Via Pharyngula, we learn from Nick Squires of the Telegraph that yoga is Satanic and the Harry Potter series is dangerous, according to the priest who has made a career out of finding “evil spirits” in people who need to be “cleansed” through painful, traumatizing rituals.
“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.
And how did Father Gabriele Amorth form this theory of the physics of magic as shown in Harry Potter, you might ask?
“Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations.”
He knows that extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses are the literary guise of Satan, because Satan is always hidden and wants us to believe he doesn’t exist.
In all the years I spent hanging out in Harry Potter fandom—and they were some great years!—I learned a lot of pretty far-fetched theories based more on what wasn’t in the books than on anything that was, but this one here? If this showed up in a fanfic, I think the “Hermione drugged Harry with a Love Potion to make him fall for Ginny” advocates would say, “Whoa, Padre. Step away from the shrooms.”
A reasonable person might see absolutely no parallel between Harry Potter and yoga, but Satan lurks in both, so I guess they must be condemned together.
In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger] issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other ‘eastern’ practises.
They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.
Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said.
Okay. I guess you can exercise, or you can pray, but you can’t do both.
Squires saves the best part for last, though:
Father Amorth has previously said that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron and have such superhuman strength that even children have to be held down by up to four people.
He has also claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries was proof that the Anti-Christ is waging a war against the Holy See.
Wait, wait, wait, tell me if you’ve heard this one.
The priest who implies that the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal is the product of the Anti-Christ’s campaign against the Catholic hierarchy (rather than a real-world result of bishops enabling priests who abuse their power over their parishioners), and warns of children who vomit glass and iron and need to be held down by four people, tells us that the real danger lies in things like practicing yoga and reading Harry Potter.
It’s interesting, because Harry Potter has a complex relationship with authority. It’s not anarchist, it’s not outright hostile to authority figures, but it doesn’t teach a simple 1:1 correlation between a position of authority and trustworthiness. We see characters like fake!Moody in Book 4, and Umbridge in Book 5, who are not just dishonest but actually villainous. We see Cornelius Fudge in Books 4 and 5, whose reactionary adherence to the status quo turns out to be a major problem. Even Dumbledore, who is overwhelmingly a force for good, doesn’t always practice the best judgment. Then we have Snape, who is arguably the most courageous character in the series, but whose sadistic treatment of, for example, Neville, is never framed as anything except bullying. The series also teaches that racism is needlessly destructive, not just to those who are discriminated against, but to the society that condones such discrimination, and that purity is not the same thing as integrity. In the Wizarding World, magic is accessible to all wizards and witches, not just the ones in positions of power.
In order to believe what Father Amorth is now telling us about children being possessed by Satan, you pretty much have to suspend all possible disbelief against anyone who claims to be an authority figure. You have to assume that whatever the man in the collar does to you, no matter how painful, degrading, injurious and traumatizing, is for your own good, because he’s the priest and he says so.
From that position, an apparently innocuous book series aimed at children, written by a British Christian who raises awareness for the human rights of orphaned children in Eastern Europe, will indeed be a serious problem.