A Harvard University student group’s plan to conduct a “black Mass” was stopped in the eleventh hour yesterday, on the eve of Our Lady of Fatima.
The news was announced by the university’s newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, just over an hour before the event was scheduled to begin, following a strong outcry on campus.
The Harvard Crimson initially reported that the event had voluntarily been moved to The Middle East nightclub, close to the campus. But shortly afterward, the general manager of the nightclub told the publication that negotiations had fallen through and the event would not be hosted there.
When the event was first announced, Father Michael E. Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard, condemned the event and invited the Catholic community of the university to a Eucharistic holy hour and benediction at St Paul’s Church near the campus at the same time as the re-enactment.
The Pilot, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, quoted Father Drea as saying the event mocks the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — the centre of our faith and worship.”
“As the University attempts to veil this ‘presentation’ under the guise of ‘academic freedom and expression,’ people of good will recognize it for what it truly is: an act of hatred and ridicule toward the Catholic Church and her faithful,” Father Drea said.
Drew Faust, Harvard president, said in a statement yesterday that she would attend the holy hour “to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent.”
Faust called the club’s decision to sponsor such an enactment “abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. But she said she would not cancel or ban the black Mass.
“The decision to proceed is and will remain theirs,” she said of the student group, called the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club. Faust added, “It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.”
Father Roger Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River and a Harvard graduate, said in an open letter to Faust that she should cancel the event as it is “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.”
Father Landry said the statement in an earlier university press release that Harvard does not “endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization” did not go far enough. “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,” he added.
Catholic Action League executive director C.J. Doyle said that the black Mass was “an appalling sacrilege, a deliberate provocation and a barefaced exercise in unconcealed hate speech.”
Doyle added, “This vile, impending profanation is one more wretched example of the inordinate hypocrisy which afflicts American academic life in the matter of whose sensibilities may and may not be offended. The double standard is as shameless as it is deplorable.”
The Harvard student group promoting the black Mass — said to be an “inverted” re-enactment of the Catholic Mass — was working with the New York-based Satanic Temple, a group known for promoting controversy such as pushing to have a Satan statue built outside the Oklahoma Capitol. While there were fears that a consecrated host had been obtained for use at the event, the Satanic Temple said it had not obtained one and did not intend to offend any particular religion.
Blog: “A Black Mass does not offer a ‘rich cultural experience’ but opens the door to something diabolic” by Francis Phillips
The Catholic Herald comment guidelines
•Do not make personal attacks on writers or fellow commenters – respond only to their arguments.