J. K. Rowling’s latest book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows«/I> contains a justification for euthanasia not by the Dark Lord Voldemort but by the venerable leader of the “good” witches and wizards, Hogwarts School Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Aware that he has only a year to live as a result of a magical curse, he says to his trusted double-agent against Voldemort, Severus Snape, “You must kill me” (p. 682).
When Snape raises the question of possible damage to his own soul from killing Dumbledore, he replies; “You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation…. I ask this one great favor of you, Severus, because death is coming for me” with great inevitability (Deathly Hallows, p. 683, emphasis added). These, of course, are standard arguments for euthanasia.
Snape’s murder of Dumbledore occurred near the conclusion of the previous book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Ch. 28), when Snape as double-agent joined a raiding party from Voldemort in an attack on the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Only in the recently published final book in the series is it revealed that Snape was acting on Dumbledore’s orders. Snape acted in part to maintain his cover as a double-agent but only because Dumbledore had requested the “favor,” because he preferred “a quick, painless exit” to the torture he would have to endure if Voldemort’s servants such as Greyback the werewolf were to overcome him (Deathly Hallows, p. 683).
Commentators have noted that some situations in the Potter series may refer to situations in the real world ranging from terrorist attacks to the American prison in Guantanamo. Some Christian critics have claimed that the morality in Rowling’s fantasy world is relative and pragmatic instead of objective and consistent. Rowling’s justification of a murder-suicide pact between the aged champion of the “good” wizards, Albus Dumbledore, and his ultimately faithful double-agent, Severus Snape, in what is supposed to be a children’s book, seems to justify their criticism.
Indeed, in 2003, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to a German critic of the Potter books, Gabriele Kuby, to applaud her exposure of Harry Potter’s “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.”
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