A - Thanks for the timely question. I am guessing this will create a lively discussion. I read the books just a few months ago to see if they were appropriate for my 11 year-old daughter to read. We ended up reading the entire series and talking about them and had some great discussions as a result. I am also working my way through the movies and have watched the first four.
I, unlike some other Catholics, do not believe they are dangerous to read for the average adolescent who is well-formed in their faith and is emotionally secure, for their age - as long as a parent reads and discusses the moral pitfalls with them.
There are some Catholics who believe the series is "evil". It is criticized in this manner because the books contain magic done by witches and wizards. I can see this side of the argument, but do not share such a harsh view. While magic plays a part, as long as the boundaries between the magic described in the books and real occult magic is discussed with a child, it could help a young person understand the real problems with seeking power in magic, not drive them toward it.
What I can say is the Church has no official position on these books or movies. So, we must use our best judgment as to whether or not someone should read them. Is it possible that someone could be spiritually harmful, because of magic, for some who are immature in their faith? I suppose it is possible, but I believe it is unlikely. To be quite honest I have bigger reservations over the moral decision-making of the characters than I do about the use of magic. Also, there are much more dangerous things in our culture including parts of the internet, certain video games, etc.
So, since there is no side the Catholic Church takes on this issue, I might provide some pros and cons (as I see them) and you can make the decision yourself. BTW - I HIGHLY recommend that parents read and discuss the books with their children and only allow them to read them if they are well-formed in their faith, act in a moral manner, and are emotionally secure, for their age.
CONS of Harry Potter:
- The protagonists of the series (esp. Harry) make poor moral decisions. There is regular rule breaking and the moral decision making sometimes equals "the ends justify the means".
- The consequences of breaking the rules and doing bad things is not always clear.
- The only ones who really enforce the rules are the characters who are either evil or questionable. The "good" authority figures generally sweep away punishment or minimize it.
- The use of magic might encourage some young children who do not understand the occult to think about magic or seek it out too much.
- Several virtues are highlighted repeatedly, including courage, loyalty, and love.
- Harry overcomes many terrible events in his life to do something very good in the end.
- Prejudiced and oppressive leaders are shown to be what they are.
- Voldemort, the antagonist, is clearly evil and corrupt.
- The magic used is not occult, but more utilitarian.
- Some compare the story to the life of every Christian and the moral drama of life that goes with it.
- The dangers of fame and the drawbacks of power/fame are clear.
I hope this helps.