Satanism tests boundaries of religious expression at Harvard
Elise Amendola, Associated Press
Satanism has shared national headlines this week with one of the country’s most illustrious and highly acclaimed schools, Harvard. And it’s caused quite a reaction from religious leaders and faith bloggers as well.
Things heated up when a group of students, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, revealed they would be hosting a black mass on campus in conjunction with the Satanic Temple, The Washington Post reported.
“The Satanic Temple claims the event is not supernatural in nature (because, of course, they do not believe in the supernatural) and the Harvard club suggests that it is all about the study of different religions,” The Post reported.
Vox’s Brandon Ambrosino wrote Tuesday explaining the situation and why the mass is so disrespectful.
“There isn't one correct way of celebrating a black mass, though the main feature is to mock the Catholic tradition,” Ambrosino wrote. “For instance, urine could be substituted for holy water, or a black turnip for a communion wafer.”
And although the event was cancelled because the club couldn’t find a venue, it did spark a reaction from a myriad of people.
Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement that the black mass "abhorrent" and "flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory."
She also said she was going to attend a Eurchartistic Holy Hour and Benediction at St. Paul's Church on the Harvard campus as a way of "reaffirming our respect to the Catholic faith at Harvard and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent."
The Archdiocese of Boston released a statement that expressed the church’s concern for the mass.
“For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the church provides clear teaching concerning Satanic worship,” the statement read. “This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil. “
Father Michael Drea, senior chaplain of the Harvard Catholic chaplaincy, told The NC Register that the entire situation was damaging toward the Catholic faith.
“It’s disturbing,” he said. “The unfortunate thing is that this is being allowed (by the university) to go forward under the guise of academic freedom without a real sense of respect for the dignity of the Catholic faith.”
But the group didn’t show up and the event was cancelled. And this inspired people from across the country, including some from Pennsylvania, to react, The Boston Herald reported. These Pennsylvania Catholics “sang hymns, played bagpipes, carried statues of the Virgin Mary and recited the rosary by (Harvard's) Memorial Hall," The Herald reported.
And Adam Lee of Patheos said that worshipping Satan is somewhat “silly and juvenile,” and that this entire Harvard situation has stirred up an unnecessary conversation.
“The lesson to be learned from this story is just how widespread and influential this kind of paranoid demonology still is,” Lee wrote. “Belief in black magic and demon possession isn’t a third world relic, isn’t confined to Congo or Nigeria. It’s right here, alive and well in America, and it’s being unapologetically taught by advocates for the single largest and wealthiest religious denomination on earth.”
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