Saturday, July 23, 2005

Quo Vadis? on "B-16 and HP 6..."

Christopher from Quo Vadis? has a sane take on the insane "Pope condemns Harry Potter" business that makes its way through MSM. After recognizing that MSM, and sometimes Catholic media, get it wrong, he makes this observation:
At the most, it could be argued that Cardinal Ratzinger was writing about the need to be cautious with the Harry Potter books. Nothing in his 2 letters gives any sense that he is condemning the books, labeling them as inherently evil, or even outright opposing them entirely. When you read the letter, all you can be certain of is that Ratzinger expressed some caution and concern about Harry Potter because the stories can be subtle seductions that could lead the soul astray before it has properly grown to a certain level of maturity.

And honestly, I agree with this! A child not developed enough and/or not receiving guidance from his parents on the issue could possibly be led away from his/her faith into witchcraft somewhere down the line. But many other things could lead people astray as well, alcohol for example. Yet this doesn't necessarily mean that the thing is inherently evil, but rather simply that it needs a proper balance (in the case of Potter, an understanding that it is fantasy; in the case of beer, a sense of moderation). It's true that fantasy novels may have fair influence on future Wiccans, especially those involving wizards and/or witches (for example, a study showed the majority of American Wiccans cite LOTR as their favorite childhood book), but for every Wiccan there are probably 20 times as many (or more) other people who turned out non-Wiccan.
The problem all Fools, especially Catholic ones, should concern themselves with is the process of formation in which we pass on Tradition. Catholic formation has left much to be desired for years, at least in the NY Metropolitan area.

Many Irish religious and clergy taught catechism before the Second Vatican Council. Many of them, unfortunately, had subscribed--unconsciously or not--to the rigorism that had originated in the heresy Jansenism. Thus, their catechism focused almost exclusively on the "do's" and "don'ts" of moral living. Their Christology was noticably absent. Instead, the damnation of God stood behind many of their pronouncements.

The Catechism practiced after the Second Vatican Council changed dramatically, but did not improve. The new Catechists quickly banished the damning God of the previous generation of instructors. However, their teaching on Christ went little beyond "God is Love". While they may have instructed their students on scripture, they failed to connect the Christ presented in scripture with the Magisterium and the Church that he founded on Peter. Because of this watered down catechism and the radical changes in liturgical practice carried out by post V2 Liturgists, an entire generation of Catholics became adrift.

I went to Catholic schools for twelve years. I had twelve years of religious education in these schools. I still learned more about what my Faith is on my own through Catholic young-adult ministries and my own investigation than I did in my formal schooling. Imagine how unprepared I could be for any manifestation of pop culture that came along.

The problem isn't the pop culture. The problem is in Faith formation. If the same people that raised their heckles at Harry Potter would flood their Bishops' chaunceries with demands for a sound catechetical formation program, perhaps they wouldn't have to worry themselves over the next Potter sensation. Meanwhile, the more insidious work of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials marches on unopposed. This year it's on the required reading list for the Ramapo Central School District in suburban New York State.

Can we please keep our eye on the ball?