As you browse these article summaries, you might notice that some authors disenfranchise the novel while others encourage it to be read in the classroom. There is a wide variety of opinions, and even opposition amongst staunchly Catholic individuals. Please note that this page contains just a sample of the available information on this topic. To read more click here.
Complainant at Halton
The name of the initial complainant in this case remains unknown. According to Life Site, it came from a parent whose child/children attend school within the district. The concern was first raised at the elementary school level. The only statement of his/hers we were able to find was published by Kristin Rushowy in The Star on November 22, 2007. Here is the statement:
“The book is apparently written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic and anti-religion.”
A large commotion came from Catholic organizations including the Vatican and the Catholic League. An article titled “Vatican denounces The Golden Compass” was published by Edmonton Journal on December 23, 2007. Along with a slew of other electronic articles, it highlights the negative attitude of the Catholic Church towards the themes in the film, and thus the book as well. The reviewers also attack Pullman himself. Note that the original article condemning The Golden Compass was published in L’osservatore Romano, but unable to be located online. Perhaps it was taken down due to criticism. Here are some quotes that capture the rage of the Vatican:
“The most anti-Christmas film possible.”
“Devoid of any particular emotion apart from a great chill.”
“In Pullman’s world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events,”
“When man tries to eliminate God from his horizon, everything is reduced, made sad, cold and inhumane.”
Now, we will discuss those who criticize the censorship of The Golden Compass, but are not particularly religious. Kate Heartfield published two articles titled “Books That Ask Questions” and “Golden Compass the kind of book children should read” in The Ottawa Citizen in late November and early December of 2007. She specifically discusses the censorship of The Golden Compass at Halton Catholic School District. Heartfield states that it is criminal that the administration has removed this book from the shelves. The decision likely was the result of the Catholic Leagues’ negative opinions about the book, as well as Pullman’s comments.
A column titled “Open discussion, not censorship the answer” by Kathleen Rockey was published in The Windsor Star on December 17, 2007. She establishes her own opinion of this censorship case by stating “I am absolutely horrified that a school board, whether it be private or public, would try to ban a piece of literature. Where does it stop?” Although, her opinion might be somewhat bias considering she states that religion should not be taught in schools, Rockey does suggest a valuable point. Are schools obligated to teach topics that the administrators are uncomfortable with? She states “What are we teaching young readers if we tell them they can’t read a book because we don’t agree with the ideas it is suggesting?” Responses to this question are variable depending on the audience.
An article titled “Controversial Movie Stirs Up U.S. Culture Wars” by Douglas Todd was published by The Vancouver Sun on December 8, 2007. After taking a jab at the Catholic critics spelling mistakes, Todd makes his main point that the book and film should be used as a teachable moment. There are some people who are able to look past their religious beliefs to see the value of a good story. In defense of Pullman, he states “Even though they [religious authors] criticize his ideas, they recognize at least his novels upheld the “Christian” values of love and sacrifice.”
Finally, we will discuss those who are religious, but do not believe the book should be censored. In an article in The Gazette, film critic John Griffin interviews a writer, mother, and Roman Catholic named Denise Roig. Here is what she says about the film:
“The Christians sending this poison out over the Net have obviously never read the books (the trilogy, His Dark Materials), and, of course, they won’t see the movie. That’s their loss because The Golden Compass is a beautiful film about soul and faith, friendship and devotion, the very things we Christians (I’m a practicing Catholic) profess to value.”
Associated Press. “Canadian Catholic School Board Bans ‘The Golden Compass’.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 22 Nov. 2007.
Pullella, Philip. “Vatican blasts “Golden Compass” as Godless and hopeless.” Reuters, 19 December 2007.
Northington, Jenn. “The Religious Controversy Surrounding Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.” Tor.com, 15 December 2014.