The Catholic Diocese of Nashville says it doesn’t make a habit of censoring the books students can read in Catholic school libraries, apart from ensuring that all content is age-appropriate for its students. But after complaints from parents and consultations with exorcists, the pastor of St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville has decided to make an exception and remove all seven volumes of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
“These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception,” says Reverend Dan Reehil, who spoke with several exorcists in the United States and Rome before coming to the decision to remove the books from the library. “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells, which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”
According to Publisher’s Weekly, parents in the district complained about the book’s “alleged occult/Satanic and anti-family themes, and violence.” This led to Rev. Reehil’s investigation into the situation and eventual removal of the books from the school’s library, which serves students from pre-K to eighth grade. Other parents, however, disagree with this decision.
Of course, there’s no rule saying that Roman Catholic people cannot read the Harry Potter book series if they so desire, nor are Catholic parents forbidden from allowing their children to read it, although caution is recommended. But schools do have the right, according to Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, to protect their students from potentially dangerous material by discluding it from their collections.
“Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school,” says Hammel. “He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”
Hammel goes on to explain that parents who allow their children to read potentially dangerous books with occult themes should educate their children about Church teachings on the topic.
“Should parents deem that this or any other media to be appropriate,” she says, “we would hope that they would just guide their sons and daughters to understand the content through the lens of our faith. We really don’t get into censorship in such selections other than making sure that what we put in our school libraries is age-appropriate materials for our classrooms.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time that J.K. Rowling‘s collection, published between 1997 and 2007, has spawned criticism. In recent years, it has lingered at the top of the “most challenged” book list and has been banned in several locations.
What do you think about banning books? Should the Harry Potter series be removed from religious environments where it is believed to contain the potential for evil?
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?