Questions are being raised of Rowling's possible criticism of the Roman Catholic Church, and in particular the Pope during the period of the rise of the Nazis in Germany. One of John Granger's posters at HogwartsProfessor raises this question:
During Vold War II the Minister of Magic is Pius Thicknesse. Pius is a rather unusual name. Try this - Pius XII ” Hitler’s Pope.” Kind of fits - His Thickness(e) Pius XII. Anything linking to the number 12? Pius XII rather “thick” in not fully recognizing Hitler’s evil. I’ve followed the thread here on Deathly Hallows regarding Nazi Echoes but have not yet seen anything on this point.
Is Pius Thicknesse a takeoff on Pius XII? I thought not, though I do think that she may be indeed engaging in some serious satire of institutionalism, even in the Church. But I had a different church in mind when I read Deathly Hallows. Here's my response at HogwartsProfessor.com:
The “Deathly Hallows” themselves are reminiscent of bishops vestments and their so-called vestibules of power . The “Invisibility Cloak” is much like the Bishop’s Cope. The Resurrection Stone (and it’s original location in a ring) is like the Bishop’s Ring. And the wand is akin to the crozier, or the staff carried by a bishop.
But a true Christian leader does not find power in those things, and yet so often for the institutional church those “trappings of power” become far more important than what is in the heart. Leaders will seek cover under those “deathly hallows” rather than in the place God looks - the human heart.
Being an Episcopalian/Anglican whose denomination is in a global crisis that appears to be heading for schism - I read between the lines of Rowling's possible criticisms of the institutional church - but I thought of my own, not the Roman Catholic Church as I read. Episcopalians, like Roman Catholics, have many of the same trappings of power where the preservation of the institution trumps the heart of the believer. We have bishops. They may begin with the best of intentions but are often sucked into the vortex of institutional power, especially when their own moral foundations are compromised or lost to the spirit of the age and self-preservation.
But criticism and satire do not necessarily mean hostility to the institution, especially when the criticism comes in the form of satire. In fact, some of the greatest satirists were reformers who sought recovery for the institution, not its demolition.
Institutionalists though, when faced with criticism, often feel threatened by the criticism as though the institution is the same as “the Church.” They seek to protect the institution, finding their identity in it, rather than in Christ. I might venture to say that Rowling may have some criticisms of the institutionalism of the Church (or government), but not in the effort to destroy it (the Ministry of Magic recovers as we learn, it is not destroyed). I found it satirical, but I also found it strangely encouraging. I agreed with her. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading!
I will admit, though, that my thoughts were directed more toward my own “institutional” church and not toward the Roman Catholic Church. Jo Rowling is a Scottish Episcopalian, she too is in the Anglican Communion. I do not know how much she is aware of the crisis in the Communion, but her criticisms of institutionalism (whether it is progressive or traditional) were extraordinary in their timing.
In fact, I am going to the meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops in New Orleans later this month and I’m taking my copy of Deathly Hallows with me. I expect that I will spend a lot of time out in the hall waiting to hear what the bishops decide to do for the future of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion (and I will be reporting on their deliberations at my blog) but while I wait for word, I intend to spend that time reading Deathly Hallows.
I never expected to find such spot-on criticism/satire that institutionalism does not make one a believer. And in fact, Harry is the Believer - the Seeker - for he recognizes that his power is not found in the institutional trappings of power (The Deathly Hallows), but in pursuing the healing and restoration of the soul.