Harry Potter is a very troubling phenomenon for many of our readers, and it is not hard to see why.

We all have witnessed the rise of two alarming cultural forces.

One is what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger famously called “the dictatorship of relativism.”

The Register and other news organizations have reported on one consequence of this. In the military and in the schools, the witchcraft practiced by the neo-pagan occult religion called Wicca is sometimes given the same consideration as Christianity or Judaism. Parents are right to worry about a world that refuses to acknowledge the difference between the pillars of Western civilization and a faddish spiritualism of modern invention.

Another cultural force is the huge influence of the mass media. Highly polished products from corporate studios now reach us in our homes, our schools, in our cars — almost everywhere we go. The morality in these products is often antithetical to Christianity. Families feel assaulted by media that promote sexual permissiveness and bad attitudes.

When a top book distributor teams up with Hollywood filmmakers to start an enormous mass-marketing machine promoting a story about a boy learning witchcraft, it seems clear to many families what is going on, and they want no part of it.

But is it as simple as that?

At the Register, we faced a dilemma. We had already published pieces critical of the books — including essays by Michael O’Brien and Father Alfonso Aguilar. Then, when two columnists of ours pointed to some of the rewarding aspects of Harry Potter, we allowed them to do so, knowing that some readers would object.

The Register does not take an official position on Harry Potter. But in order to address these serious issues, I asked Father Aguilar, a fellow Legionary, to give his guidelines on how to assess the books. He has read extensively about the issues they raise.

His reasoned, balanced analysis brings a great deal of light to a topic that has generated much heat. I hope you will agree.