlying themes and symbols.

    I wouldn't recommend a child be let loose with these books (or many other books, as well), but as part of a varied diet of literature with an adult to guide them and discuss with them, these books can really open up amazing discussions on life, love, God, relationships, morality, and so much more.

    Any parent that decides these books are not for their family should certainly not allow them to be read. My daughters know they aren't to discuss the books with friends who aren't allowed to read them. Yet, they have brought a lot to our family and I'm really glad that I read them (I didn't read them until a year ago when my oldest daughter asked about them, by the way). I think we can all be respectful of the choices that other families make concerning any of these hot button topics. The conversation here has been very respectful, which is a nice change from others I've read on other forums as I've researched this issue this past year.

  37. Robin says:

    This is interesting to me because Fr. didn't say:

    1. I've read the series and they're awful.

    2. Those people over there have told me about the series and they're awful.

    He's actually saying:

    I have prayed over demon-possessed people and I think Harry Potter is awful.

    He has a unique perspective, that no one here (I hope, thank God) has experienced.

    I think I'll follow his advice.

  38. Drew says:

    I find it funny how everyone comments on the Harry Potter section and seems to ignore the rest of what he says. Sounds a little bit about protestantism or cafeteria catholics, who pick and choose what sounds good to them and can't accept it as a whole. Very good responses and a great article. Looking forward to reading the book.

    As a response to someone else, just because an author is christian doesn't mean their work is christian. There are tons of catholics who feel abortion is morally sound… their attested religion doesn't make their statements catholic statements.

  39. Lisa says:

    I apologize for this becoming a Harry Potter debate… And I don't usually follow comments or respond to them, but I can't resist this time.

    To those who assume Harry Potter fans (using the term fan for myself lightly, I think they are good books but not the world's greatest) are twenty somethings – I am in my mid 40s. To those who assume my defense of the books is bizarre, emotionally charged or otherwise suspect – you are only right on one account, the topic is something that gets me on my soapbox, but not for the reason you think.

    There is danger in not recognizing evil, but there is also danger in looking for evil everywhere. I grew up in a church/religion that believed the song "Hotel California' was about the anti-Christ, that if you played rock records (vinyls to the younger folks) backwards you could her the subliminal messages on it and we didn't buy Proctor & Gamble products because their "man in the moon" logo was a satanic sign.

    Would you like to guess how many of us teens taught that came to believe our parents, our church (if not most religions) was full of ignorant people? The answer is the majority of us. It took me a long time to realize that you could be intelligent, educated AND religious.

    It is like rhinemouse said, "If you tell your children that Harry Potter is the express lane to perdition, sooner or later they will realize that not all Harry Potter fans have turned into Satanists. And when they do, they won't just doubt your powers of literary criticism. They will probably start to doubt what you say about the faith as well."

    Jen, I do appreciate your wonderful interview. It is very informative and answered many of the questions I had about the topic.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    May I suggest you be an audience to one of these exorcist rituals and blog about it. It would be so interesting to see your point of view from a converted atheist view point.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Rev. Euteneuer, as the President of Human Life International and an exorcist and a former marine do you think that the American Bishops are using all of their spiritual authority and power to combat evils like the legalization and government funding of abortion and same sex marriage in the United States? Two, are there other even greater evils perhaps that we layman don't even hear about or consider that perhaps thwart the Bishops? Three, do we Catholics need to be praying and lobbying perhaps for more exorcists and former marines to be elevated to positions of leadership,IE,to serve as Bishops within the Church?

  42. D. G. D. Davidson says:

    I think some of the commentators may be missing the broader perspective on the issue of the paganization of children's literature and what Michael O'brien refers to as archetype inversion.

    The problem with O'Brien's analysis is that his "archetypes," which he borrows from Jung even as he is denouncing Jung, are themselves based on anecdote. O'Brien finds an example here and there of something being used to represent evil and declares it a universal symbol of evil. All other uses of that thing he dismisses or attacks. So snakes are, according to him, a universal symbol of evil, and he claims other uses of snakes come from "Eastern dualism," though he never explains what he means by that. He also criticizes different authors with different standards, so physically repugnant villains are a good thing in the Grimms but a bad thing in Rowling. He is so vague and so self-contradictory that his arguments cannot be taken seriously, and more recently he has gone straight into conspiracy theory and the wildest sort of claims, so that in the foreword to his new book on Harry Potter he describes himself cowering and quavering in fear before a children's book, which is undignified, to say the least.

    Incidentally, I have a book here by a biblical scholar who has actually done the work of sifting through snake imagery in mythology, folklore, and other places and found 15 negative symbols and 29 positive ones. O'Brien's claim that snakes are always symbols of evil no matter how they are employed by the author or artist is lacking in sophistication.

    Magic in the Harry Potter series is not something that the reader is invited to tame, control, or practice. The world of Harry Potter is merely the real world magicalized, so instead of the regular British government, there is a Ministry of Magic, and instead of washing machines, they have diswhashing spells, and they play soccer on brooms, and so forth. Rowling does not work out the implications of her magical system or even bother to keep it consistent, and she always presents it in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek fashion. Real folklore, when used at all, is referenced only in the form of parody. It frightens me that anybody at all, critics or fans, takes it seriously.

    I notice a lot of ad hominem in this thread. Harry Potter fans are attacked as too young or too fervent; such non-arguments should be dismissed.

    When Rowling borrows something from mythology and people respond by accusing her of indoctrinating children into paganism, I worry that we are simply becoming illiterate. Tolkien and Lewis would have been aghast at this phobia we have developed toward mythology, folklore, and pagan writings.

  43. D. G. D. Davidson says:

    Oops, looks like I posted my comment multiple times by mistake.

  44. Anneg says:

    Thanks for the interview. I have a great respect for Fr Euteneuer. As for HP, I love fantasy literature and I'm pushing 60. HP is mediocre in the genre, but I can see how it would be engaging for kids raised on Which Way Books. I've not read Twilight, but understand the author is a Mormon, hence, the lack of protection of the crucifix and redemption in classical vampire literature. I've also seen, personally, several possessed individuals. One from The Exorcist movie, another had never heard of that, just invited possession from cultural influences. I've lived and worked in some unusual places. I would guess Fr E has dealt with some kids who were influenced by HP. Re what we learn in church, I know one person, raised Protestant, who was always afraid of going to hell. Now, she's a Wiccan, and she can be sure, I guess.
    I also agree with Fr E re the changes in society. Seems like we are a lot like first century Rome, with neo-pagan influences and destruction of values. AnneG in NC

  45. Anonymous says:

    Great interview even though I disagree about the Harry Potter part.

    I read all the HP books before allowing my children to read them and we all came to the same conclusion the good concurred evil and the being a loyal and faithful friend even in times of darkness and fear are qualities to strive for.

    I don't believe HP books lead to any occult involvement at all.

    And I don't believe HP is responsible for vampires being the next "in" paranormal entity.

    I think Anne Rice -the on again off again Catholic- holds more responsiblity for vampire popularity than HP ever did.

    Years ago it was witches and curses, "The Wizard of Oz", "Beauty and the Beast", "The Little Mermaid" and "Sleeping Beauty"- if those stories of witches and curses didn't turn people into occult seekers and I don't believe little old Harry Potter will.

    Julie

  46. April says:

    Such controversy about Harry Potter… satan revels in controversy. He promotes it through mental temptation and denial, and through prideful statements like "I read them and I never had anything happen to me." Take a look around, the occult is everywhere. The very fact that most of the comments listed are a tit for tat bantering back and forth is proof that satan is laughingly involved.
    When in doubt, look to those who are educated clergy on the matter within the Church and read what they have to say, rather than relying on our own opinions. Cardinal Ratzinger warned against Harry Potter. The truth remains that much controversy exists on this matter. Even if there actually is no harm in reading fantasy books which include the occult, whether written from a paganistic or Christian viewpoint, it is best to err on the side of what the Church has to say. If you are still not willing to accept advice from those trained in exorcism rituals, you can always seek out the priest that will tell you what you want to hear. You will find him. However, I have yet to find in my research an actual priest certifiably involved in this line of work to say, yes, go ahead and read Harry Potter.

  47. D. G. D. Davidson says:

    April, you have a very curious idea of what constitutes "proof" of demonic involvement.

    The good priest here is relying on Michael D. O'Brien's writing, which simply cannot be taken seriously after a close reading. It should be understood that when Father speaks on fantasy literature, he is speaking as an amateur. His link between Harry Potter and Twilight demonstrates that; Twilight's immediate predecessors are the other vampire romance novels of recent years, which stem mostly from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Twilight is a Mormonized version of the popular vampire romance.

    When you say "Occult," what do you even mean? Labeling a book "Occult" does not make it so, especially if we don't have a clear definition for the word. Harry Potter contains tongue-in-cheek cartoon magic. Twilight, to my recollection, contains little or no magic, but only some bishie-boys with superpowers. Neither is about superstitious practices or modern religious movements, so in what way are they "Occult"?

    And Cardinal Ratzinger did not warn against Harry Potter; he merely wrote letters (or had a secretary write them) thanking a writer for sending him some books, and the story was inflated by an irresponsible news reporter.

  48. D. G. D. Davidson says:

    A little follow-up to that:

    April and others, you are appealing to authority. The appeal to authority is the weakest form of argument, and in this case it constitutes an informal logical fallacy because the man to whose authority you are appealing is not, in fact, an authority. He is an exorcist, not a literary critic.

  49. April says:

    To the former two commentors: yes, I do appeal to authority. I am a Roman Catholic, and in cases where much controversy is beyond my expertise, I humbly submit to the authoritative suggestions of well-educated priests like Fr. Tom Euteneur, particularly on matters of exorcism and gray areas of the occult. (dictionary.com defines occult: of or pertaining to magic, astrology, or any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies) Regarding Cardinsl Ratzinger, I am well-aware of the criticism regarding the letter allegedly written by him to Ms. Kuby, even by esteemed Catholic apologists like Jim Akin. Yes, there is always room for error and bad translation. The wording can be manipulated however anyone wishes (and remember, satan is the king of manipulation, reversal and controversy). However, I am simply stating that to err on the side of the Church is best particulary in situations that could concern the eternal outcome of our souls.
    Certainly Ann V. has posted this interview for a variety of reason, nonetheless being to stir debative conversation on this matter and to inform. If she felt Fr. Eutener was ill-informed on matters of either or both literature and exorcism, I hardly think she would post this interview, especially if she thought it would weaken her credibility.

  50. c matt says:

    I grant that it would be an informal logical fallacy if you were asking for his literary criticism. But no one is asking him if he thinks the books are good from a literary point of view, they are asking for his opinion on their moral value, which I would hazard a guess he has some qualifications to give.

    If I asked a chemist for an opinion on the chemical composition of a Harry Potter book, it would not be an informal logical fallacy simply because he is not a literary critic.

  51. Steve K says:

    Re: Harry Potter, I think Fr. Euteneuer’s point, as he is speaking from the perspective of heavy engagement in spritual warfare, is: “The Harry Potter series will not make a person demon possessed; it will, rather, normalize the existence of demons and infuse the occult language and imagery that celebrates them into the minds of the young”. True? 400+ million is a lot of books. I’m sure most Christians are sufficiently wary. But most people reading these aren’t Christians.

    Thanks for the interview Jennifer. Very interesting.

  52. Brian says:

    I think that people are getting overly offended by Fr’s comments. Those of you who have a pretty strong faith, can read or watch whatever new trend is being sold (vampires, wizards…..), enjoy it at face value and move on with your lives.
    Kids with secular upbringings or from broken homes, can SOMETIMES take things too far. They may become fascinated, and start opening doors that they shouldn’t.
    The fact that most of you are reading this blog means that you are aware that demons are real, and that they are trying to ruin you and your family.

    Walk through the mall. Look at the pagan (tribal looking) tattoos and pierceings. I’m not saying that this makes you evil or posessed. People are getting these cultural ideas from somewhere other than Christianity.

    Fr’s comments seem measured and reasonable. He’s not accusing eveyone who has read these books of being posessed……..but remember, Satan is always looking for an “in”. I gently remind this to my family as much as possible……I hope it works! Thanks

  53. Alex says:

    First of all, thanks for posting this interesting interview.

    What stroke many commenters just like me is how much the reactions focussed mainly on the Harry Potters and the Twilight Saga.

    First of all: I haven´t read any of those books, but i wonder what people would say if that interview took place 20 years ago and someone would have mentioned “Star Wars”, for that is what i grew up with.

    Do i assume right when i say that Star Wars and HP have in common a young hero caught right in the middle of the struggle between good and evil? Being forced to exit the safe surrounding of a protected innocent childhood or youth and being forced to make own decisions, experience pain and fear and loss and temptation and even the possibility of death, of the end? And thus the question: What comes after death? Is it really the end?

    Children are playful and their abilities of their imagination is unlimited. There is a hunger for that which needs to be fed.

    As a young boy, i was playing, trying to move objects like Luke Skywalker did in Star Wars, just by concentrating. Needless to say, it didn´t work. It didnt, though, make me overly frustrated. Also, Star Wars didnt affect my religious beliefs. I was taught in school about Jesus Christ, and when i was a boy, i had no doubt that Jesus is real. That he could walk over water, heal the sick and drive demons out people. No doubt at all. I believed it because it felt so absolutely right in my childish heart.

    Star Wars didnt make me question that. Other things made me question it later: My live. Growing up, learning about science, evolution and other things. Just to make it short: until my thirties i though of the bible to be a metaphor. Then, around my thirties, i went back to believing like i did when i was a small boy. And now, no scientific “prove” or theory could harm my belief. Because, even if i learned so many things that stand opposed to what stands in the Bible, it feels so absolutely right in my – still – childish heart. Jesus is real. My head still often argues with that, but my heart stands incorruptable. I hope that i can listen to my heart more than to my head.

    I wonder why we are trying to take away from our children their right to walk their own path. Of course, being a parent myself, i know that we HAVE to set boundaries, we HAVE to protect them from anything that could harm them in a way that seriously endangers them physically, spiritually, or emotionally.

    Often, especially when it comes to exorcism, the importance of Faith is mentioned. What about Faith in our children? Faith, that if we love them with all our heart, and raise them with everything we have learned in our hearts and souls to be important? Can we not have Faith that that they will find their own way, make their own decisions and live their own lives with their own beliefs and disbeliefs? Faith even, if this is ours, that they will find their way to Jesus Christ?

    In that sense it is very important for us to have a position and present it to them, so that they can accept, disagree, or in whatever way work their way around it.

    I am not saying: Take it easy, everything is gonna be allright. Because it is not easy at all to raise a child. It is so hard. Hard because you love them so much.

    I pray for the wisdom to make the right decisions. And there is so many of them to be made, every day, small ones, big ones. One has to learn to let go, to learn that sometimes your children will hate you for something you did or decided for them in good faith. Your relationship will be put to the test, be it purely due to lack of sleep or due to different opinions on what is the right thing to do. There is dangerous things out there, and children are so unbelieveable of: Good Faith. And that worries you, because they will run onto a street without looking, not even thinking that anything could happen to them. It is so hard and makes you scared, it really turns your whole world around and makes you feel so small and humble.

    Forgive me for maybe having gone a bit too far away from the original point.

    But i think it is important to always remind ourselves that, although we always look for the simple answers – we will find that there are none.

    Is HP good or bad? Will it take children away from the “right path”? I just think there is a thousand, maybe a million other factors that play into that.

    Even more so: HP is a fact. Children loving HP is also a fact, because it offers something to them.

    So the question is: What can we offer?

    Lets start with Faith, respect and love. And these are not just three words. If you want to offer that, you will be busy every day, every second of your life.

    Kind regards,

    Alex

    • Alex says:

      It is supposed to say “our children are so unbelievabLY of: Good Faith”. English not being my first language i hope it is clear that i want to say: It is unbelievable how much good faith children have… Sorry for this and maybe other incorrect expressions…

      Kind regards,

      Alex

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