In case you're not up on your inexplicably world-rocking literature news, J. K. Rowling mentioned at Carnegie Hall that she regarded the character Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, as a homosexual. Kind readers have provided me with links, so for the complete story, see this article at The Leaky Cauldron. Catholic blog The Blue Boar has an interesting statement and link. For a level-headed Catholic essay on the subject, Mark Shea's post is a good place to go. For a good example of Catholics Behaving Badly, you might try enduring the lengthy and vitriolic arguments in the comments on that post, which at the time of this writing number 310, thereby making me insanely jealous.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Rowling's statement has no effect on the actual novels, which contain no references to homosexuality or even hints.
- Comments on Shea's blog make it painfully obvious that many Catholics are in need of a reiteration of the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Homosexuality is a "disorder" in the sense that a person in that condition has his passions ordered to an object other than that to which they properly belong. This is not a sin. When a person acts out in response to the disorder, that is a sin. We have no evidence whatsoever that Dumbledore has ever been an active homosexual. His merely being homosexual is not the terrible thing some Christian readers are making it out to be.
- It is not a sin to use homosexual characters in a work of fiction or to depict them as intelligent and likable people, contra one of the commenters on Shea's blog. As I know from experience, some homosexuals are in fact intelligent and likable people.
- The media nonsense is going to die down in a few weeks. The novels will remain unaffected in content.
- An encyclopedia of the Potterverse is slated for release sometime in the future and may contain this detail on Dumbledore even though the novels do not. Parents will want to consider that before buying the encyclopedia for their children.
I have three great fears regarding what will happen as a result of Rowling's comment. The first is that members of the homosexual subculture will see this as some kind of triumph, even though the books contain not the faintest hint of homosexuality. My other fear is that conservative Catholics will overreact and end up looking like a bunch of homophobic bigots. Both these fears have already become reality.
My third fear is that the Christian boosters of Harry Potter will unjustly feel betrayed even though Rowling made them no promises in the first place. The books use Christian themes, but they have never given us reason to believe Rowling was writing them as an orthodox Christian. Nor should that be a matter of concern; a great many good books, for children or otherwise, are not explicitly orthodox Christian. Nonetheless, because so many feel disillusioned, I fear they will end up in the camp of Michael O'Brien and his ilk, who long to strap iron chains over Christians' imaginations and subject them to arbitrary and contradictory rules that would reduce fantasy writing to mindless, artistically inferior rehashings of The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. Rowling's comment does not bode well for the future of Christian fantasy, which has already earned a reputation for producing soft-soaping knock-offs of its betters. It also does not bode well for the future of fantasy readers who are Christian, who as a result of this will become more cynical regarding fantasy literature. I predict Rowling's statement will widen the rift of the Culture Wars, produce a further atrophying of the Christian imagination, and increase the exodus from the Church of young people who will not tolerate the oppression of their imaginations by the likes of O'Brien.