Pope Benedict believes the Harry Potter books subtly seduce young readers and “distort Christianity in the soul” before it can develop properly, according to comments attributed to him by a German writer.
Gabriele Kuby, who has written a book called “Harry Potter -- Good or Evil,” which attacks J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series about the boy wizard, published extracts from two letters written to Kuby by Benedict in 2003, when he was a cardinal.
Kuby, a devout Catholic, had sent him a copy of her Potter critique, and he wrote to thank her, according to a passage from one of the letters published in German on her Web site.
“It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because these are subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly,” Benedict wrote, according to the excerpt.
A Vatican official was not immediately able to comment on the remarks attributed to Benedict, who is currently on holiday in the Alps. Reuters was unable to reach Kuby by telephone.
The sixth book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” is due to be published on July 16, with millions of copies already shipped to stores around the world.
After Benedict was named Pope in April, his own writings shot to the top of the German book charts and dislodged the most recent book in the Potter series from number one.
The Vatican had previously appeared to approve of the books, saying they helped children to understand the difference between good and evil.
Kuby maintains the opposite, listing among 10 arguments against Harry Potter: “The ability of the reader to distinguish between good and evil is overridden by emotional manipulation and intellectual obfuscation.”
In one of the letters, Benedict gives Kuby permission to publicise his opinion.
“Somehow your letter got buried in the large pile of name-day, birthday and Easter mail,” he writes.
“Finally this pile is taken care of, so that I can gladly allow you to refer to my judgement about Harry Potter.”
Vatican officials earlier this year condemned Dan Brown’s Catholic conspiracy bestseller “The Da Vinci Code.”
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in March blasted the book as an absurd distortion of history, saying it was full of cheap lies and Catholic bookstores should take it off their shelves.