A satanic black mass re-enactment being planned by a student group at Harvard University has been ‘postponed indefinitely’ and will not take place May 12. The news was announced by the school’s newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, just over an hour before the event was scheduled to occur May 12. Originally, the black mass re-enactment was to take place on campus, at a pub in the basement of Memorial Hall. The Harvard Crimson reported late on the afternoon of May 12 that the event had voluntarily been moved to The Middle East nightclub, a short distance from campus. However, shortly afterward, the general manager of the nightclub told the publication that negotiations had fallen through and the event would not be hosted there. Subsequently, in a breaking news update at 7:45 p.m. Eastern time, the publication reported that the black mass “has been postponed indefinitely and will not take place tonight, according to (a) Satanic Temple spokesperson.” Connected to witchcraft and demonic worship, a black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony structured as a parody of the Catholic Mass. Invoking Satan, the ritual is centered around the desecration of the Eucharist, which is generally done by stealing a consecrated host from a Catholic church and using it in a profane sexual ritual, or defecating and urinating on it. A spokesperson for The Satanic Temple, which is staging the event, initially told media outlets that a consecrated host would be used, although the temple and the Cultural Studies Club both later denied this, insisting that only a plain piece of bread would be used. The plans for the black mass had drawn strong opposition from the Archdiocese of Boston, along with many students, alumni and members of the broader Catholic community. Harvard senior Aurora Griffin told CNA that she presented university president Drew Faust with petitions against the event that had garnered more than 60,000 signatures. In her cover letter, Griffin explained that the event does not promote an appreciation for cultural understanding, but instead ”promotes contempt for the Catholic faith,” adding that “supporters of genuine tolerance and civility are rightly offended and outraged that Harvard has permitted such an event.” Dr. Faust had released a statement May 12 condemning the event as “flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory,” and the club’s decision to hold it as “abhorrent.” However, she stated that the ceremony would be allowed to continue due to the university’s “commitment to free expression.” Faust had said that as a sign of respect, she would attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour being held by the Catholic community at Harvard in response to the black mass. Jim McGlone, a junior at Harvard, told CNA while he was “glad” to see the university president use “the strongest language possible” to condemn the event, he disagreed that all speech and expression should be protected in a university setting, given the fundamentally offensive nature of the event. “It’s too much of a desecration of our Lord and a mockery and parody of our Faith,” he said, to be “an attempt at dialogue — it’s really just an obscenity.” Rather than merely offering a safe haven for all kinds of offensive speech, he continued, the purpose of free speech is “getting at the truth through discourse,” among people who may have disagreements. Freshman Bella Gomez told CNA that rather than using freedom of speech and religion to make Harvard a “safer welcoming community for all,” Catholic students “are being solely victimized by it.” She said she felt “uncomfortable” at the idea of entering campus facilities that had been used for a satanic ritual, indicating that the space would “no longer feel comfortable or safe” for her. The Cultural Studies Club had defended the black mass re-enactment as educational and dismissed critics as demonstrating a close-minded “paranoia.” The group had told CNA that those offended by the event hold outdated views “based on intolerance and ignorance,” which are “arrogant and egocentric.”
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.