By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A surprisingly positive review of the latest Harry Potter film in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, is causing yet another round of controversy for the paper’s embattled new editor.
In his review in Monday’s Italian edition of the paper, Gaetano Vallini praised the latest Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, calling it the “most successful of the series” thus far.
Vallini said the story promoted “friendship, altruism, loyalty and self-giving” and equated the magic portrayed in the film as the same as the kind found in fairy tales.
He claimed the new film made clear “the line of demarcation between one who does good and one who does evil, and it is not difficult for the reader or the viewer to identify with the first. . . This is particularly true in the latest film. They know that doing good is the right thing to do. And they also understand that sometimes this involves hard work and sacrifice.”
To his credit, Vallini did criticize the new film’s constant references to “new age spirituality.” He also said author J.K. Rowling’s work “lacks a reference to the transcendent, to a providential design in which men live their personal stories and the story takes shape. Thus it is true that, in the classic mechanism of fables, the protagonist finds himself amidst experiences in which magic is almost always an instrument in the hands of evil.”
However, Vallini’s review is a sharp contradiction from earlier statements in the paper, such as the January, 2008 article by Edoardo Rialti calling Harry Potter the wrong kind of hero who “transmits a vision of the world and the human being full of deep mistakes and dangerous seductions . . . .”
Rialti concluded his article with a condemnation of the use of magic in the Potter series, and quoted Cardinal Ratzinger who once praised a German journalist for speaking out about the dangers of Harry Potter. “It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter,” Cardinal Ratzinger told Gabriele Kuby, “because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly’.”
The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, also spoke out about Potter in 2006, condemning the series as downright evil.
“Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil,” Fr. Amorth said.
However, Vallini’s startling review is just the latest in a series of gaffs by the new editor of L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, who many say is trying to make the paper more relevant. It has provided glowing coverage of the most pro-abortion president in the history of the U.S. and recently heaped praise on the pop star Michael Jackson whose music and controversial lifestyle is not known for its embrace of traditional moral values.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, American canonist and canon law professor Edward N. Peters, commenting on the Jackson coverage, wrote that such anomalies as these in the paper’s recent articles and editorials are a result of L’Osservatore Romano having “decided to become relevant. God help us.”
“If the Vatican wants a newspaper to provide a Catholic perspective on the world, fine. Item Number One on the to-do list, though, should be to find Catholics who can write and edit such a paper coherently. Anyone can lurch from gaff to gaff.”
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