Ten thousand men and women of Harvard have spoken against the hateful event scheduled to take place tonight at Memorial Hall. Students, alumni, parents, and friends of the Harvard community are outraged, embarrassed, and, more than anything, deeply saddened that Harvard has permitted the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club to host a reenactment of the Satanic “Black Mass” on campus. This ritual is explicitly intended to parody the Catholic Mass in the most offensive way possible. Historically, black masses have involved desecrating the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the real body of Jesus Christ, by placing it on the genitals of a naked woman, urinating on it, and slitting an infant’s throat to pour blood over it.
Early reports from Patheos stated that the Cultural Studies Club “have obtained and will use a consecrated host during this ‘re-enactment’” based on a conversation with the group’s PR director. This would need to have been obtained illicitly from a Catholic church for their purposes. However, the most recent statement released by the Extension School has recanted and assured the public that the ritual will involve an ordinary piece of bread. Conflicting reports have continued to emerge. On Wednesday Undergraduate Chaplain Fr. Matthew Westcott urged parishioners at St. Paul’s to consume the host in front of the priest and ministers to ensure the safety of our most precious religious practice. Actions intended to inspire such fear among the Catholic community have no place among our tolerant and “welcoming” Harvard.
Even if the members of the Satanic Temple do not employ a consecrated host, there are a number of problems with the desecration of Catholics’ most important sacrament. As some alumni have been bold enough to mention, Harvard would never allow a reenactment of the burning of the Quran for the sake of religious or free expression, or even education. While the Satanic Temple rejects the idea of the supernatural and does not believe that their actions have metaphysical implications, we believe they are summoning true evil into the heart of campus and thus, like the Archdiocese of Boston, revile it. In fact, they are inviting the prince of darkness to sit among the most vulnerable of our community, the freshmen, in the safe space that they use to eat, socialize, and study. Furthermore, they are cowards—if the Satanic Temple were seeking to truly foster campus dialogue, they would not have chosen this time when students are busy and stressed with finals. We are saddened that our last days on campus as seniors will forever be tarnished by Harvard sanctioning hateful acts against the most important thing in our lives: our Catholic Faith.
As Harvard Catholics, we completely reject the educational pretenses under which this event has been sanctioned. The Cultural Studies Club and the Extension School’s original statement emphasized that, as part of a series of events including “a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, and a Buddhist presentation on meditation,” the club is presenting an educational effort to “explore different cultures.” The Satanic Temple, which is really behind this particular event, is a religious community guilty of greater fundamentalism than any group it intends to mock. Any notion that the Satanic Temple is simply a cultural group is nonsense.
Many of our friends and the leaders of various campus fellowships, such as Harvard Christian Faith in Action, the Latter-Day Saint Student Association, Christian Impact, and the Harvard Islamic Society, have shown support for us in the Catholic community at this difficult time. For that, we are unspeakably grateful. Others, like responders over House lists and trolls on Facebook, have only added insult to injury by saying that that the Church deserves this hatred. As followers of Christ under the leadership of Pope Francis, we can only hope that such responses come from ignorance rather than malice.
In response to this event, the Harvard Catholic community has rallied around three petitions that together have already gathered 40,000 signatures. At the current pace, the group of undergraduates who organized the petition expects the number of signatories to grow to 50,000 by Monday afternoon. We are presenting the petitions to University President Drew G. Faust with the hope of having the event cancelled. Regardless, we will unite in prayer and solidarity. Our friends at MIT will lead a Eucharistic Procession to St. Paul’s Parish in Harvard Square, where the Harvard Catholic Community will host a Holy Hour from 8 to 9 p.m. This is a time of prayer for those who seek to persecute the Church and the University that has allowed it. The only response to such overwhelming hate is that of Christ Himself: love.
Aurora C. Griffin ’14 is a classics concentrator in Pforzheimer House. She is the former President of the Harvard Catholic Student Association and co-founder of the Harvard Daughters of Isabella. Luciana E. Milano ’14 is a government concentrator in Pforzheimer House and co-founder of the Harvard Daughters of Isabella.