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What Every Parent Should Know About 'The Golden Compass'

11/15/2007 - 06:11 PST

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Interview With Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, NOV. 15, 2007 (Zenit) - The film "The Golden Compass" isn't simply about using fairy-tale magic to tell a good story, it corrupts the imagery of Lewis and Tolkien to undermine children's faith in God and the Church, says Catholic author Pete Vere.

In this interview with us, Vere and Sandra Miesel discuss the movie adaptation of the fantasy novels written by Philip Pullman. The film, staring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, will be released in the United States in early December.

Vere and Miesel are co-authors of the booklet - Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy, to be published by Ignatius Press next month on the topic of "The Golden Compass."

Q: The first movie of "The Golden Compass" trilogy is being released at Christmas. For those unfamiliar with the series, what kind of books are these and to whom do they appeal?

Vere: To begin, the books are marketed for 9-12 year olds as children's fantasy literature in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling. "If you're a fan of 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Narnia ' or 'Harry Potter,'" the critics tell us, "you'll love Pullman."

Personally, I just can't see a child picking up these books and reading them. I see them more as books that adults give kids to read.

Having said that, "The Golden Compass" (1995) is the first book in Pullman's trilogy. The second book is titled "The Subtle Knife" (1997) and it is followed by "The Amber Spyglass" (2000).

Collectively, the trilogy is known as "His Dark Materials," a phrase taken from John Milton's "Paradise Lost." This is appropriately titled in my opinion, since each book gets progressively darker -- both in the intensity with which Pullman attacks the Catholic Church and the Judeo-Christian concept of God, as well as the stridency with which he promotes atheism.

For example, one of the main supporting characters, Dr. Mary Malone, is a former Catholic nun who abandoned her vocation to pursue sex and science. The reader does not meet her until the second book, by which time the young reader is already engrossed in the story. By the third book, Dr. Malone is engaging in occult practices to lead the two main characters, a 12-year-old boy and girl, to sleep in the same bed and engage in -- at the very least -- heavy kissing. This is the act through which they renew the multiple universes created by Pullman.

Another example is Pullman's portrayal of the Judeo-Christian God. Pullman refers to him as "The Authority," although a number of passages make clear that this is the God of the Bible. The Authority is a liar and a mere angel, and as we discover in the third book, senile as well. He was locked in some sort of jewel and held prisoner by the patriarch Enoch, who is now called Metatron and who rules in the Authority's name. When the children find the jewel and accidentally release the Authority, he falls apart and dies.

Additionally, Pullman uses the imagery of C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" chronicles. "His Dark Materials" opens with the young heroine stuck in a wardrobe belonging to an old academic, conversing with a talking animal, when she discovers multiple worlds. So the young reader is lulled early on with the familiar feel of Lewis.

Nevertheless, Pullman's work isn't simply about using fairy-tale magic to tell a good story. He openly proselytizes for atheism, corrupting the imagery of Lewis and Tolkien to undermine children's faith in God and the Church.

Q: Many Catholics, including William Donohue of the Catholic League, are speaking out against the movie. What should parents know before they let their children watch this film?

Vere: I don't recommend any parent allow their children to view the film. While the movie has reportedly been sanitized of its more anti-Christian and anti-religious elements, it will do nothing but pique children's curiosity about the books. I'm a parent myself. My children would think it hypocritical if I told them it was OK to see the movie, but not to read the books. And they would be right.

It's not OK for children -- impressionable as they are -- to read stories in which the plot revolves around the supreme blasphemy, namely, that God is a liar and a mortal. It is not appropriate for children to read books in which the heroine is the product of adultery and murder; priests act as professional hit men, torturers and authorize occult experimentation on young children; an ex-nun engages in occult practices and promiscuous behavior, and speaks of it openly with a 12-year-old couple; and the angels who rebel against God are good, while those who fight on God's side are evil. This is wrong. And while it's been softened in the movie -- or at least that's what Hollywood is telling us -- it's still there in the books.

Miesel: Furthermore, ...

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