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La Crosse Bishop Jerome Listecki has warned Catholics not to see the new fantasy flick “The Golden Compass,” which opens today in movie theaters nationwide.

In a Nov. 30 letter to diocesan priests, Listecki wrote that television commercials for the movie make it seem like another “Chronicles of Narnia,” which has positive Christian messages.

“Instead of using fantasy to lead people to truth and to God,” Listecki wrote, the trilogy of books on which “The Golden Compass” is based “tries to lead them away from God.”

Listecki is among a growing number of Catholic and other religious leaders urging parents not to let children see the movie. He argues it will encourage children to read the “His Dark Materials” trilogy of books by Philip Pullman.

Pullman’s children’s and young adult books have won many awards, including from the American Library Association, but Listecki called Pullman a “self-proclaimed atheist” who has admitted “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

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Hollywood “tried to clean up the more obvious anti-Christian elements from ‘The Golden Compass,’” Listecki wrote. “But good fruit does not come from a bad tree.”

Despite special effects and famous stars such as Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the movie is just “the first part of a trilogy that expresses hatred of Christianity and that portrays God, the church and religion as evil and oppressive, and urges children to join fallen angels in a rebellion against God,” Listecki wrote.

Christine McArdle-Rojo, director of the La Crosse County Library, said Pullman’s “The Golden Compass” has had “pretty decent circulation” since it was published in 1995, and has been growing in popularity because of the movie.

The library hasn’t received any challenges to the book, she said. “The book is available, but ultimately it’s the parents’ responsibility what they allow their children to check out and read.

“It certainly opens up a lot of discussion, though, similar to the controversy that was around ‘The DaVinci Code’ with the Catholic church,” she said. “Unfortunately, the press that was given from the church saying not to read it, I think, probably increased Catholics reading it, and so I certainly hope that’s not the same here.”

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