Trent got a lot of feedback from his previous episode on Harry Potter, including many people who said he should examine what exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger has to say about the matter. So, in this episode Trent analyzes a popular video containing Fr. Ripperger’s reasons for why people should always avoid Harry Potter.
Welcome to The Counsel of Trent podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.
Well, I got a lot of feedback on my previous episode dealing with Harry Potter, which is to be expected. There are people on both sides of the Harry Potter debate who have some very strong feelings about the issue. I don’t have as many strong feelings because, as I said in the previous episode, I wasn’t really that into Harry Potter growing up. I didn’t read the books. I went to one of the movies with a group of my friends because they all wanted to go to the movie, and I haven’t watched any of them since.
However, what I do care about are Catholics who say that there are books or movies or television shows that are off limits to us, that are spiritually dangerous, and put up these warnings and burdens on people’s consciences that don’t actually have to be there, especially if they use exaggeration or false statements to bolster their view, because that can place an unnecessary burden on Catholics who are worried about sin, and it can make us look silly to non-Catholics. People will say that we overreact, we’re irrational, we’re detached from reality, that our faith isn’t worth taking seriously because we overreact to things. That’s why I want to return to the topic of Harry Potter and how Catholics should look at this, and especially talk about a resource that was just sent to me after this episode and what my thoughts are on it.
Before I get to that, though, I want to remind you to continue supporting the podcast at trenthornpodcast.com. I got a whole slate of guests that we’re bringing in. Many of them are traveling here to the studio to have long conversations with me about why they disagree with the Catholic faith. I think this is so important to be able to share with people. I don’t know any other podcast, at least in the Catholic world, that’s doing this, and there’s hardly any in the Protestant world, where you have someone who represents the faith sitting down for a civil discussion with someone who disagrees with him and talking it out.
In England, they have a show called Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, though on their adverts they always say, “You’re listening to Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley.” It’s a great show, where people sit down who disagree, Christians who disagree with each other, and Christians and non-Christians. We don’t have anything like that here, so I’m trying to expand on that.
I actually just finished today a 100-minute-long interview with Brandan Robertson, who is a pastor. He’s only 27 years old, but he’s a pastor. He’s written several books, including one called The Gospel of Inclusion: A Christian Case for LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church. So we discuss the question, is homosexual behavior sinful? Robertson says no. I said yes. We had a good dialogue, and I think at the very least it’s a good example about how to have a sensitive, compassionate, yet vigorous dialogue about a very important issue that divides people.
You’ll want to check that out. It’s going to be released next Tuesday, so what I’m going to do, it’s over an hour and a half long, I have three 33-minute episodes it’s been divided up into, but I’m going to release them all at the same time next Tuesday, though what I might do… I think we’re going to get them all ready. I’m going to throw a bone to my subscribers, just off the top of my head. If you are a patron at trenthornpodcast.com, whatever level, I’m going to release the dialogue early. This is a big deal. I’m going to release it on Monday, but everyone else, it’ll come into your iTunes, Google Play feeds, whatever that might be, on Tuesday, three episodes, Is Homosexual Behavior Sinful?, a dialogue where we cover Scripture, what the Catholic Church teaches, what different Protestants believe about this.
You’re not going to want to miss that, and support the podcast at trenthornpodcast.com, so we can bring in other guests. I’ve got an atheist coming on talking about miracles. I’ve scheduled in October to have Timothy Gordon come on the podcast. Tim and I, we agree far more than we disagree. He’s a Catholic, just like I am, but there are specific views that I disagree with him on that he’s brought to light, especially in recent podcast appearances he’s been on.
So we’re going to have… Originally, people asked me, “Hey, why don’t you do a podcast responding to what Gordon said on The Matt Fradd Show or something like that?” I said, “Well, I could do that, but we’d be talking past each other. Why not just sit down face-to-face and have a conversation about these things? Wouldn’t that be great? We could just sit down face-to-face and have conversations that are not like on cable news shows where people are shouting back at each other and trying to drive the knife into each other. I hate that. I want to have real conversations that take a long time, but do lead us to the truth, where we’re not sitting around in a circle holding hands, singing Kumbaya. We talk about where we agree to have common ground, then move to the places where we disagree.
All right, so for the episode today, where I disagree. When I talked about Harry Potter in the last episode, I said, well, some Catholic schools, one in Tennessee just banned the book. I think the book could be taken too far. If you think your kid is getting too worked up in Harry Potter and he’s detached from reality, you should probably separate him from that material, but you could get obsessed with almost anything.
I think the same is true for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I knew people who learned Elvish, for example. I think a lot of people, actually, are apt to do that. I never ended up learning Elvish. I barely learned Spanish, but I’m willing to… Voy a la biblioteca. I go to the library to learn about these things. But you could take that too far. There’s spells, there’s magic in Lord of the Rings. People can take it too far. Yet people have tried to say, “Well, no, Harry Potter is different than Lord of the Rings, and it’s really dangerous for Catholics.” I haven’t seen, really, the evidence for this.
A lot of people, I’d say at least a dozen people, sent me a video featuring Father Chad Ripperger. Father Ripperger is a traditionalist priest. He belongs to the FSSP, the Fraternal Society of Saint Peter. He’s also an exorcist himself, and some people have written in comments saying, “You’ve done your research. You now what, I trust an exorcist on this matter. If he says Harry Potter is bad, then I trust him.”
Here’s the thing. I am willing to listen to people in their fields of expertise, but I also want to know the reasons that they rely on. Even if someone is an expert in a field, they could be mistaken or they could be relying on bad reasons. Appealing to experts alone is the weakest kind of argument. It’s called the argument from authority. Saint Thomas Aquinas put it this way. He said, “Arguments from authority are the weakest of arguments, so says Boethius.” Boethius was a philosopher who lived centuries before Aquinas, and you get the joke. He’s saying arguments from authority are bad, or the weakest of arguments, not necessarily bad, but they’re weak. Why? Because, well, Boethius says so.
I’m willing to listen like, “Hey, if there’s something here that makes me think, hey, Harry Potter is bad news for Catholics, I want to hear it,” but ultimately I listened to this answer, and it’s a talk that Father Ripperger… He was in a talk, and someone asked him about Harry Potter, and he gave this answer. I’ve been in talks where I give answers off the top of my head, and sometimes I might use approximations with what I’m talking about. I can’t be exactly specific. But even given the nature of the Q&A format, I found his answer to be extremely problematic. It was not persuasive to me to see that Harry Potter is such a bad thing.
Before I get to that, though, I want to play a clip from a film to help you see where I’m coming from, what I’m concerned about, because people will say, “Why do you care? Why do you care if certain Catholics are very critical of Harry Potter and you’re not?” Normally, I don’t. I don’t wade into the intra-Catholic disputes often because, you know what, we’re all brothers and sisters. We belong to the same church. We’re going to disagree about stuff. And that’s fine most of the time, but sometimes it bleeds beyond, and as I said, number one, makes people who are scrupulous extra worrisome when they don’t have to be, and that could be dangerous for them. Two, the outside world, we can seem silly to them.
I may do a podcast in the future on people at the Kolbe Center, who say that Catholics are obligated to believe in young earth creationism, which is not true. The Church does not oblige that. I would say the best evidence from science and the writings of the Church Fathers and what the Church teaches is that Catholics should not believe in young earth creationism and that the earth is 6,000 years old.
We should believe, as Pope Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical On Faith and Reason, that faith and reason are complementary. They don’t contradict each other. So if science tells us the universe is 13.7 billion years old, our faith does not contradict that scientific finding. We don’t have to entertain a conflict. Otherwise, if we do, Saint Augustine in his commentary on Genesis, he criticized Christians of his day who were arguing for a literal creation theory, saying that they become a mockery to non-Christians, claiming to be experts in astronomy and the sciences when they actually are not experts in these things.
To show you that, I want to play you a clip from a 2014 film called Dark Dungeons. Dark Dungeons is a film based on a Jack Chick tract dealing with Dungeons & Dragons. Dungeons & Dragons is a RPG, a role-playing game, where you have dice, you roll the dice, and you write down a story on pieces of paper. Guys, I never played Dungeons & Dragons in my parents’ basement. No, I’m just kidding. It’s something I could’ve gotten into, but I never did. Now, I knew some people growing up who were huge D&D fans, and I think that’s fine as long as you use the role-playing game in a moral way and you don’t indulge in immoralities while playing.
You can take any kind of game and indulge in immorality when you’re playing it. I played Twister as an eight-year-old, but now I see Twister is kind of a skeezy game if adults play it. When you’re seven or eight, you think, “Yes, right hand, red circle.” Now you’re like, “Uh, we probably shouldn’t play this with everybody,” when you grow up and you start to see things. Although, when Twister was first released, I think back in the ’60s and ’70s, there was a big panic everyone was going to turn into swingers, and people called Twister sex in a box and these kind of things.
Dark Dungeons is based on Dungeons & Dragons, this role-playing game, and it’s based on a Jack Chick tract. I’ve talked about Jack Chick on the program before. He’s a late cartoonist, fundamentalist Baptist. He’s anti-everything, especially anti-Catholics. But he’s anti-everything. He thinks Harry Potter is evil. He thought Dungeons & Dragons were evil.
This movie is based on the Chick tract, and the movie is about Christians who get suckered into playing Dungeons & Dragons, and it becomes real. They risk their souls, and evil will take over the world. The lesson they’ve learned from playing this evil game is that they need Jesus.
What I can’t tell from the movie is if it’s a parody or not. There’s actually a law. It’s called Poe’s Law. Poe’s Law says this. Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake for the genuine article.” That deals with creationism, but Poe’s Law has a wider view, that sometimes it’s impossible to distinguish between a parody and real fundamentalism.
That’s how I mean in Dark Dungeons, and so I play it… I’m not saying that Father Ripperger or others who are concerned about Harry Potter reach this level of inanity. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying it can appear to other people who are not Catholic that we’re just as out of touch as the people in this film when they rail against role-playing games. I just want to play a clip for you because, also, I think the movie is hilarious. I think the people making the movie got the rights from Chick to make the movie based on his tract as long as they weren’t making fun of the tract, so they were faithfully adapting it, and I think they realized just by faithfully adapting it, they were kind of making fun of it. Here, I just have to play it for you, and then I’ll segue into more about Harry Potter.
Hey, Debbie, what’s wrong? Can I help?
I thought I had all the answers, Mike, but now everything is falling apart. Evil without end is about to descend upon the works of man, and none of my RPG tomes have the answer how to stop it.
Debbie, I told you, Jesus is the only answer. I’ve been praying and fasting for you.
Why would you do that for me?
Because I know what you’re involved in. It’s a spiritual warfare that you can’t win without the Lord Jesus. Using RPGs to fight evil will never work because RPGs are evil, Debbie.
I have to jump in here. I think RPGs can stop evil when they’re Nazis or the Taliban. A rocket-propelled grenade, RPG, can stop evil in some circumstances. I’m going to keep going, but I’m sorry, I love movies with terrible acting. It is such guilty pleasure for me. Here, let’s get to the meat to show you what I mean.
What can I do?
Come with me to a meeting this afternoon. The speaker came out of witchcraft, and he knows what you’re up against.
You who are involved in the occult think you have achieved power, but you’ve been trapped in a dungeon, a bondage, and the limited power you have been given is only bait to lure you into destruction. But Jesus came that you might have life, and that more abundantly. Jesus sets us free from the bondage of witchcraft. Jesus gives us power over all of the enemy. Nothing shall by any means harm you.
Repent of the sins in your life, and turn to Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Gather up all of your occult paraphernalia, the rock music, occult books, including those by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, your charms and your RPG material, but don’t just throw them away. Burn them. We will-
This is the point that I wanted to make, that this is based on the Chick tract, and they’re saying the stuff that is going to condemn you to eternal hellfire is the rock music, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien. Many of you listening will say, “Oh, well, the fictional works of C.S. Lewis, the magic in The Chronicles of Narnia, or the magic in Tolkien, there’s nothing wrong with that,” but there are Christians who will tell you, “Oh, no, good, sir. Oh, no. If you read Lord of the Rings, with the spells in there, or Aslan the lion, an imposter for Jesus, and the spells that take place, and magic, in Chronicles of Narnia, you’re halfway to hell. You’re dealing with the occult.”
My point is to get in the shoes that… how you look at those who say that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are the works of the devil, and you would look at them and say, “I can’t really take you seriously. What are you talking about?” There are people who look at Catholics who say Harry Potter is the work of the devil, and they can’t take us seriously.
Now, here’s the thing. If it is the work of the devil, if it is demonic in nature, I will wholeheartedly oppose it, because here’s the thing. If something is demonic or it’s opposed to the faith, and the public at large accepts it, I don’t care. People love The Da Vinci Code. The Da Vinci Code is a horrible novel. It’s garbage. Father Ripperger says Harry Potter is garbage. I don’t know. I haven’t read the books. I know The Da Vinci Code is a poorly written novel. The movie did terrible because it’s… Everyone agrees it’s not a good story and terrible characters. But the American public, the worldwide public has a propensity for tasteless, bad things. I’ll say that it’s bad and The Da Vinci Code undermines people’s faith even if millions of people buy the books. What I need to hear is evidence, good reasons to show that something popular is antithetical towards our faith, is spiritually injurious or dangerous to people.
With that said, here is the clip with Father Ripperger, and I’m going to break down whether I think the reasons he gives are persuasive or compelling.
Father, I have a question. I talked to you earlier about the Harry Potter series, become-
Oh, that’s right.
… popular on all continents. Would you like to speak about it just for a bit?
Yeah, okay. Sometimes people actually will ask me about Harry Potter. Actually, every time I give a conference, they ask me about Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling went to witch school before she wrote the books. The spells in the book-
Okay, I’m going to have to stop a lot because in this four-minute clip, Father Ripperger puts out about 10 arguments or claims, and many of them are either misleading or they’re false. Once again, people say, “Why don’t you trust an exorcist when he’s talking about demons?” Well, my trust level, my confidence level becomes reduced the more and more a person utters things that are false or misleading. It makes me wonder why I should trust their testimony on this issue.
I think Father Ripperger is probably… He’s a good man, and other videos he puts out, things he speaks about, I think are really good. He’s upstanding. But that doesn’t mean someone’s an expert in everything. They could be wrong about this.
We’ll start here. He makes this claim which I would consider slanderous if it’s not true. He said J.K. Rowling went to witch school, as in she went to… What in the world is witch school? She practiced in a coven of witches to learn witchcraft? That is a serious claim. Where is the evidence for that?
I went online to Google, and I searched “J.K. Rowling went to witch school.” Then the Google autocorrect said, “Did you mean J.K. Rowling went to W-H-I-C-H school?” which is clearly Google is working with the witches to hide her witchcraft, because they’re using the autocorrect. No, no, I’m just making fun of conspiracy thinking here.
I looked this up, this claim. No one else has made this claim, actually, that J.K. Rowling went to a witch school, she practices Wicca, she’s part of a coven of witches. There’s no evidence for this. She went to the University of Exeter. According to this article, she recalls doing little work, preferring to read the works of Charles Dickens and J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1988, Rowling wrote a short essay about her time studying classics at Exeter called “What Was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled.” This shows that she studied classics, wasn’t that interested in it, but in her own writings, many of the names of places and people she used are drawn from classical mythology. She probably is drawing from her studying of classics at the university level.
Once again, if someone is going to say that, oh, she went to witch school, where’s your evidence for that? That’s a serious charge to make. It’d be like if someone said, “Trent Horn was educated by Freemasons and was sent to undermine the Catholic Church.” You would say, “Well, that’s not true. Trent Horn went to the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “Well, of course, he’s not going to publicly share that he was educated by Freemasons. You’re not going to find that information explicitly. It’s going to be covered up and hidden.”
Well, then that’s conspiratorial thinking, where you put forward a claim and then say that the absence of evidence for the claim is more evidence the claim is true. Right there I would say, “Well, where is your evidence to that?” To make such a charge without that evidence, and when I’ve gone searching for it, but unable to find it, I find very concerning.
The spells in the books are actual spells. How do we know that? Well, because witches tell us they’re real.
There’s a lot here to cover. Okay, so Father Ripperger says that the Harry Potter books contain actual spells because witches tell you that.
I went through in the previous episode, I listed some of the spells and read them to you. They’re just Latin words. They’re just Latin words or they’re broken Latin words, usually referring to the very thing that they’re talking about. If these Latin words are real spells, then someone like Father Ripperger, who says Latin all the time in performing the traditional Mass, is casting spells, I guess. They’re Latin. They’re not calling upon any divine powers, any energies. They’re not calling on occult forces. They’re on par with abracadabra or hocus pocus.
Now, he claims, “Well, witches tell us they’re real spells.” Once again, I don’t see any evidence for that at all. In fact, in a 2014 article in The Independent, Rowling said that the one religion that’s not contained in Harry Potter is Wicca. The article says, “Responding to questions as to why Wicca, a modern pagan religion that also uses the words witch and wizard to describe its members, was not represented at Hogwarts,” which is the school in Harry Potter, the school where you go to learn magic, “Rowling said of Wicca, ‘It’s a different concept of magic to the one laid out in the books, so I don’t really see how they can coexist.'”
I’ve also scoured the internet for any members of the Wicca community or modern witches who say the spells in Harry Potter are real spells that they use. The only one that I could find, and this may be where Father Ripperger, or the person he’s spoken with, gets that information from, is an anonymous article on the internet from someone claiming to be an ex-witch who practiced in the 1960s. This anonymous article, this alleged former witch says of the Harry Potter books, that they are orientational and instructional manuals of witchcraft woven into the format of entertainment. These four books by J.K. Rowling teach witchcraft.” I guess this was written midway through the series. “I know this because I was once very much part of that world.”
I seriously doubt this source that has been circulated around because this woman goes on to say… I think it’s a woman… goes on to say, “As a real witch, I learned about the two sides of the Force. When real witches have sabats and esbats and meet as a coven, they greet each other by saying ‘Blessed be,’ and when they part, they say ‘The Force be with you.’ Both sides of this Force are Satan.” This same witch who says Harry Potter is satanic also says Star Wars is satanic.
Then I went online to look at what members of the Wicca community say about Star Wars. I read a lot of them, and one woman says her ideal witch is Yoda from the Star Wars movies. She says, “The Force is a life force, energy. May the Force be with you? May we be with the Force? We should align with forces of peace, love, and harmony.”
Now, it’s funny. They were asking these women, “Hey, you practice witchcraft. Do you like Star Wars?” It’d be ideal here if they said, “Well, yeah. We say, ‘May the Force be with you.'” They could probably say Star Wars ripped that off from them, but they don’t. They just say, “Well, yeah, we believe in forces, but there’s no evidence that witches either say, from Star Wars, “May the Force be with you,” or that J.K. Rowling is involved in witchcraft.
I think JoAnna Wahlund has a blog, Catholic Working Mother, where she talks about how she knew a family that wanted Harry Potter removed from her school’s library because they were Wicca. They were a family that practiced witchcraft and said, “This is not how Wicca is performed. It’s not how we live our faith out, and we want this misrepresentation removed from the school library.”
Once again, I don’t see he’s… Father Ripperger makes this claim that witches say they’re real spells. When you look at them, they’re just Latin. They’re Latin text, and I have found no evidence online, except for an anonymous letter from an ex-witch who also thinks that Star Wars is witchcraft. To me, we still don’t have… The evidence bar has definitely not been met yet.
Because witches tell us they’re real. And there was a woman in Spain who decided to try the spell for fire in one of the books, and it burned her house to the ground.
That is extremely misleading. I would say inaccurate. This is the article from July 11th, 2003. “A woman set her Madrid home on fire this week as she cooked up a potion in an attempt to imitate the fictional wizard Harry Potter, emergency services say. Firefighters rescued and treated the 21-year-old for minor injuries, but half her home was destroyed. The ambulance service said she told them she was trying to emulate the boy magician, hero of the books by J.K. Rowling that have been a sensation among adults and children alike. For want of more magical ingredients, the woman cooked up a potion of water, oil, alcohol and toothpaste, local media reported. It was unclear what spell she was trying to weave.”
Now, this is extremely misleading on Father Ripperger’s part. I’m not saying that he’s trying to misleading. He may have heard about this and misheard the story, but he’s trying to say, “Well, the spells in Harry Potter are real because one woman uttered one of the spells and set her house on fire.” No, she saw that “Oh, they make potions in this book. I’m going to make a potion in my pot and put stuff on my stove, including oil and alcohol, that can catch fire.” This is not a case of someone engaged in the diabolical and summoning demons to set their house on fire. It’s just a case of stupidity.
I’m going to talk about this at the end of the episode, but we should remember something called Hanlon’s Razor. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. We’ll go into that more.
Here, once again, to say their spells are real because someone used it to set their house on fire, that’s not true. I’m having a really hard time buying the evidence Father Ripperger is putting forward here.
Now, J.K. Rowling has denied she’s a witch. Okay. You walk like one, you quack like one, you write books like one, so okay.
What are you supposed to do if someone says, “You know what, if somebody was a witch, and you ask them if they were a witch, they would say no. That clearly means they’re a witch”? “Well, if Father Ripperger is not a Freemason, if he is a Freemason, he’s going to tell us that he’s definitely not a Freemason.” That is not good thinking here.
If you write a book, walk like a witch, talk like a witch, she has a book that has stories about people using magic, similar to J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Now, Father Ripperger tries to make the distinction between Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, but like many of the people who try to make that distinction, it’s not a compelling one to me.
One exorcist told me he’s kind of done the footwork. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. He said 60% of the names in Harry Potter are actual names of demons that exorcists have booted out of people.
That is a strange way to introduce a piece of evidence. “I don’t know if this is true or not, but 60% of the names in the book are demons.” Why would you introduce that if you’re not sure if it’s true or not? You could say some people claim this maybe, but once again, go and look it up. Don’t just rely on hearsay from other people.
I went and I looked this up. I got a list of all the names of the Harry Potter characters, and then I got another list of all the names of demons from different kinds of mythologies, so from not just Christianity, but Judaism, Islam, and I did a cross reference. What I did is I went through… First, I went through the list, and most of these names are not demonic.
I’ll read them to you, the list of the names of people in Harry Potter. Hannah, Katie, Amelia, Susan, Terry, Frank, Reginald, Joe, Michael, Vincent, Colin, Dennis, Dirk, Bartemius, Bartemius, Roger, John, Amos, Antonin. I’m just getting to the Es here of the surnames. Marietta, Argus, Justin, Seamus, Filius, Florean. You go through, most of these are just normal names. Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan. Oh, yeah, the demon Lee Jordan is always out to get people. Igor, Victor, Silvanus. Silvanus is actually in the Bible, actually. Silvanus was one of Peter’s secretaries in Scripture. I think he was Peter’s secretary. He was one of the secretaries who wrote the New Testament Epistles.
Let’s see, we’ll go through it here a little bit more. Alistair, Garrick, Antioch, Ignotus, could be like Ignatius, Irma, Harry, James. Obviously, Harry Potter. I’m at the Ps now. Most of these names are just regular English names. To say that 60% of them are demons right there off the bat, you scroll through them, there is no evidence for that.
What about some of the more exotic names? Well, some of them come from, they’re just Greek mythology, which makes sense because Rowling studied classics. You have Alecto, Amycus, Daedalus, Morfin, which comes from Morpheus. They are Greek and Roman gods. You just try to pick these esoteric names. It doesn’t mean you’re trying to indoctrinate people to believe in ancient Greek or Roman deities, but you pick the name because it has an exotic feel to it. It’s not that it’s the name of a demon. I haven’t found any of these names on online lists of the names of demons.
Other names from the book, like Bellatrix or Rastaban, they’re stars. They’re the names of constellations. Other ones, it’s similar to what Charles Dickens would do. He would take names that apply to a person’s personality traits. There’s, I think, an unpleasant character named Mundungus. Mundungus is Spanish for an offensive, odorous kind of tobacco, so an offensive individual or pungent individual, Mundungus. But it’s not on the demon lists that I’ve been able to find.
I think this is really traced to that anonymous letter that I read to you earlier. There that former ex-witch, she says, “Harry learns a new vocabulary, including words such as Azkaban, Circe, Draco, Erised, Hermes, and Slytherin, all of which are names of real devils or demons.” Well, no.
Well, let me get to that, whether the names of devils or demons or not. The origin of these names, for decades, hundreds of years, or thousands of years, do not go back to demons. Azkaban is a portmanteau, a combination of Alcatraz… Azkaban is a prison in the Harry Potter series. It’s a combination of the words Alcatraz, a prison in San Francisco, and Abaddon, which is a Hebrew word for a place of destruction or doom. It’s a combination of Alcatraz and Abaddon, which I think is a clever combination of words to create a new word.
That’s similar to what Tolkien would do. When Tolkien would have a character like Celador, how do you come up with a guy, the evil Celador? He’s like, “Well, I would just look around in my house and say, ‘Hey, there’s a cellar door. Cellar door. That has a nice sounds good to it. Cellar door, cellar door, Celador.” Then you’re off to the races.
Circe is the Greek goddess of magic. Draco is a constellation. Hermes is the Roman god of trade. Slytherin is based on this… It’s a snaky adjective that is used. The first name, I think, is Salazar, and that is related to a Portuguese dictator, is what Rowling says.
Erised is my favorite, E-R-I-S-E-D. It’s the name of a demon. Well, no. In the Harry Potter books, there’s a mirror that shows our heart’s deepest desire. Desire. The name is E-R-I-S-E-D. That shows our desire. Is it a demon? No, Erised is just desire spelled backwards, which is kind of a lazy way to get an exotic name out, but it does the trick every now and then.
Once again, even Father Ripperger is not confident in this claim, but if you just did a small amount of research, you’d see once again there’s no evidence for this claim that 60% of the names belong or that they’re taken directly from demons of folklore, mythology, or theology, or anything like that. They come from either regular names you meet with people every day or mythology, astronomy, constellations, or backwards writing conventions.
There is an exorcist that I know who’s a friend of mine. He and I are always comparing notes on Judas because Judas is a hard guy to get out of people. He has had to exorcize three children just for reading the books.
Well, if you have millions of people who are reading a book like Harry Potter, I mean, if millions of people read something, it’s quite possible you could have a handful of people that take something too far and end up in the demonic.
I actually have a clip here from 1985 from 60 Minutes talking about Dungeons & Dragons, saying that, well, look, there’s people who have taken their own lives playing Dungeons & Dragons, so it’s a serious game. I’ll play a clip for you. It’s from 1985
Before you die-
There are those who are fearful that the game in the hands of vulnerable kids could do harm, and there is evidence that seems to support that view. Timothy Grice, 21, shotgun suicide. The detective report noted, “D&D became a reality.” Irving “Bink” Pulling, 16, an avid D&D player, a suicide.
It goes on and lists these, but all that proves is that out of, once again, millions of people who play a game, there are going to be some people who are mentally ill who may get too wrapped up in this and end up causing harm to themselves. Just as a few people who play Dungeons & Dragons resort to suicide, that could just show some people who are suicidal are apt to play this game. It doesn’t mean the game itself has an intrinsic property to do this.
Even if there’s a handful of people who are possessed by demons after reading Harry Potter, which I’m skeptical of that claim, even if that were the case, it wouldn’t prove the books as a whole are bad, because millions of people read them and nothing happens. There’s nothing intrinsic to them.
The devil can take anything and try to possess people. He can even take religion itself and make people overly pious and scrupulous, and then try to work on their inner feelings of despair to try to enter in that way. The devil is crafty. He can use almost anything to try to possess somebody. That doesn’t mean that because the devil can use something, that, therefore, that thing is completely off limits to us.
The question is, is the thing naturally ordered towards possession or the demonic? Things like Ouija board, whose purpose is to communicate with the dead, I would say that’s off limits, but Harry Potter is not like that. Its purpose is to share a fantasy story not unlike C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien.
I had a case of possession. I wasn’t the one to liberate them. I was just one of the… I started the case, but I had to pass it to someone else because I had to move to another location. Of a person who was possessed by five demons who claimed that they were the demons that inspired J.K. Rowling to write Harry Potter.
Well, can we trust the word of a demon? I don’t think so. I know people in deliverance ministries, by the way, who say they are not allowed to talk about what they hear or see in exorcisms. They’re not allowed to share it with anyone, because that’s what a demon wants. A demon wants attention.
One, I don’t know why Father Ripperger is sharing that. Two, why should I believe these demons at all? They are sent by the father of lies. Why believe anything they say?
So I tell people, avoid it. All exorcists that are worth their weight, there’s only one guy who says it’s okay, but there’s something wrong with that guy. All the other exorcists that I know that are experienced are very clear-
Well, that’s called the No True Scotsman fallacy. It goes like this. “No Scotsman hates haggis.” “Well, my Uncle Angus is a Scotsman, and he hates haggis. “Aye, but no true Scotsman hates haggis.”
Even here Father Ripperger admits that there is another exorcist who says, “Well, I don’t see a problem here.” Well, that guy, there’s something wrong with that guy. That’s just kind of an uncharitable way to put it towards him. Once again, given all of the other things that he has said, that saying all exorcists are opposed to this, I don’t see the evidence for that, because the other things that he’s… the sweeping claims that he’s made, I’ve already debunked them, so I have no reason to believe this particular sweeping claim.
Some people say, “Well, it’s not just Father Ripperger.” Father Gabriel Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, says that Harry Potter is satanic. Well, Father Amorth, who passed away in 2016, is not the Vatican’s chief exorcist. He’s a priest in Rome, one of the priests in the Diocese of Rome, who had the authority to perform exorcisms.
But even he was prone to making sweeping claims whose validity I question. For example, he claimed that over a period of nine years, he performed 30,000 exorcisms. You would have to do eight or nine exorcisms a day every single day for nine years to reach that kind of a number. He’s also said things that like every single member of the Nazi party was possessed by demons. These are just wide claims, wide, sweeping claims without evidence, so it makes me skeptical of what he’s claiming about Harry Potter as well.
Stay away from it. Demons are always looking to get glory. What’s glory? Glory is a manifestation of excellence. That’s how Saint Thomas Aquinas defines it. It’s a manifestation of excellence. They get glory in this life by their name being pronounced and under certain circumstances. Obviously, when you’re talking about subjugating Satan, he’s not getting any glory out of it. But when their names are pronounced and said, they can stand to their buddies and say, “Hey, look, my name’s up there.”
Right. That would be a good argument against the Harry Potter books if they contained the names of actual demons. Once again, there’s no evidence for that claim.
That’s one of the reasons why every time you read those books or you pronounce those words without it being in the proper context, you’re actually giving glory to them. The other thing is, too, someone asked me to review the literature. I read the first book, and I’ll be quite frank with you. Again, I went through a great books program. I went through a program where you had to read a book a week per class, and I had five classes. I can tell you, that literature is total garbage. It’s not-
It’s garbage. That’s his opinion. That’s fine. If I read the books, I might have a low opinion of them as well. I don’t have time to read them. I’m not that interested. But that’s not a reason Catholics have to stay away from them. It’s just, hey, different strokes for different folks.
Not even worth reading on a literary level. That being said, I would just suggest you avoid it, because the fact is all this… The other thing is, too, is there’s a lot of glorification of certain disorders, very subtle, like it’s okay to lie. There are certain things. It’s okay to do evil things from time to time in order to get a good thing to come as a result of it, which is entirely the opposite… People say, “What about…”
Here, I don’t know about the books that much, what morality they instigate in people. I’m sure in a lot of fiction that’s not written by a Catholic who is very intent on their writing, you’re going to have protagonists doing questionable moral things. But I don’t know enough about the books. I don’t think that the books glorify lying as something like, “This is a great thing everybody should do.” I think you have characters… There’s one, Narcissa Malfoy lies to the evil Voldemort to save Harry’s life. Peter Kreeft says you can lie to Nazis to save Jews hiding in your basement.
It’s a bit open to discussion here, but just because the book has characters that are not completely morally upright in every sense doesn’t mean the book is impermissible for Catholics to read. It just means you got to use your good judgment when reading books that involve characters that have flaws because those characters are like regular human beings, who are flawed, who are a mixture of good and bad, and you have to take the good along with the bad and use your good judgment while reading it.
Tolkien had magic. Is it just because of magic? No, it’s not just because of the magic. It’s the whole thing. In Tolkien, the magic was a literary device. It wasn’t something in which the person, when he heard Gandalf saying the magic, “I want to be like Gandalf and do these magic things,” that’s not what you… You just didn’t have that.
It was just recognized that in this case a certain thing beyond the natural means was necessary in order to bring something about, whereas in the J.K. Rowling thing it’s so imbued and it makes it look so glorious and all those things, it’s fairly enticing. That’s another reason why I tell people, don’t let your kids read it.
Well, I disagree with that. When you look in The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf casts spells, and I want to be like Gandalf. Gandalf is awesome. “You shall not pass.” He says to the demon Balrog… By the way, there’s demons in Lord of the Rings. He says to him… Well, I don’t know if he says this to him. He says a fire spell. I thought this was in the scene with the Balrog. He says, “Naur an edraith amen!,” which is “Fire, save us!” or something like that in Elvish or whatever language Tolkien came up with.
There are people who read Lord of the Rings who want to do LOTR LARPing, Lord of the Rings, LARP is live-action role-play. There’s people who super get into Tolkien and do live-action role-play and pretend to cast spells, just the same as people do with Harry Potter. Once again, it’s fantasy play with magic that is not invocational. It does not say I want this demon or this force to act on my behalf. It’s just incantations and fictional fantasy worlds where words have the power to manipulate reality in a certain way.
Still, once again, I don’t see the big difference between when spells are uttered by Gandalf, and Tolkien… In fact, in Tolkien, almost anybody can do magic, whereas in Harry Potter, only specific people are born with the ability to practice magic. Someone reading Harry Potter might think, “Well, I can’t really do magic. I was never born with that,” whereas in Tolkien, like, “Oh, if I just get the one ring to rule them all, I can have all this power.” I still don’t see the important difference here.
There is another reason, too, and this is more of a subjective kind of a reason. The fact of the matter is is that when you tell people you shouldn’t let your kids read that, the purely visceral response you get as a result of that tells me there’s something diabolic about the whole thing.
The other thing is, too, it’s a piece of junk literature. How that woman made over a billion dollars on that enterprise is beyond my comprehension, unless there’s somebody who rose the thing to that kind of a-
Okay, so the idea here is that… Two things. One, a visceral response means there’s something diabolical. No, it can just mean that people are defensive about things they really enjoy, especially heartfelt traditions. When people try to rip the rug out from under their feet, they can get defensive about it. I don’t think that’s evidence in and of itself of diabolical activity.
Number two, the idea here is that, well, this is literary garbage; how can it make a billion dollars? Maybe the demons have propped this up. So are you going to say that every stupid popular thing in the world is being inspired by demons? Once again, Hanlon’s Razor comes from Robert Heinlein’s novel Logic of Empire, published in 1941. The character Doc in it talks about the devil theory. In that book, he says, “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” From that comes Hanlon’s Razor. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
The reason some things are popular that are extremely low quality is just because as fallen human beings, we have base passions and things that we enjoy because our fallen nature. The things that are of low quality can be widely popular, and things that are of high quality may not appeal to people because they haven’t raised their spirits beyond the fallen savage level that they’ve gone to ever since the fall of man.
All right, two more things, and then I’m going to wrap up my response here. There’s one thing that Father Ripperger did not bring up that other people have brought up to me, when they say that Cardinal Ratzinger actually opposed Harry Potter. There is a good article by Dr. Jeffrey Mirus on catholicculture.org. I’ll link it in the Patreon page. He talks about what happened, that there was a claim that Cardinal Ratzinger opposed Harry Potter. You can read through the whole article. I’ll post it on the website.
The point was that in 2003, there was a conference on the New Age, and one of the presenters made an offhand comment saying that Pope John Paul II approved of Harry Potter books. Afterward, a German woman sent Cardinal Ratzinger her book, Harry Potter: Good or Evil? Later, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a reply to this woman and said, “It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.” Then he said, “I’ll send Mr. Fleedwood a copy of your book.” Then, later, Kuby, who was the author of this book, Harry Potter: Good or Evil?, asked Cardinal Ratzinger, “Can I make your letter public?” and he said, “Yeah, sure.”
Mirus, what he says is this, that Cardinal Ratzinger was probably in the habit of giving kindly replies to authors who sent him books. “He saw that Ms. Kuby had advanced a number of pious arguments about certain problems she claimed to find in the Potter books and, taking these at face value, he replied that her work was valuable in alerting the public to this sort of problem. At the same time, as this was very likely nothing more than a gracious reply, he avoided giving the least hint that he too had read the books and found them wanting, or that he agreed that the problems Ms. Kuby identified were actually characteristic of J.K. Rowling’s work. I suggest that any good and intelligent Church official, if he had not read the Potter books, would have responded in precisely this way.”
When people say, “Well, Cardinal Ratzinger was opposed to these books,” well, no, he just politely responded to an author who wrote a book saying Harry Potter is bad. Instead of investigating her case, he just said, “Thank you for the good work that you’re doing. Make sure to protect the young,” which is just a polite thing for a churchman to do who doesn’t have time to do a whole investigation of Harry Potter in this way.
I’ll link that to the article because that’s one thing, actually, Father Ripperger did not bring up that other people have brought up to me, saying that Pope Benedict… This was before he was Pope Benedict… opposed these books.
Finally, I just want to say I don’t want people to take from this that Trent Horn is against Father Ripperger, and he was disrespectful of Father Ripperger. No. I hold the man in high esteem. I think he’s out there exorcizing demons. He’s trying to teach people to be upright. I disagree with some of his theological positions that are not directly on Church teaching, but the application of Church teaching, because I think he also holds the view that it’s a mortal sin for mothers to work outside the home except in a very narrow range of cases. I would disagree with that. I’m going to talk with Tim Gordon about that more when he’s here on the podcast.
I don’t want people to take away from this that I was out to get Father Ripperger or something like that. I try very hard not to engage in friendly fire with other Catholics. I try to restrict that until it’s absolutely necessary. Here, a lot of people sent this to me, and the biggest concern I had… If he had just said, “Hey, Harry Potter is not a very good book, and some people can take it too far. That’s what I’m concerned about,” fine. That’s your opinion, and I think a lot of that is correct, actually. That’s fine.
But when you go and you make these claims that are misleading at best, or outright false at worst, then that’s hard for me because that can damage our credibility as Catholics who want to interact with the world and want to evangelize the world. Saint Paul said, “We are in the world, but not of the world,” so we’re going to know about things like Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons. We should be able to respond in moderation to say, “These pop culture things are definitely good. These pop culture things are definitely bad. Stay away from them. They’re pornography. They’re blasphemous. Stay away from them.”
Then there’s things in the middle that require prudence. Some people can watch R-rated movies, for example, with sex, drugs, and violence and swear words, and be fine. Other people cannot, so they have to avoid that. That’s fine. Each of us has to understand the limits we have in making a prudential judgment about what’s best for our souls. I’m not going to berate somebody who won’t watch an R-rated movie because I may be able to handle it and he can’t, and that’s fine.
Saint Paul told us not to be a stumbling block for one another. That’s why Saint Paul said, “I might be able to eat meat that was sacrificed to an idol, but I’m not going to eat meat in front of someone who is struggling with idol worship, because that could be a stumbling block for him.” It’s the same with Harry Potter. If I know a loved one who is struggling with this kind of stuff, I’m not going to bring up Harry Potter or magic if they’re struggling with temptations to do witchcraft. But if you can read it and you can cultivate it in a good way, and use it to teach valuable lessons about good and evil and about the wonders of imagination, then I think that’s fine.
I think I’m going to close the account here on Harry Potter. I’m happy to address some of the comments on the podcast later, as they will invariably come up. But I’m very clear. I tried to be very fair with what Father Ripperger said. I have a lot of respect for priests who are doing the good work of exorcism. But at the end of the day, if someone says something that is misleading, ambiguous, or false, and people believe that to detrimental ends, then I feel I have a duty in good conscience to say something.
I hope this was helpful for you. If you have questions or comments, send them to me at trenthornpodcast.com. Until then, check out next week. Next Tuesday, I’m going to debut my three-part episode with Brandan Robertson on Is Homosexual Behavior Sinful? You’re not going to want to miss that. Thank you all so much, and I hope you have a very blessed day.
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