Harvard's Black Mass and Catholicism on Campus

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. 

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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.

 

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Vincent Gaitley
4 years 5 months ago
William F. Buckley, Jr covered the loss of faith and mission in his book, "God and Man at Yale". John Le Boutilier described the same trend in his work, "Harvard Hates America". Being anti-Catholic is a venerable Ivy League tradition, too. Calling a Black Mass educational is what passes for academic freedom these days--who is surprised? Harvard's shrug of its crimson shoulders is itself proof of Buckley's criticism circa 1950. Nothing has changed, nothing has improved. But oh, what screaming there is over the new taboos: racism, sexism, and always, conservatism. Imagine a KKK rally complete with cross burning in Harvard Yard. That's right, you can't imagine it because that would be crushed even if an effigy of a black man was burned. So the excuse of not using a consecrated host is just a sham, rather similar to the intellectual argument that all ideas are equal.
Winifred Holloway
4 years 5 months ago
This is the sort of cheesy event that requires mockery .Denunciations from outraged religious folk are counterproductive and likely just what the organizers are hoping for.
Bruce Snowden
4 years 5 months ago
I realize the following commentary, may be grossly incorrect, in which case perhaps, some corrective response may ensue, for which I say thanks! Hopefully there is at least a smidgen of redeeming grace. Of course I support one hundred percent Catholic teaching including the need at times to perform exorcisms, regarding Satan and I have no intention of promoting anything contrary to Catholic teaching on the topic. However, for want of a better way to say it, I often say we must try to get along with everyone even with the devil! Can we get along with the devil? More to the point can God get along with the devil? Since God is love itself, I think God would be in contradiction to himself if he were unable to get long even with the devil, because innately that’s what God is, lovingly open and available to all. “Getting along” doesn’t mean “agreeing” with that person. If within that frame God can get along with the Devil, then it seems to me we should certainly at least try. Individuals may not even know they are devils, but “By their fruits shall you know them.” Devils come in many shapes, sometimes with Ivy wrapped around their necks as for example, through Harrowing Alternatives Ruining Virtue And Religious Dignity. In other words, being HARVARD-like! I am talking about that sacrilegious Satanic worshipping “Black Mass” allowed by Harvard, mocking the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, using a stolen Consecrated Host to do so! The devils say the host is not Consecrated, but who can believe them since they work for the “Father of Lies,” Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils as Jesus called Satan. How is this to be addressed? What the Harvard Devils did cannot be condoned in any way but I suggest confrontational reaction plays into their hands. Would it not be better to use gentle persuasion, trying to overcome evil with good, in effect trying to get along with the devil? Is it not a good idea that the approach should be, “Let’s talk,” hopefully winning over at least a few into the opposite service – the service of Christ, of truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, of which sadly, Harvard seems to know little! Many of these devils are simply walking on the periphery of hell, not yet into the pit of oblivion, for whom there can be no resurrection unto life, only “everlasting death” one of Jesus’ hyperbolic definitions of Hell. If I may, I ask again, should not Christian love reach into the very pit of Hell getting along with the devils so as to change minds and hearts of the emotionally confused and scholastically and intellectually abused at Harvard and elsewhere?
Beth Cioffoletti
4 years 5 months ago
This year I was blessed in being able to attend Easter Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis. (sorry if I can't stop talking about it.) At communion we were surprised to see a priest come right up to our row. He had a man with a yellow and white (Vatican colors) umbrella accompanying him. Many people were lining up so we got in line too. Just before we got there a woman turned away and was walking away with the host in her closed hand. The “protector” man with the umbrella was very upset and trying to stop her. She went right by me and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t stop her. We then went to communion but the priest would only lay the host on your tongue and not give it to you in your hand. I wondered what the woman who “stole” the host consecrated by Francis would do with it. Sell it? It dawned on me that it could be used in some kind of Satanic cult worship. Though I am not superstitious, I do find myself jarred by this kind of "sacrilege". Being at that Easter Mass I did indeed experience "Sacrament" - a place where the things of earth (humanity) truly are the the things of heaven/eternity (God). When the most intimate and profound symbol of that "meeting" between heaven and earth - the body of Christ - is stolen away for use in some other ritual, it smacks of the "lie" of Satan.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 5 months ago
Maybe she was taking it to a shut-in or someone there who was unable to stand in line? I know that's not how it's done, but people do these things more than they participate in Black Masses.
Beth Cioffoletti
4 years 5 months ago
Yes, I thought of that too, Marie ... but seems that it would be easier to get that from a local parish Church than to go to the trouble (and luck) of getting tickets for this Easter Mass at St. Peter's, then getting there 2 1/2 hours ahead of time to get far enough in front to be able to get communion.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 5 months ago
The difficulty of getting the host from the Easter Mass at St. Peter's suggests to me the further possibility that someone is keeping it as a souvenir.
Beth Cioffoletti
4 years 5 months ago
But doesn't that indicate a total misunderstanding of what Eucharist is? Just like what the Black Mass is. I don't see myself as overly pious or superstitious, but the determination and "look" of this woman hurrying away with her hand closed around the consecrated host really did feel creepy (and dark) to me. Something that I don't understand and can't explain. I guess you had to have been there. I was drawn into the wonder of the place/time -- it was a glorious day, the flowers were beautiful, the bells were ringing, the choirs were singing, the birds were swarming above us -- and then this happened. A small thing in the midst of such glory ... I guess it brought me back down to reality.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 5 months ago
Since you were there, I'm sure you have a better sense of how weird this was. Maybe people who get a kick out of Black Masses would have the idea that a host consecrated by a pope would be more special for their purposes than something they could pick up at a large parish where they are visitors and it is not known if they are even eligible to receive.
PJ Johnston
4 years 5 months ago
It's a sine qua non of Christianity that you do not silence the marginalized, and I don't think I can feel safe in this religion anymore.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 5 months ago
The Black Mass disrespects the Catholic Mass, but reenacting the Black Mass seems to me to trivialize the Black Mass, not the Catholic Mass. The statement this makes, it seems to me, is that the Black Mass is a cultural practice devoid of any real power. The reaction, however, it seems to me, says that the Black Mass is the evil twin of the Catholic Mass; both real and powerful.
PJ Johnston
4 years 5 months ago
I'm curious as to why no one at Harvard thought to go to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance's encyclopedic, scholarly website ReligiousTolerance.org. The group is dedicated to sharing accurate information about all religions, particularly small, non-mainstream, and generally misunderstood alternative religions that are sometimes victims of misinformation or acts of intolerance. They have a very good section on Satanism that should have dealt with everybody's (legitimate) misgivings. I forgot about the site too, so I can understand if it would slip somebody's mind. But it's one of the best sites on the web for accurate, unbiased information about religious groups. http://www.religioustolerance.org/satanism.htm

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