|Kara D Russo Young|
On Monday I had a piece in RI Future about infamous "psychic" John Edward and his much hyped appearance on The John DePetro Show, a Providence area right wing radio talk show. DePetro, an outspoken Catholic, was one of the biggest local media cheerleaders for keeping a prayer banner on the wall of Cranston High School West. In a court case that was covered internationally, Jessica Ahlquist prevailed and the prayer banner was removed. Through it all, John DePetro wore his Catholicism on his sleeve as he covered every aspect of the case.
I revisit it here because the comments on the post took an interesting turn when professional political candidate Kara D. Russo Young chimed in, essentially agreeing with my argument that good Catholics can't help to promote psychics and that participating in such activities is strictly forbidden. Russo Young writes:
The fact that many Catholics are either not aware or do not heed the fact that all forms of divination should be rejected is actually a topic that I bring up a lot. In addition to 2115 and 2116, Canon Law 2117 elaborates that “All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others…” This includes movies like Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.
Of course, Russo Young goes much farther than I do. You see, I don't believe in psychics, nor do I believe in the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. However, Russo Young, and the Catholic Church, believe in both these things. I reject psychics because there is no evidence that suggests that they can do anything out of the ordinary. There are plenty of magicians and mentalists who will perform feats more impressive than John Edward can manage, and they do so while never claiming real magic powers.
But the Catholic Church is full of superstitions, and believe many things, like the resurrection of Jesus, the virgin birth, transubstantiation etc. In fact, the Catholic Church believes in things like magic, psychic abilities and occult powers with the caveat that such things are demonic in origin. Hence the existence of officially sanction Catholic exorcists who claim to dispel demons from troubled individuals.
Russo Young takes this general unease with psychics and the occult another step further. She seems to believe that if the occult is real and demonic, then almost any mention of such powers in popular culture are demonic in nature as well. Hence her condemnation of the Harry Potter and Twilight series of books and movies.
In response to Russo Young, John McGrath wrote:
Edward is a phony, but Catholicism is all about talking with the dead.
Hell, I have talked to dead relatives in dreams – long enjoyable conversations – and sometimes they have given me a number that actually came in when I bet it (thank you, Spirits). So they’re the ones violating this anti-Biblical teaching of the Catholic Church – I didn’t ask them to visit.
Was not Joseph in the Bible a dream interpreter from God, predicting the future as God planned (not very pleasantly)? And wasn’t he a vulture capitalist too, screwing the farmers out of their lands and consolidating ownership into the hands of Boss Pharaoh?
Five minutes later McGrath added:
Kara Russo, stop playing canon lawyer. The pope has given Harry Potter the thumbs up. So you are putting yourself above the pope, which is OK with me, but you don’t have that canon law thing down right. And Rowling, the Potter author, is off the world’s billionaire list because she has given away most of her fortune to charity. Sounds like she’s been listening to Jesus, if not you.
This whole thing is such a silly topic. Which is why I like it.
McGrath makes some excellent points. The whole thing is silly, but no less instructive. I wrote the original piece to point out two things. First, John DePetro, despite his loud proclamations about being a devout Catholic, is a hypocrite at worst and at best is un-knowledgeable about his own religion. Second, psychics are scam artists, and the followers of such people are deluding themselves.
Russo Young doesn't let the issue die, and answers McGrath:
Pope Benedict and Father Gabriele Amorth (chief exorcist of the Vatican) both condemned the Harry Potter series. :www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1441735/posts
And although more recently the Vatican NEWSPAPER (not the Pope) did OK a Harry Potter movie, giving it props for it’s treatment of the forces of good vs. the forces of evil, the Vatican newspaper also CONDEMNED that same film, along with all the books and movies in the series, for leaving God completely out.
In the article Russo Young linked to, Cardinal Ratzinger, before his election to Pope-dom, decried the Harry Potter books. Writing to a German critic of the series who felt that "the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy," Ratzinger wrote:
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.
McGrath challenged Russo Young's contention in the following reply:
The claim that the Pope has condemned the Harry Potter thing is a bit exaggerated, as is made clear in the balanced article I whose link is below. As for the “chief exorcist” (no such title exists), he makes some mighty strange statements, as pointed out in the same article. And, really who care? People, even Catholics, are free to make up their own minds about this matter of grave importance. … P.S. My high school teacher, a saintly exorcist, was a lot more rational about the exorcism phenomenon.
The Steven D. Greydanus piece McGrath links to is a very interesting and thorough dissection of the claim that the Pope has condemned the Harry Potter books. As it turns out, it's not at all clear that the Pope has in fact condemned the books. The second half of the piece is an interesting expose of Gabriele Amorth, the so-called "chief exorcist of the Vatican." First of all, there is no "chief exorcist" because no such position exists. Secondly, Amorth is a nut. Greydanus writes:
Fr. Amorth also seems to be a bit of a loose cannon … if not (for lack of a better word) a bit nutty. In his book An Exorcist Tells His Story Fr. Amorth claims to have performed 30,000 exorcisms in a nine-year period. As Jimmy Akin has pointed out, that’s an average of nine exorcisms every day (Sundays included) for nine years!
Whatever else Fr. Amorth may be, he seems to be a man mentally immersed 24x7 in the world of spiritual warfare. There is at least some reason to suppose that he may well be sort of man for whom phrases like “seeing a demon under every rock” were invented. Besides averaging several exorcisms a day for many years, he has stated not only that Hitler and Stalin were “certainly” demon-possessed, but also that “I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil” (emphasis added).
In my interactions with Kara Russo Young during the Cranston High School West prayer banner case, where Russo Young lead the effort to keep the prayer on the wall of the school, I got the same impression of her that Greydanus has of Amorth. She's so totally immersed in Catholic fantasies that she's become disconnected from reality.
The Harry Potter books are fantasies, and are sold as such. At no time has J.K. Rowling, the book's publishers, or the makers of the movies ever said that Harry Potter and magic are somehow real. John Edward, however, makes the claim that he has real magic powers, and in that way he is exactly like the Catholic Church which claims to perform thousands if not millions of miracles every day when their priests turn ordinary bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. The problem here is not one of good magic vs. evil magic, it's the problem of believing fiction vs. believing truth.
Once we start believing in the occult powers of John Edward, Harry Potter, the Pope or the "chief exorcist of the Vatican" we have turned our backs on reason and reality, and we are doomed to live small, sad and short lives in the demon-haunted world.