Pullman’s Dark Materials

Not only have God and His angels passed beyond recognition in these books, the Kingdom of Heaven has become something against which man should wage war. The Vatican document, Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life, cautions that in the New Age Movement, humanity exalts itself at the expense of God. What is called the “Kingdom of Heaven” in this trilogy shares nothing in common with the Kingdom of Heaven known to Christians to be already among us (Lk 11: 20) and even within us (Lk 17: 21), but only reaching its complete fulfillment at the end of the world (Mt 25: 31-46; 1 Cor 15: 22-28). The trilogy portrays the Kingdom of Heaven as a tyrannical regime and attacks the Church, in truth given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven by Christ (Mt 16: 19, 18: 18), as an oppressive force. God Himself, Who alone makes Heaven Heaven and Who alone can satisfy the human person, is presented as the enemy of mankind.

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The Return of the Eternal King : A Film Review of The Passion of the Christ

Published in the February, 2004, issue of Catholic World Report

I have to admit I was skeptical. The Passion of the Christ had received the highest praise from people who had seen the advance screening. Nevertheless, when I was invited to attend a preview for Christian pastors and ministry leaders in my region, I went with a certain reluctance. I had expected to remain unmoved, distanced, analytical, as I watched yet another version of the greatest story ever told. Of the several films of Christ’s life that I had seen over the years, all had been flawed in some way. They offered either good but idiosyncratic acting, or mediocre acting with meticulously researched sets, or the cinematic equivalent of a saccharine holy card, and of course the inevitable schlock music pumping the emotions to compensate for limping film techniques. I was certain that any attempt to personify Christ would be a disappointment, because it could never match the interior icon each of us has in the heart of the soul. The best portrayal, to my mind, had been in Ben Hur, where we never see the face of Jesus.

The Potter Controversy: or Why that boy sorcerer just won’t go away.

Published in the July/August, 2003, issue of Saint Austin Review

In early February of this year a storm of banner headlines raged in the world’s media: “Harry Potter Is Ok With The Pontiff” declared the Chicago Sun Times. “Pope Approves Potter” declared the Toronto Star. Throughout North America, England, Australia, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and points beyond, the press and e-media proclaimed “Vatican okays Harry Potter” (News24, South Africa), “Vatican gives blessing to Harry Potter” (Scotsman), “Pope Sticks Up for Potter Books” (the BBC); “Vatican: Harry Potter’s OK with Us” (CNN Asia), and so forth.

Little attention was paid to the fact that this “news” was not in any way representative of positions held on the matter by the Pope or by his congregations in the Curia. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that the Holy Father has been spending his free time reading the ongoing adventures of the world’s favorite boy sorcerer.

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Harry versus Frodo

We should always keep in mind a fundamental principle of culture: Symbols in our minds exercise a certain power over us, though their influence is usually subconscious, and especially so in the minds of the young. Symbols are keystones in the architecture of thought, indeed in our perceptions of reality itself. If we lose symbolism, we lose your way of knowing things. If symbols are corrupted, concepts are corrupted, and then we lose our ability to understand things as they are, rendering us more vulnerable to deformation of our perceptions and our actions.

The holy scriptures are rich in the true symbols that are absolutely essential to a proper understanding of who we are and where we are situated in the Great War between good and evil—the war that will last until the end of time. Our Lady, for example, is the woman foretold in Genesis 3:15 who will crush the serpent’s head.

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Fantasy and the Family: a Letter to a Concerned Mother

The following is a letter by Michael D. O’Brien in response to a mother who wrote to him regarding fantasy literature and its influence on her children. Though she is a person of strong faith, she is finding it increasingly difficult to resist the continuous influx of disordered fantasy and other corrupt cultural influences in her children’s lives. She notes two significant factors in her situation, ones which are probably shared by most families.

The first: despite all efforts to keep questionable material out of her home, her children are constantly exposed to it through their friends, extended family, and neighbors, in libraries, and at school.

The second: they are too young to fully understand why their parents object to this material, especially since it is in the forefront of young people’s interests at this time, including all the families with whom they are acquainted.

This woman’s family is strong in the practice of their faith, and she strives to provide good cultural material, especially reading, in the home. However, the children constantly pressure her to allow them access to objectionable books, films, and videos.

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Season of Intolerance


Advent has begun and Christmas is approaching as I write this. The malls are packed with shoppers. They are, like me, trying to beat the Christmas rush or tap into the pre-Christmas sales, or maybe just get into the spirit of things early. You may have noticed that life in these times is somewhat tense, and who can be blamed for rushing the season of peace just a little. There’s a holiday feeling in the air: the potted pines and the shop windows are all decked out; the robot Santas and the synthetic jingle on the loudspeakers are jolly in about equal portions. As is usual at this time of year, people are more patient with one another, will allow complete strangers to enter elevators before them, will overlook the irritating behavior of the occasional aggressive bargain-hunter, and will smile more easily at mothers with small noisy children. It is the season of tolerance.

Perhaps, then, it would not hurt to be reminded that the Incarnation was, in fact, an act of colossal intolerance on the part of God, by which I mean to say that it was an act of immeasurable love. He loved us so much that he would not let us die in our sins. He was intolerant of our slavery and was born among us for the express purpose of doing something rather definite about it.

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The War for our Children’s Souls

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Because she was with child, she cried aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky: it was a huge dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns; on his head were seven crowns. His tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, ready to devour her child as soon as it was born.”

Revelation 12:1-6

The early Church Fathers taught that this passage has manifold meanings. On one level it refers to Mary of Nazareth and the birth of Christ; on another it refers to the Church as she labors to bear salvation into the world. This child is, in a sense, every child, and is the offspring of the Church. She is to carry this child as the image of God, transfigured in Christ, and to bring him forth into eternal life. She groans in agony, and the primeval serpent hates her, for he knows that her offspring, protected and grown in her womb, will crush his head. On still another level, the Woman of Revelation is Our Lady the Mother of the Church, mother of all peoples and all individual souls. As such, she exercises a particularly urgent mission to preserve the young from the deceptions of the ancient enemy of mankind.

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A Landscape With Dragons

A Landscape with Dragons is about the shift in literature from a Christian-based world view to that of a new and revised paganism. The author examines the difference between the two and shows how the pagan message is being packaged to appear as “Christian” writing. But he deals with far more than just the problem of deception. He is examining a major crisis in traditional culture.


O’Brien uses anecdotes from his family life experiences, skillfully woven, insightful, and often amusing. He begins with a story of his own childhood night-time fears and the wise way in which his mother helped him to overcome them. Having captured our attention, he then explores the fundamental struggle that every person encounters between courage and terror. At this point he introduces us to one of the most helpful subjects covered in the book: the role of symbols, fables, and fantasy in the development of the imagination and of a healthy world view.


[Ignatius Press (for U.S.)
Amazon.ca (for Canada)]

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Interview with Catholic World Report – Special Tolkien Issue

Interview with Catholic World Report, special Tolkien issue, December, 2001

There will be two highly publicized movies coming out in December, at roughly the same time: one of Harry Potter and the other of Tolkien. What do you make of that coincidence?

Michael O’Brien: That’s a good question. I do find that the timing of the release of these two movies is uncanny. At their foundation they represent two very different views of the struggle between good and evil.

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Why Harry Potter Goes Awry: Zenit Interview

COMBERMERE, Ontario, DEC. 6, 2001 (Zenit.org).— As the film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” opened to record box-office receipts, ZENIT turned to renowned Canadian author Michael D. O’Brien to comment on the phenomenon. O’Brien’s works include the novel Father Elijah and a critique of the paganization of children’s culture, A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind, both by Ignatius Press.

Q: Many are critical of the Harry Potter books because they claim it is dangerous to expose children to witchcraft and the occult. What is your reaction to this?

O’Brien: I have read the four volumes of the Harry Potter series three times, and with each reading the serious defects of the novels appear in clearer light.

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