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Harry Potter at the Vatican

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jul 22, 2005

With reference to my recent column about the Pope’s attitude toward Harry Potter, Catholic News Service has provided a follow-up report on the Vatican official who was central to the issue. CNS cites his name as Msgr. Peter Fleetwood ( had it as “Fleedwood”), who is now an official of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.

In any case, Msgr. Fleetwood states that he did finally receive a copy of Gabriele Kuby’s book Harry Potter—Good or Evil later in 2003, and that he replied with a four-page letter explaining where he thought she had misunderstood or read too much into J. K. Rowling’s books. Ms. Kuby never replied.

This limited exchange of ideas is all to the good, but one wonders what to make of Msgr. Fleetwood’s remark to CNS that “The people who complain about Harry Potter are the same people who complain about priests, bishops and catechists watering down Church teaching about the devil and evil.” If this was intended to discredit Potter critics, I pray it will have the opposite effect.

In fact, those who complain about the watering down of Catholicism’s “harder” doctrines are a much larger group than those who complain about the Harry Potter series. If the groups overlap it is because Rowling’s critics are definitely concerned about the Catholic Faith and how Catholics ought to live. But it is perfectly possible to be concerned about the impact of secularization on the Church without finding problems in Rowling’s novels.

Msgr. Fleetwood ought to be more careful. He has lost points.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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