Satanists have certainly been busy recently, making their presence felt everywhere. The Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club, a student group affiliated with Harvard University, announced its intention to stage a Black Mass conducted by members of the New York Satanic Temple, the same group behind the proposed Oklahoma monument.
What is a Black Mass? Supposedly the ritual is “based on the rites of the Roman Catholic Mass but altered in ways designed to be offensive or satirical”. However, this was not to be a genuine Black Mass but just a re-enactment. What’s the difference?
“While black Masses are supposed to utilize a consecrated host, ours is merely representative of a consecrated host,” Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple said in an interview. “It is not consecrated. We neither believe in nor invoke the supernatural.”
However, even this watered down version was too much and after protests the event was said to have been cancelled at the last minute because they could not get permission from any venue to hold it.
Monday’s ceremony was first expected to be held at the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub and involve a ceremony resembling the Eucharistic Prayer, the most solemn part of the Roman Catholic Mass in which Catholics believe that bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
“It’s a declaration of personal independence for the people engaged in it,” the Temple’s spokesman Greaves had said of the ceremony. “The Catholic Church is irrelevant to us. We don’t feel like we’re in direct conflict with them, because they don’t have meaning in our lives.
“We plan to talk about historical academic context,” Greaves added, criticizing religious officials’ “ridiculous, infantile fears that we’re actually going to summon the devil, or their great fears that we’re going to profane their magical bread. We’re not using a consecrated host or anything like that.”
But it turned out that news of the cancellation was premature and although the club withdrew its sponsorship of the event, a Black Mass was held anyway at Hong Kong, a nearby Chinese restaurant.
About 50 people, mostly dressed in black and some wearing face makeup, were present for the ceremony. A consecrated host, believed by Catholics to be the body of Christ, was not used in the ritual.
Four individuals in hoods and one man in a white suit, a cape, and a horned mask were active in the proceedings, as well as a woman revealed to be wearing only lingerie. The ceremony began with a narration on the history underlying Satanism and the black mass ritual.
Needless to say, the Catholic church was not pleased at the event going ahead and they decided to make it into a Mass-off.
After learning of the event that occurred at Hong Kong, Terrence Donilon, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Boston, said in an interview around 11:00 p.m. that the Diocese’s position is the same. He said the event is disgraceful and despicable.
The Archdiocese followed through with its plans to host a Eucharistic procession to St. Paul Church, where a “holy hour” will be conducted. Donilon said that he was grateful for the community presence at the event and the presence of University President Drew G. Faust.
The proposed reenactment had received sharp condemnation by the Archdiocese of Boston, the Harvard Chaplains, a group of religious and spiritual leaders on campus, and several student groups.
The Cultural Studies Club praised Harvard University for defending its right to protected student speech but said the widespread negative reaction showed the intolerance of some for the rituals of groups other than mainstream ones.
“While it is unfortunate that many people took personal offense at rituals for which they have little or no understanding of their context, what we find most disturbing have been the demands that the rituals and beliefs of marginalized members of society be silenced,” the club wrote in the emailed statement. “It is gravely upsetting to us that some people feel vindicated on the basis that they have disingenuously mischaracterized our invited guests as being part of a hate group.”
Catholics get highly upset when people do not treat the consecrated ‘host’ (the wafer or bread used in their communion services) with extreme reverence since they believe the act of consecration transforms the wafer into the actual body of Jesus, bizarre as that sounds. Some may recall ‘Wafergate’, the huge fuss that erupted in 2008 when a college student took home the wafer to his dorm and he was likened to a hostage taker and received death threats with people threatening to break into his dorm room and release the ‘hostage’, who was presumably Jesus or some bit of him.
The universe even sent armed guards to the next mass to make sure that no more ‘hostages’ were taken and the diocese sent a nun to stand watch as well. The diocese did not say if the nun was also packing heat, though since this took place in Florida where you are considered practically naked if you are not carrying a gun, the nun may well have had a semi-automatic hidden inside her habit. The issue was resolved when the student returned the wafer to the church.
P. Z. Myers was also involved with that incident since he decided to show solidarity with the student and asked readers to get hold of a consecrated wafer and send it to him so that he too could desecrate it. There was huge uproar with people calling for him to be fired from his job.
Religious people can get very touchy when their sacred rituals are co-opted by other groups for other purposes.