Cambridge, MA. There has been a great deal of coverage during the last week about the Black Mass that will occur at Harvard tonight, May 12. By tradition, at least, the Black Mass was, and may still be, an obscene parody of the Catholic Mass, using a consecrated host. Today’s Crimson, the campus student newspaper, posted a fairly thorough update on the event this morning. Here is the revised (and stronger) response to the tumult from the Extension School, considerably stronger than an original bland comment on freedom of speech, Harvard's washing its hands of such events, etc.
The event is sponsored by the Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club, a student group at Harvard, but with no official Harvard status. The Club claims that the event is simply a historical reenactment, not a real instance of Satanic worship. The organizers have also promised not to use a consecrated host. They claim that it is part of a series which includes a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition and a Buddhist presentation on meditation; but no one seems to believe that this event can be taken as just like those seemingly benign events.
While research can be done on the very idea of a “black mass,” and what the practice actually meant historically, apart from fiction and lurid report on such matters, it is clear that the event has touched a nerve at Harvard. The Harvard Chaplains – the interfaith council of chaplains connected with Harvard – published a strong statement on the matter.
My own Op-Ed piece on the matter appeared in the Crimson today, under the title, “A Disconcerting Incident” (their choice; my title had been, “The Black Mass, Catholicism – and Harvard’s Conversation on Religion."
If you surf the web, you will easily find numerous other items, including the response of the Archdiocese and regarding the planned protest at St. Paul’s Church in Harvard Square.
Perhaps, in the long run, the whole affair will have some good consequences, if it leads to a conversation at Harvard on religions, lived, real and present.