|Ginny Weasley, long awaited girl.|
For the record, I have read Francis's entire statement (as one does) and I find only two objectionable things: his use of the crude anti-Catholic smear "like rabbits" and his holding up of a mother of eight for ridicule. I think he would have got his point across much better if he had mentioned a penniless man who refused to learn NFP and badgered his wife for sex-on-demand despite A) her ill health or B) really not being able to feed the children they already had. This is probably a reality for millions of women across the developing world, and if the Holy Father had mentioned him instead, the Catholic blogosphere would not now be covered with bunny pictures.
Mind you, I rather like the bunny pictures. I also like all the witty remarks about bunnies B.A. and I have been exchanging. My guess is that married Catholics across the world are making flirtatious bunny remarks to each other this week. Perhaps there will be a baby boom in October as a result. Outraged relatives and neighbours will hiss, "I thought Pope Francis said you weren't supposed to be like rabbits", and the married couple, sleepless and exhausted, will giggle foolishly.
My nasty cold rather discourages bunny behaviour, but it does not prevent me from working on my Polish. And so I have been reading and listening to Harry Potter i Komnata Tajemnic, which is the Polish version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I have got to the chapter called "Nora" which turns out to be Polish for "The Burrow", the name of the Weasley home and also, er, what rabbits live in. Oh dear. I cannot get away from rabbits today.
Harry Potter has long been a focus of Catholic controversy, and this has always mystified me, since no-one has seizures over the magic-filled Oz books. I find the early HP books wonderfully inventive and well-written. J.K. Rowling has a clver sense of contrast, inviting us to compare Harry's nasty uncle and aunt and their one spoiled child with the generous, sprawling, cash-strapped Weasley clan.
The Weasleys are a traditional family with a father in a civil service post, a mother at home, and seven children, two of them grown up and employed by the time the baby is 10. The youngest Weasley is the only girl, which I suppose is an explanation to those who need one. ("WHY did the Weasleys have so many children, Mummy?") A much more amusing explanation is that the Weasleys, so red-haired and all, were not only wizards but Roman Catholics. Their religious faith being at odds with their wizard world, they made a bargain with their consciences, and lo. On the other hand, maybe they just like children. They certainly embrace Harry and also Hermione, whose mother possibly prefers drilling teeth to raising children.*
If J.K. Rowling were a Catholic--she isn't, she's Church of Scotland--her critics might have taken her to task for the happy fecundity of the Weasleys and accused her of Catholic propaganda. Nasty little Draco Malfoy is an only child, and we are invited to condemn his sneers at the Weasleys for having "more children they can afford", not to applaud them.
The Weasleys also embody traditional male and female characteristics. Mr Weasley is the sole breadwinner (unless Charlie and Bill send money home) whereas Mrs Weasley cooks, cleans, launders and shouts. Bill prospects for gold. Charlie wrassels dragons. Prefect Percy plots to become Minister of Magic. Fred and George are famous for their pranks and go into business. Ron is sports-mad and wizard (ha ha) at chess. Ginny begins her school career as a damsel in distress and ends it as female romantic lead. (Yes, J.K., we know Hermione ought to have married Harry, just as Louisa M's Jo ought to have married Laurie. Too late now. )
I note, however, the more classically Protestant/Anglican Christian names of the father (Arthur) and children. "Molly", of course, is a diminutive of Mary. Maybe Molly is the only Catholic parent. Maybe my Catholic theory is a bit of a stretch.
The good, impecunious Weasleys are a contrast with the wicked, rich Malfoys. (Weirdly, by the Malfoy's own standards they are the same "class", being Grade A pure-blood wizards.) Their poverty is also a contrast to Harry's inherited wealth. This is quite a good thing from a literary point of view, as it mean Ron has a struggle between envy and loyalty, and Harry has something else beyond his control to feel badly about.
Reading the Harry Potter stories with strict attention, in two languages, reveals how dark they really are. Six year old children may find it funny that Harry is forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs--and my parents do have a cupboard under their stairs big enough to house a child--but Child Protective Services would not find that funny at all. It is also not funny to adults that eleven-year-old Dudley is obese, thanks to his greed and his parents overfeeding. Of course, this provides another useful contrast, for Harry is thin. In fact, by the Chamber of Secrets, he is actually starving. And this is again helpful for underscoring the superiority of the Weasley family, for shortly after Harry is rescued from his abusive uncle and aunt, Mrs Weasley dishes up "eight or nine" sausages, three fried eggs and bread and butter.
I won't launch into the one-child Malfoys who, given their obsession with blood purity, family prestige and intermarriage, probably had infertility issues. (Oh, say! That's why they sneered at the Weasleys. Envious as hell!) No, the one-child family that epitomizes money-clutching lack of generosity is the dastardly Dursleys.
Almost everyone in the Harry Potter books is obsessed with name brands (e.g. the Nimbus 2000), but the Dursleys are the very soul of grasping consumerism. They are also deeply wedded to the notion of the nuclear family, having cast off Petunia's (also Muggle) parents entirely and socializing only with Vernon's rich sister Marge, who prefers dogs to children. Although they are not hurting for money, and Petunia stays at home, the Dursleys have elected to have just one child, upon whom they lavish ridiculous amounts of presents. They begrudge every penny they spend on their nephew, to the point of feeding him as little as possible. Why they were not afraid of Social Services checking up on them, never mind Dumbledore, is a mystery to me.
Quite obviously Dudley Dursley would have been better off had he had to fight various brothers and sisters for his parents' attention and learned to accept living with limited resources. But I am afraid this was always going to be unlikely, for as we know from their treatment of Harry, the Dursleys are incredibly stingy. Interesting that they would give Dudley everything except a brother or sister to love.
So I continue to be mystified that some Catholics think the Harry Potter books are a portal to hell when they underscore that generous poverty is better than impoverished riches, big families can be happier than small families, and self-sacrificial love for others is the answer to just about everything.
*Of course, she may have married late.