LONDON -- Five hundred years ago, the Catholic Church had a simple way of dealing with witches: It burned them alive. The Vatican still views these broom botherers as a danger, but is now calling on Catholics to eliminate the neo-pagan problem in a more moderate manner.
According to a new booklet from the Catholic Truth Society -- the U.K. publishers for the Holy See -- the faithful can convert Wiccans by following a few simple steps. The pamphlet, titled "Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers," suggests that Catholics spark up conversations with these unbelievers about shared concerns such as the environment, The Telegraph reports.
And if you bump into a witch in a bar or coffee shop, the book adds, it's important to recognize that "Wiccans are on a genuine spiritual quest," providing "the starting point for dialog that may lead to their conversion."
The booklet's author, former Wiccan Elizabeth Dodd, states that nearly 70 percent of people indulging in witchcraft are young women seeking some kind of spirituality, according to the Daily Mail. The source of that statistic isn't clear, but some 7,000 Brits identified themselves as Wiccans in the 2001 census.
So why does the Vatican once again feel that it needs to confront pagan practitioners? The Daily Mail says that the church is afraid the dark arts are becoming ever more tempting thanks to the success of Harry Potter. Dodd says that any youngster who dabbles in magic risks long-term problems.
"Whether spellwork is effective or not," writes Dodd, according to The Telegraph, "has no bearing on the psychological damage that can be done to a young person who is convinced that they have summoned the dead, or have performed a spell that has hurt or injured another."
More important, Dodd adds that the simple act of experimenting with spellcraft is an insult to the Almighty. "The use of magic, the practice of witchcraft, offends God because it is rooted in our sinful and fallen nature," she writes. "It attempts to usurp God."
While many religious and nonreligious folk might regard Dodd's message as extreme, her point has clearly been heeded by some Catholics. As of this morning, the pamphlet was listed as sold-out on Amazon.co.uk.