N.B. Contains“Spoiler“ information!
I`ve finally finished reading the Golden Compass. I don`t think I`ll be continuing with the rest of the trilogy. To be quite honest I didn`t find it that interesting. I`ve never been a big fan of fantasy novels, although I enjoyed the film versions of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars etc. My purpose in reading the book was not to provide a literary review. That`s neither my interest nor my area of competence. The goal I had in mind was to be better informed about the controversy regarding the alleged attacks on the Catholic Church.
The novel has a forward by a certain Terry Brooks (I have no idea who that is) which claims that the book is in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. The same claim is made in the advertisments for the film. I find that rather amusing considering the rumoured disdain of the Pullman for those authors.
Pullman`s choice of topics is also rather peculiar given his “atheistic“ stance. The Church is front and central in this story. The Church (which probably means Catholic) has had a Pope named John Calvin (Pullman has a sense of humour, unless of course he`s trying to insult Calvinists as well). Pope John Calvin moves the Papacy to Geneva where the Papal office was replaced by the Vatican offices known as the Magisterium. Among the offices that have become very powerful is the Consistorial Court of Discipline. It has overtaken even the College of Bishops in authority. This Court sounds an awful lot like the the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Another important office is the General Oblation Board which is charged with resolving the key problem which is at the heart of this novel, i.e. the presence of original sin in the world.
Those involved in the General Oblation Board are called Gobblers and they engage in church sponsored abuse of children, akin to castration, in an effort to promote the Church`s mission of deflecting the effects of original sin. Or is it to prevent people from discovering that God is at the source of Sin in the world? Heard enough?
Pullman`s attack on and use of church imagery is quite heavy-handed. I can see where young people might be left with confused images of the Church and might makes some rather unfortunate associations.
I`m not big into boycotts. I don`t think it does much but provide more publicity for the publisher/producer. Like with many things in life, children who want to read this book should be allowed to do so… as long as (and this is the key) they are able to have conversation with parents/adults about it`s meaning and the author`s purpose. Hiding our heads in the sand is not the solution. Talking openly about the issues is much more productive.
Those involved in the Catholic League in the U.S. and others who are making a lot of noise about this should use the consideral financial resources they have to invest in the mass media and make a positive difference. Let them, let us, put our money where out mouths are and do something.