Black mass still on at Harvard despite protests — and opposition from its president; Update: Moved off campus; Update: Canceled

posted at 12:41 pm on May 12, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

It’s still on, even though Harvard University has come under an avalanche of public criticism for hosting it. Tonight’s satanic Black Mass “re-enactment” may be sans consecrated host — at least, that’s the public position of those staging it now — but the offense remains. Those offended include Harvard University president Drew Faust, who called it “abhorrent”:

A narrator will explain the history of the rituals to the expected crowd of 100 or so, according to the Satanic Temple, a New York-based group.

“Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes,” the students group said in a statement, “but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.”

The student club said it also plans to host Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibit and a presentation on Buddhist meditation.

But Harvard University President Drew Faust called the plans to hold the black Mass “abhorrent” and a “fundamental affront values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community.”

“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,” Faust continued.

Well, if Faust finds it “abhorrent” and a “fundamental affront,” why not force its cancellation? The ceremony — excuse me, performance art — will take place in a pub on university grounds, and the club is affiliated with the university. Harvard claims it can’t do anything about it on the grounds of intellectual freedom, but local priests scoff at that notion, especially given the intentionally sacrilegious nature of the black mass. One priest wondered whether Harvard would allow a re-enactment of a KKK ceremony as educational:

The educational argument for conducting the ceremony is nonsense. One can have a lecture on the practices of satanists without actually conducting their rituals. Are Harvard students so obtuse that they couldn’t learn about Aztec history without watching a human sacrifice re-enactment, to use just one example? This is just an attempt to attack Christianity and the Catholic and Orthodox faiths in particular by conducting a denigration of their worship practices. If Harvard feels that this qualifies as educational freedom, I wonder what would happen if their extension club mocked Islam in a similar manner. I’d bet they wouldn’t be nearly as sanguine about that kind of campus event, nor should they be.

Francis Clooney, a professor at the Harvard School of Divinity, offered similar thoughts in the school paper:

The club explains: “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. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.”

If only the organizers had said more on which “religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture” are highlighted in the performance of a black mass. This is, after all, a practice that, as far as its murky history reveals, seems often to have included the inversion and blaspheming of Catholic sacramental practice, as well as actual worship of Satan. Will these dimensions be present in Monday’s enactment? And what’s next? The endeavor “to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices” might in another year lead to historical reenactments of anti-Semitic or racist ceremonies familiar from Western history or parodies that trivialize Native American heritage or other revivals of cultural and religious insult.

Such events would surely raise legitimate concerns among all of us at Harvard; no one should be surprised if Catholics are concerned right now.

The Archdiocese of Boston plans to hold its own events tonight in opposition to the black mass:

In response to the “black mass” demonstration, the Archdiocese announced Friday that it plans to hold a prayer vigil on Monday followed by a Eucharistic procession to St. Paul Church, which will subsequently hold a “holy hour.” Harvard College Faith and Action has also scheduled a prayer event in response to the reenactment, according to Olivia J. Krusel ’15, the organization’s vice president.

In a bit of ironic juxtaposition, the Washington Post expressed a little surprise over the weekend that Pope Francis talks about the devil and Hell:

Largely under the radar, theologians and Vatican insiders say, Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces­ of evil at his beck and call.

Last year, for instance, Francis laid hands on a man in a wheelchair who claimed to be possessed by demons, in what many saw as an impromptu act of cleansing. A few months later, he praised a group long viewed by some as the crazy uncles of the Roman Catholic Church — the International Association of Exorcists — for “helping people who suffer and are in need of liberation.”

“ ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century,’ ” Francis, quoting those who have noted his frequent mentions of the Devil, said last month while presiding over Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House. He warned those gathered on that chilly morning to be vigilant and not be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world. “Look out because the Devil is present,” he said.

Since its foundation, the church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will. Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a lofty German theologian, often painted evil with a broad brush.

Enter the plain-talking first pope from Latin America, where mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region. During his time as cardinal of Buenos Aires before rising to the papacy, Francis was known for stark warnings against “the tempter” and “the father of lies.” Now, his focus on the Devil is raising eyebrows even within the normally unquestioning walls of Vatican City.

“Pope Francis never stops talking about the Devil; it’s constant,” said one senior bishop in Vatican City who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. “Had Pope Benedict done this, the media would have clobbered him.”

Perhaps it’s because it’s becoming more necessary.

Update: Looks like the pressure forced the group to move the event off of Harvard’s campus — but they’re having trouble finding a host:

The Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club said it will relocate its reenactment of a Satanic black mass ritual, scheduled for Monday night, to an off-campus site, citing in an email that “misinterpretations about the nature of the event were harming perceptions about Harvard and adversely impacting the student community.”

The club wrote in its email that the event will be held at The Middle East nightclub in Central Square at 9:00 p.m. But Clay S. Fernald, the general manager of The Middle East, said Monday evening that the nightclub will not host the event, and that negotiations with the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club had fallen through.

Fernald declined to comment on why negotiations had ended.

The Cultural Studies Club emphasized that Harvard had not asked them to move the event from its previous location, the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub in the basement of Memorial Hall, and commended the University for affirming its members’ rights to free speech and assembly.

We’ll see where the event ends up, if anywhere at all.

Update: Jim Armstrong, a reporter for Boston’s CBS affiliate, reports that the event has been canceled:

The Satanic Temple still plans to conduct its service somewhere, but the Harvard group has dropped out of the event.

Update: Further confirmation from my cousin Nick Emmons at WHDH in Boston:

Be sure to follow Nick for Boston news.


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Good Morning Meow. ; )

Bmore on May 13, 2014 at 7:24 AM

It’s (sort of) ironic that the university president’s name is Faust…

zoyclem on May 13, 2014 at 7:45 AM

My point was that science can’t deal with morality.

And my point was that religion is not morality.

You ignore the questions that science can’t answer by saying they’re superfluous

Again, you’re just rehashing a ‘god of the gaps’ argument by saying that GOD is the answer to all questions that science can’t yet answer.

Except that at one time, science couldn’t answer what was causing the plague. And then, over time, we found out. Fill in the blanks

So to you, it seems, ‘God’ is defined an every-receding set of gaps in human knowledge. Every new discovery science makes means your personal deity gets a little smaller.

Would you like to reconsider this weak argument? You call it a flippant answer, I call it a lack of awareness that you’re making a weak, flawed and already-dealt-with argument.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 9:34 AM

I’m wondering what the point is beyond getting everyone’s panties in a bunch. Are the trying to be cool, hip and edgy? Then do something to mock Islam. Heh. I think it has been determined that there really is no such thing as a black mass historically, that it is a made up thing, present only in fictional literature, and that it is simply a parody. Even La Vay, who wrote the book on Satanism said this: The usual assumption is that the Satanic ceremony or service is always called a Black Mass. A Black Mass is not the magical ceremony practiced by Satanists. The Satanist would only employ the use of a Black Mass as a form of psychodrama. Furthermore, a Black Mass does not necessarily imply that the performers of such are Satanists. A Black Mass is essentially a parody on the religious service of the Roman Catholic Church, but can be loosely applied to a satire on any religious ceremony.[10]

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM

The good Lt may be an atheist but someday he/she will regret that choice. When I received Christ and turned 180 degrees in my living behaviors I knew that Jesus was real. The Holy Spirit is with you and It is part of the Godhead. I know its not science but I know that a big bang or whatever was not responsible without a Creator. The Lord also instantly took away any thirst for booze when I previously had a problem. If I am wrong and the Lt is right I have lost nothing but a better life. If the the Athiests are wrong they lose everything.

garydt on May 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM

If’s this simple: if you are a believer, it is because you were chosen by God to know him. That didn’t mean everyone else is doomed to Hell, because Jesus died for all men. His death atoned for all sin. There is a peace of mind that comes with knowing God and being known by him. And that is being able to relax and enjoy this life, knowing all our blessings and trials come from him. We are not at peace if we believe we must perform to please him. We already please him for we are his creation and he directs our steps, for this is his world, all is going according to his plan. Was it evolution, was it instantaneous creation? Why does it matter? We are here now. What are we here for? Each of us has our journey or path to take us to the next spiritual level. Well there be a Hell for those who reject God? I don’t know how that is possible since it is God that chooses us. Is there perhaps a fire of purification like that which perfects gold? Seems more likely. So let’s just chill. Some people feel closer to God in a church community, some in a meadow under an open sky. Some people cannot conceive of a concept of God, much less an organized way of worshipping. But if one starts with the concept of God as the collection of the laws and principles that govern the universe, and honoring those, what does it matter what you call it. There’s a lot we don’t know or understand. Each person has to walk in the light they are given, and it is dishonest to live on a borrowed revelation.

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

The good Lt may be an atheist but someday he/she will regret that choice.

Aaaand here’s the implicit threat your belief system makes that you call ‘love.’

When I received Christ and turned 180 degrees in my living behaviors I knew that Jesus was real. The Holy Spirit is with you and It is part of the Godhead.

I’m happy you turned your life around from whatever it is that was so horrible pre-conversion. This happens frequently with both religious and non-religious people. Faith in a particular invisible supernatural sky deity is not a requirement or precondition for changing one’s life, however. It may have been for you, but that’s your own personal experience and does not count as ‘evidence’ for other people disinclined to accept the tenants of your belief system.

I know its not science but I know that a big bang or whatever was not responsible without a Creator.

You don’t know that – you BELIEVE that. You have not demonstrated it.

It’s important to understand the difference.

The Lord also instantly took away any thirst for booze when I previously had a problem.

OK, so you have an alcohol problem. There are millions upon millions across the world with the same problem.

It’s not an affirmation of your particular divine sky being that you stopped drinking and turned your life around. I’m happy that you were able to do it, and if you want to give the credit to your faith, more power to you.

But there are alcoholics who come out of it without religious conversions and who do not attribute their efforts to extraneous, invisible forces. They did it through will power, family support and determination.

If I am wrong and the Lt is right I have lost nothing but a better life. If the the Athiests are wrong they lose everything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Again, you’re just rehashing a ‘god of the gaps’ argument by saying that GOD is the answer to all questions that science can’t yet answer.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 9:34 AM

But, I never said that. You did.

There are only two options. Either you lack basic reading comprehension skills, or you’re dishonest.

I only accused you of being disingenuous earlier because I don’t think you’re stupid.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 1:16 PM

And remind us again, what do you base your morals on?

blink on May 13, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Edicts from a single, universe-creating supernatural invisible sky being handing down orders and penalties unintelligibly from the sky to primitive desert-dwelling nomads and violent tribes thousands of years ago in the Bronze Age Middle East.

Because Absolute Moral Authority. ;)

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM

The Satanist would only employ the use of a Black Mass as a form of psychodrama. Furthermore, a Black Mass does not necessarily imply that the performers of such are Satanists. A Black Mass is essentially a parody on the religious service of the Roman Catholic Church, but can be loosely applied to a satire on any religious ceremony.[10]

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Again, it is not a parody if they are using the REAL body of Christ, that is, a host stolen from a Church after it is consecrated. The “satanists” don’t need to care about Satan or even believe in Satan to be desecrating Jesus’ body. That’s the outrage. As long as they’re not using a consecrated host, then its merely an obscene comedy routine.

joe_doufu on May 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

Edicts from a singe, universe-creating supernatural invisible sky being handing down orders and penalties unintelligibly from the sky to primitive desert-dwelling nomads and violent tribes thousands of years ago in the Bronze Age Middle East.

That’s too narrow of a definition of God. Even in ancient manuscripts created by those primitive dessert dwelling nomads… I’m sure the forest dwelling ones were far more sophisticated… He is the great I am. All that is. The powers that be. Can’t leave out the “hosts of heaven”. Surely you can agree there are powers that be. All of the laws of nature and the universe are held together by something. Whether or not you choose to extrapolate that into a sky dwelling creator is another matter.

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Who said anything about a stolen consecrated host? Do priests just leave those lying around? And seriously, do you really believe they are a living thing with actual power that could be used for something other than communion with God? Is it possible to desecrate the body of Christ? Can someone’s sin or bad intention change the nature of a holy item, something consecrated to God? I suppose one could beat someone to death with a crucifix, but could someone change the nature of a host? What happens if a Satanist eats the body of Christ? Does Christ die? Or does the light begin to extinguish the darkness?

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM

And remind us again, what do you base your morals on?

blink on May 13, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Morals are optional with atheism.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Morals are optional with atheism.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Morals are optional with Christians and believers. It all depends.

See? I can make ridiculous generalizations and blanket statements, too.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 2:39 PM

What happens if a Satanist eats the body of Christ? Does Christ die? Or does the light begin to extinguish the darkness?

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM

My bet:

Nothing happens other than ingestion and digestion.

No magic.

No spiritual turbulence.

No revelations from beyond this reality.

No ‘something mystical.’

Just natural processes at work doing their thing.

The goth kids go off smirking and high-fiving each other over how metal it all was, and the believers cluck that they’be never been so offended or reviled (well, the Catholics at least, as the Protestants are probably laughing at the ritual to begin with as something non-Biblical).

Got $5 on it. Any takers?

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Morals are optional with Christians and believers. It all depends.

See? I can make ridiculous generalizations and blanket statements, too.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Do all atheists suddenly have a common basis for morals? I’m sure that’s news to the atheistic community at large.

The only commonality that I’ve found among atheists, is that there is no commonality.

There is nothing to unite them other than their belief that there is no God. And you certainly can’t establish any belief system upon the belief that there is no God.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Again, it is not a parody if they are using the REAL body of Christ, that is, a host stolen from a Church after it is consecrated. The “satanists” don’t need to care about Satan or even believe in Satan to be desecrating Jesus’ body. That’s the outrage. As long as they’re not using a consecrated host, then its merely an obscene comedy routine.

joe_doufu on May 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

How do you determine if it’s the REAL body of Christ?

Surely there’s something in the Bible that deals with this.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Who said anything about a stolen consecrated host? Do priests just leave those lying around? And seriously, do you really believe they are a living thing with actual power that could be used for something other than communion with God? Is it possible to desecrate the body of Christ? Can someone’s sin or bad intention change the nature of a holy item, something consecrated to God? I suppose one could beat someone to death with a crucifix, but could someone change the nature of a host? What happens if a Satanist eats the body of Christ? Does Christ die? Or does the light begin to extinguish the darkness?

Queen0fCups on May 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Jesus is a living human being. You don’t just throw Him in the trash on the basis of “He’s tough, He can deal with it.” Of course He can deal with it. Would you hand one of your friends over to be ridiculed and beaten for the entertainment of some college fraternity? Would you just say “kids will be kids” and leave it be, without trying to do something for your friend?

Who said anything about a stolen consecrated host? Do priests just leave those lying around?

It was in the original story about the event planned at Harvard, that the organizers intended to steal a consecrated host. It’s unfortunately all too easy to steal one, now that most priests distribute communion into the hand instead of onto the tongue, as was traditionally done.

joe_doufu on May 13, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Do all atheists suddenly have a common basis for morals?

Is there one?

Experience. Law. Human society. Evolving standards of decency that change with the changing human condition. Laws in different human civilizations differ across the spectrum, with similarities abound between the majority of creeds.

We don’t punish children for the crimes of their parents or distant relatives.

Some believers call that doctrine ‘morality.’

Religion is not morality.

The only commonality that I’ve found among atheists, is that there is no commonality.

I’m sure your ‘research’ has been extensive and thorough.

There is nothing to unite them other than their belief that there is no God. And you certainly can’t establish any belief system upon the belief that there is no God.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Nor should you.

You should not establish a belief system for all individual human beings based on something that is not evidently true to most of them.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 4:18 PM

It’s unfortunately all too easy to steal one, now that most priests distribute communion into the hand instead of onto the tongue, as was traditionally done.

joe_doufu on May 13, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Yes, what a huge problem for society.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Is there one?

Experience. Law. Human society. Evolving standards of decency that change with the changing human condition.

Laws in different human civilizations differ across the spectrum, with similarities abound between the majority of creeds.

We don’t punish children for the crimes of their parents or distant relatives.

Who is this ‘we’? You don’t speak for all atheists. You can only speak for yourself.

Some believers call that doctrine ‘morality.’

Some atheists choose to have morals. But you have to ask each individual atheists to:
1. Determine if they have morals.
2. Determine if they have a basis for their morals.
3. Find out what that basis is.

The lack of any uniting precept or principle makes all this very tedious.

I’m sure your ‘research’ has been extensive and thorough.

Nor should you.

You should not establish a belief system for all individual human beings based on something that is not evidently true to most of them.

Good Lt on May 13, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Morality is normally based upon some principle. And Atheists have no uniting positive principle.

I understand the draw of atheism in the realm of debate. You can attack the other side and what they believe. Meanwhile, they can’t attack you or your belief. You can chose to have none or make them so fluid as to be non-existent.

Bigbullets on May 13, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Jesus is a living human being. You don’t just throw Him in the trash on the basis of “He’s tough, He can deal with it.” Of course He can deal with it. Would you hand one of your friends over to be ridiculed and beaten for the entertainment of some college fraternity? Would you just say “kids will be kids” and leave it be, without trying to do something for your friend? . . .

joe_doufu on May 13, 2014 at 4:13 PM

God bless you, dear brother. You remind me of St. John at the foot of the cross, standing guard from your heart.

He was spit upon before.

Our Lord is insulted and forgotten and disrespected every day in our world. (and of course we all sin)

But I am sure your heartfelt defense has touched His most Sacred Heart. I know it touched mine.

Thank you.

Elisa on May 13, 2014 at 9:56 PM

jax may be a neurophysicist, but he or she is also a good example of how scientists aren’t necessarily good thinkers. “Hate Speech” is known under the older, more actually conservative term “bad manners”.

I read Ed’s original article. No mention of hate speech. And it is not thick with advocacy of Harvard shutting down the Harvard Black Mass, either. Ed writes: “The educational argument for conducting the ceremony is nonsense. One can have a lecture on the practices of satanists without actually conducting their rituals.”

To put this in perspective with the camel: a camel was chosen as a popularized symbol for “hump day”. It had nothing to do with middle-easterners. The presence of the camel is what is protested, and that presence is somehow thought to give an anti-Arab sentiment, despite that that is way off topic. Thus the “topic” of the camel is not even allowed.

Compare this to a black mass: a host consecrated in a Catholic church, host is chosen and desecrated during the mass. The content of the mass is to profane something holy to Catholics, and (if possible) “made holy” by the actions of Catholics. The reaction is on-topic and specifically against the desecration of a sacred object.

Ed’s reaction was “One can have a lecture on the practices of satanists without actually conducting their rituals.” So Ed’s argument was not “Shut the whole thing down because the very setting of a Black Mass (the camel presence) is offensive to Catholics.” Thus Ed was not originally censuring any speech, simply the action of desecrating a consecrated host, as if it were necessary to speak about black masses. (As a protestant, that thought makes my head spin.)

This is not taking something that was suggested in a totally different context and directing it into your own freeform outrage about the symbol that it presents in a totally different context, when you’re not really even the offended party. If you cannot see that, I have no use for your analysis.

Now, let’s get to jax’s outrage. The Black Mass is akin to what the left would normally characterize as “Hate Speech”. And in analyzing a segment of “All in with Chris Hayes”, Ed likens it more to “hate-speech” than an actual religious practice, which would simply vary. Islam is like another topic in the array or religious practices, but the Black Mass is more like a response to Catholicism, and a rather hateful one at that. (Again, I speak as a childhood Catholic who has rejected Catholicism in my adulthood.)

Jax believes in free speech. If all speech is equal and we, as sovereign individuals, can use any word we want to use, we can certainly use the word “hate-speech”. Yet, simply using the word, Ed is suddenly signing on to all the coercive behavior of liberals who use the word “hate-speech”, or something.

That Ed can use a word so offensive to Jax, while again, arguably not asking for any speech to be suppressed, is what Jax takes issue with: speech. And he or she invokes all the coercive behavior that we lend credence to by speaking and using their words. (Which is speaking.) All of which speech, erodes the liberty of speech the more and more it becomes common for people to speak of “hate-speech”–a word they have a right to use under free speech.

And if you try to defend Ed’s offense to use the word “hate-speech” in a post then it’s some part of Christian Taqqiya, or a Christian’s right to break the Golden Rule (given by Jesus). And again, writing words, which Jax strongly believes you have a right to write, can be so much of a offense to Jax, that it sets off some spasm he or she has to paradoxes of power.

However, paradoxes were never resolved by falsely equating Ed’s moderate reaction against the Black Mass with non-middle-easterners hyperventilating that the mere presence of a camel will be offensive to middle-easterners.

Which can also be seen as that false equality between a camel’s mere presence and content relates the camel to the middle-easterners.

Axeman on May 20, 2014 at 12:59 PM

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