Americans around the country will be flocking to see the latest Harry Potter movie this weekend, and some Catholics maintain that the series exposes children to evil influences. But Bishop Thomas Paprocki said in a recent interview that the root cause of dabbling in the occult comes from being isolated from the faith.
Bishop Paprocki spoke with CNA on Nov. 16 after a recent exorcism training that was held in Baltimore, ahead of the annual U.S. bishops' fall assembly. The Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism took place Nov. 12-13.
According to the Springfield, Ill. bishop, who chairs the Bishop's Committee on Canonical Affairs, the program came about after an increasing number of inquiries from priests in the U.S. The conference was attended by more than 100 bishops and priests.
In the interview, Bishop Paprocki took time to address the idea that popular books and movies aimed at children and teens, such as the boy-wizard Harry Potter series or the Twilight saga on vampires, have encouraged interest in the occult.
“We have to be careful with those kinds of topics for young people,” he said.
He pointed out that the controversial series “could be simply works of fantasy.” At the same time, he cautioned, “we have to be careful though as children are very impressionable – do they start seeing truths in those stories and do they start believing in them?”
“I think a more general hazard in our culture is the fact that people are not attached to organized religion as much as they used to be,” he said. “In fact, the word religion comes from a Latin word which means to be bound together.”
Because “religion binds us together in faith and to Jesus Christ,” he said, “when people start moving away from organized religion and churches” they may start “dabbling in their own spirituality.”
“Part of that hazard then is dabbling in the occult and may fall into something truly diabolical such as Satanic rituals.”
Given “our increasingly secular and even atheistic culture,” Bishop Paprocki said that people being distant from organized religion may be the reason for an increase in the number of inquiries about exorcisms.