1. Why only one? That’s the real surprise. Wouldn’t a Black Mass on a weekly basis be more appropriate?
2. Yes, of course, the administration would not be benignly tolerant if it were the reenactment of a KKK lynching (for purposes of cultural edification, of course), or a ritualized Koran burning (using what we are assured is not a real Koran). It’s too obvious to say this. But it had to be said. (That’s why I put it second.)
3. If truth is a correspondence between representation and reality, then does the Black Mass help Harvard attain to the ideal of its motto, Veritas, or not?
4. That’s not a pot shot — have you studied Roger Scruton’s argument that the essence of modern culture is desecration? (See his documentary, Why Beauty Matters, or his Gifford lectures, The Face of God.) Assume that an institution is implicitly dedicated to such desecration: then the Black Mass would be its ideal representation.
5. I challenge and dare those administrators who say they benignly tolerate it to attend this Black Mass. If it can be tolerated from a distance, it can be tolerated up close. The advertisement for the event states ominously that “doors close at 8:45p”. I would not like to find myself at a Black Mass behind closed doors. If it’s all an educational project, or silly business, then why not attend? If they would be afraid to attend, why?
6. If a satanist tells you, “I’m not going to use a consecrated host. Promise!”– do you believe him? Well, he is a satanist.
7. Now whereas members of some religions might in analogous circumstances threaten to blow up Harvard, or something like that, the statement of the Archdiocese of Boston is sobering and instructive, which warns that the devil is real, and that those who even toy with demonic things or practices risk opening themselves up to the malignant and destructive force of the devil. That is realism, sympathy, and compassion. And no one can say that he hadn’t been warned.
8. Some have suggested that Catholics show righteous indignation, which is the fitting response to such an outrage. I say: let Catholics stick to the approach of the Boston Archdiocese, and others of goodwill, who can claim without dispute to be impartial, express righteous outrage on our behalf. Will Jewish persons, Muslims, Protestants, and decent liberals speak out?
9. I picture the celebration of a Black Mass as akin to an atomic bomb, which, when it is effected, leaves a complete wasteland behind, while opening the door to uncountable noxious influences. Suppose that, spiritually and invisibly, Harvard is affected in this way after May 12. What then? Might thinking persons, Christian parents generally, and, especially, Catholics refrain as a result from sending their children there? If not, then isn’t that something of a reductio ad absurdum? What could you do, then, that would lead them to have second thoughts about Harvard? Not a Black Mass, evidently. Two Black Masses, then? Weekly Black Masses? — What would it take? Seriously, is there no answer here?
10. Any good desecration needs adequate preparation, a time of black spiritual preparation, if you will. (What is the opposite of conversion?) Accordingly, I suggest that the Harvard community, or the Cultural Awareness Club (or whatever it is) sponsoring the thing prepare for it with re-enactments of other desecrations in the days leading up to the big event. Why not, for example, a vivid depiction of an abortion? Bernard Nathanson made some films like that. That’s just perfect: daily showings of The Silent Scream and the Eclipse of Reason, to get in the proper spiritual frame of mind. The administration should look benignly on all that, right?
11. Yes, of course, for Catholics: acts of love and reparation.
Post script: Second thoughts, May 9.
Onlookers should realize that this Black Mass re-enactment is sponsored by a student club, associated with the Harvard Extension School, which is something like Harvard’s adult education outreach. So the connection between this event, and the college or university, is as indirect and tangential as possible. Professors and students do not think of the Extension School as “really” being part of the university; it’s viewed as a kind of side-business, with different academic purposes and standards. It’s likely they would be surprised if told that others outside the university are connecting this event to them.
Still, Harvard University is responsible for the Black Mass and that event is imputable to them: it takes place on university property, under the name of the university, by a group which still needs university sponsorship; and people are responsible for what they should have stopped, but did not. That the event is connected with the Extension School makes the university’s role only more egregious, not less so, since the Extension School in principle represents Harvard’s doing good for the community around it.
Template for a letter to President Faust, written by a friend and HLS graduate; please consider using for your own letter, sent to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Dear President Faust,
I am a 1986 graduate of the Harvard Law School, writing to request that Harvard rescind its permit for a “Black Mass” on campus.
Unlike the other ceremonies proposed by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, the “Black Mass” is not an original religious ritual with its own significance. Rather, its purpose is precisely to mock and denigrate the beliefs of Catholic Christians. Every bit of the ceremony is directed to this purpose.
To be specific, according to one expert: “The rite follows more or less that of the Catholic Mass with the prayers recited in Latin, English, and French. Instead of the name of God the name of Satan is invoked, together with the names of various demons. The Our Father is pronounced in the contrary or negative sense (our father who are in hell), invectives are hurled against Jesus Christ and the Host is profaned in various ways (utilizing it in sexual practices, trampling it repeatedly with hate).”
I was not aware that Harvard encourages the mockery of religious belief, and I am deeply saddened that Harvard’s name will be associated with the denigration of these particular beliefs, which I and many other Harvard alumni hold dear. Of course, if your goal is to decrease contributions from Catholic alumni and applications to Harvard from Catholic youth, you are certainly going to have the desired effect.
I urge you to consider whether Harvard benefits in any way from allowing this particular form of hate speech on campus.