In a damning indictment of the bestselling books, among the most successful in publishing history, the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, has called the teenage boy wizard “the wrong kind of hero”. Under the headline 'The double face of Harry Potter’, the lengthy article concludes: “Despite the values that we come across in the narration, at the base of this story, witchcraft is proposed as a positive ideal.
"The violent manipulation of things and people comes thanks to knowledge of the occult. The ends justify the means because the knowledgeable, the chosen ones, the intellectuals know how to control the dark powers and turn them into good. This a grave and deep lie, because it is the old Gnostic temptation of confusing salvation and truth with a secret knowledge. The characterisation of common men who do not know magic as 'muggles’ who know nothing other than bad and wicked things is a truly diabolical attitude.”
The piece goes on to compare Harry Potter unfavourably with two other great British children’s classics, the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, epics both written by Christians with deeply-held beliefs. The article, by Edoardo Rialti, a professor of literature at Florence University, said that the works of Tolkien and Lewis show “a transcendence and the beauty of the infinite.” Harry Potter books, he said, have an “inverted and confused spirituality: a world where bad is good” and that they are characterised by a “vague, new-age philosophy”.
Paolo Gulisano, the author of a book on Tolkien and thus perhaps someone who knows more about Tolkien than Rialti, disagrees and wrote a rebuttal in which he argued that Harry Potter "carries the reader from the vision of a selfish man towards a vision of a man guided by moral values, the choice of good, sacrifice, friendship, love." Because a rebuttal was published, it can't be claimed that Rialti was expressing the definitive, official Vatican position — but we do know that his views are much closer to the pope's than Gulisano.
While still a cardinal, Ratzinger wrote a letter to German Potter critic Gabriele Kuby in which he argued that the dangers in the Potter books were hidden: "It is good that you shed light and inform us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable and precisely because of that deeply affect [children] and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it [the Faith] could properly grow and mature. ...That they [children] are being cut off from God, the source of Love and Hope, so that they in sorrowful life conditions are without a foundation that supports them — that they lose the spirit of discernment between good and evil and that they will not have the necessary strength and knowledge to withstand the temptations to evil."