A Harvard University student group plans to hold a 'black mass' on the historic campus tonight, drawing criticism from the Archdiocese of Boston, who expressed "deep sadness and strong opposition" to the plan. The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club said in a statement it plans to host "a historical re-enactment of a black mass ceremony that has a narrator providing historical context and background." It said the event was intended to be educational and would be preceded by a lecture on the history and origins of the black mass, a ritual that parodies the Catholic mass, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.
The re-enactment will be performed by the Satanic Temple, a Satanist group that attracted attention earlier this year after it proposed the placement of a seven-foot (2.1-metre) tall statue of Satan with two children looking up at him, next to an existing Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma.
"Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices," the club said.
The Archdiocese of Boston has voiced sharp criticism of the planned re-enactment, calling on its faithful to pray for those involved and on Harvard to disassociate itself from the event. It said in a statement:
'The Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Boston expresses its deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a “black mass” on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.
'For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the Church provides clear teaching concerning Satanic worship. This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.
'In a recent statement, Pope Francis warned of the danger of being naïve about or underestimating the power of Satan, whose evil is too often tragically present in our midst. We call upon all believers and people of good will to join us in prayer for those who are involved in this event, that they may come to appreciate the gravity of their actions, and in asking Harvard to disassociate itself from this activity.'
A spokesman for the Archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, added in an email on Friday: "In the strongest terms possible we reject any attack on the Eucharist."
The reservation-only event is scheduled to take place tonight at the Queen’s Head Pub at Harvard’s Memorial Hall, according to a flyer provided by the student group.
Fr Roger Landry, who runs http://catholicpreaching.com, has sent the following letter to Harrvard University President Drew G Faust
Fr Landry writes:
Dear President Faust,
I am writing to ask you to use your office to intervene to shut down the terribly ill-advised and totally insensitive Satanic Mass that’s supposed to take place at 8.30pm local time on Monday, May 12 at the Queens Head Pub within Memorial Hall.
To argue, as the Extension School’s Press Release did, that it’s about education or freedom of expression or assembly or religion is silly. We all know that if there were to be a seance to communicate with the soul of Adolf Hitler, Harvard would never countenance it, first because we’re clearly dealing with conjuring evil, and second because it would be terribly injurious to Jewish members of the Harvard community and the wider community.
We also all know that if an “independent student organization” were trying to host an event in which there would be reenacting the burning of a copy of the Koran, it likewise would never be permitted, because Harvard would never associate itself with the desecration of Islam’s sacred text or allow its name or property to be used in something that would obviously outrage the spiritual sensibilities of Muslims.
A ceremony invoking Satan, mocking the Catholic Mass and desecrating what Catholics believe to be the Body of Jesus Christ — or if, implausibly, an unconsecrated host will be used, something that is at least meant to symbolize the Eucharist — should be treated in the same way.
It’s not enough for Harvard to put out a press release saying that Harvard doesn’t “endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization.” Harvard simply would never allow itself or its properties to be associated with events that mock the religious beliefs, desecrate the sacred texts, or insult the spiritual sensitivities of Jews or Muslims. Likewise it wouldn’t allow its reputation or institution to be affiliated in any way with the activities or views of an “independent student organization” that was reenacting the lynchings of African Americans or homophobic attacks or violence against women. Harvard would act decisively in those situations, both out of just concern for its own reputation but also out of moral outrage against such insensitivity that clear thinking, ethical people immediately recognize as evil.
You have a special responsibility over Harvard’s reputation as well as occupy the most prominent position of all to demonstrate what Harvard stands for. Please grasp that Harvard’s present acquiescence to allowing its campus to be the setting for this Satanic Mass and its up-until-now anemic response have already brought the University local, national and international derision. The Founders of Harvard would, I think, be ashamed that a school to which they gave the motto Veritas: Christo et Ecclesiae would allow itself to be used in any way whatsoever as the staging for Satanic worship.
Yesterday I was asked by about two dozen people about what my alma mater was doing in allowing this mockery of Catholicism and this acquiescence in the conjuring of evil. I replied that I can’t fathom how this “dear mother” would have lost its capacity to see clearly and promptly how outrageous this is and that for the first time in my life I’m really embarrassed to be associated with Harvard. I’m sure there are many other alumni who are similarly ashamed.
There’s still time to remedy this situation and clearly communicate that mockery and desecration of the religious rites, objects, and sensitivities of others have no place at Harvard.
By shutting this event down and not just dissociating itself from what was supposed to happen but by forcefully condemning it, you would not only remedy the damage to Harvard’s reputation that has already taken place but set the type of example for educational institutions and the broader culture that Harvard has prided itself in setting for 378 years.
I’m hoping that you will use your office to respond as strongly to this insensitivity as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently used his office to respond to Donald Sterling’s racist comments.
That’s what this situation warrants. That’s what you have the power to do. And that’s what I’m asking and praying that you will do."
A petition calling for the event to be cancelled has already attracted more than 20,000 signatures. See:
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