May 12th, 2014
10:05 AM ET

Update: Harvard's satanic 'black Mass' cancelled

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

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(CNN) - A Harvard club's plans to stage a satanic "black Mass" were abruptly cancelled Monday after drawing fire from the Archdiocese of Boston and condemnation from the president of the Ivy League school.

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple, told the Boston Globe late Monday that the event was called off because no venue was available.

“Everyone involved, outside of the Satanic Temple, got really scared,” Greaves told the newspaper. “And I don’t necessarily blame them, because I understand that they were getting a lot of vitriolic hate mail, and I don’t think they expected it."

Greaves was not immediately available for further comment.

A petition to stop the black Mass had garnered 60,000 signatures, according to Aurora Griffin, president of the Harvard Student Catholic Association.

The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club had planned host the two-hour ceremony at the Queens Head pub in Memorial Hall in on the school's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is unclear why the building was no longer available.

The history of black Masses is murky, but Catholics say the intent of such ceremonies is obvious: to mock their rituals and beliefs. The Masses often parody Catholic sacraments, such as Communion, and liturgical vestments.

“Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes," the Harvard student group had said in a statement, "but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.”

The cultural club said it also plans to host a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibit and a presentation on Buddhist meditation.

But Harvard University President Drew Faust called the plans to reenact a black Mass "abhorrent."

"It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory," Faust continued.

The Harvard president said she would allow the black Mass to continue, citing the value of free expression on campus, but planned attend a prayer ceremony Monday night at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge. The Boston archdiocese scheduled the event as a protest to the black Mass.

The Satanic Temple, which announced the Harvard club's plans last week, is also behind an effort to place a satanic statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Oklahoma's state Capitol.

The temple does not believe in a real devil but advocates for religious tolerance and pluralism.

Greaves said black Masses began as a protest by people who felt oppressed by their local religious cultures.

But some Catholics say the "black Mass" is more sacrilegious than satirical.

Faust, a noted historian, said:  "The 'black Mass' had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond."

A Harvard Divinity School professor who is also a Catholic priest said none of cultural club's other events include the "blaspheming of Catholic sacramental practice."

"What’s next?" asked the Rev. Francis X. Clooney, in an op-ed in the Harvard Crimson.

"The endeavor 'to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices' might in another year lead to historical re-enactments of anti-Semitic or racist ceremonies familiar from Western history or parodies that trivialize Native American heritage or other revivals of cultural and religious insult."

The Archdiocese of Boston, in a statement, had expressed "deep sadness and strong opposition" to the ceremony.

Satanic worship "is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil," spokesman Terrence Donilon said.

Donilon had also called on Harvard to disassociate itself from the event.

Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs at the Harvard Extension School, said Harvard did not endorse the student group's decision to stage the black Mass.   The school provides evening and online continuing education courses.

"While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others," he aid.

Neugeboren said the Harvard Extension School worked with students to defuse some of the controversy surrounding the ceremony.

For instance, he said, a consecrated host - known by Catholics as the Eucharist and believed to be the actual body and blood of Christ - would not be used, he said.

Some Catholic bloggers had expressed outrage at the initial plans to use a consecrated host, calling it "sacrilegious to the highest extent."

Clooney had said the university's reaction is insufficient, adding that Harvard's "spiritual sensitivity" is at stake.

"Since there is no empirical way to show that one host is consecrated while another is not—consecrated hosts do not glow in the dark—there is also no way for anyone but the organizers to know whether a host used in a black mass has been consecrated or not," Clooney said.

"Catholics at Harvard should not have to be worrying about where Monday’s host comes from."

Satanists unveil design for OK statehouse statue

As the archdiocese notes, Pope Francis warned Catholics about the devil recently.

"Maybe some of you might say, ‘But, Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ " the Pope said during a Mass in April.

"But look out, because the devil is present! The devil is here … even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naive, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Mass • Pope Francis • Satanism

soundoff (1,080 Responses)
  1. cleareye1

    The Catholics had better get over it fast. If these people want to spin a ritual to embarrass them it could get far worse than some satanic high jinx.

    May 12, 2014 at 8:10 pm |
  2. Concert in an Egg

    Bible Fan Fiction

    This Chapter: Judgment Day

    The fires were as a giant ocean with demons fishing using long poles. Broken souls hung from hooks, dangling above the heat, toes just touching; blistering and blistering again. Satan’s flying minions picked the bones of those well-done and the enormous iron gates were shut tight by their own weight.

    May 12, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      The bargaining table sat in the bow of a thickly made, plain wooden boat. The table was round with a green felt top. One by one the souls came seeking good fortune. Satan looked on as the dealer tabulated a naked man’s losses. All his chips in a pile, he begs for a chance.

      May 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      The flaming pool of magma slurped in yet another pair of legs and feet as two pot-bellied men were hurled into the molten bath. Two creatures looked on; thrilled by the spectacle. One with drum and horn, face long and crude, his wooden shoes and silk robes out of place. The other walked on feet like a chicken and thought himself quite fancy with his hair of wool and blue undergarment.

      Neither frog nor human he had two arms and two legs. His body was his face and his face was their torture chamber. Two brown eyes opposed each other as they kept watch over the slaughter. He grabbed the two sides of his large round mouth and stretched it wide to fit more filthy naked sinners.

      May 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      One of the women was pregnant as they both stared down into the deep black waters they would drown in. Holding their arms behind their backs, a small man with a red-handled dagger the length of his arm and wearing a shimmering peacock feather as a coat forced them to join the other tormented souls swimming in the oil.

      Sharpening the serrated edges of the jagged knife while sitting on its edge. A naked man, his scrotum ripped from his groin. Forever he will straddle the grotesque torture device while sickly wet brown frogs stand guard against his escape.

      May 12, 2014 at 8:07 pm |
      • midmomood

        The first showing some small part about the power of God. The remainder showing something of how much man is capable of hating God. The created will never defeat the creator, but they may destroy themselves and each other in the name of Satan.

        May 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Bible Fan Fiction

          This chapter: Jesus confronts the money-lenders in the temple.

          One man stared over his left shoulder at Jesus and saw the flames burning in the Nazarene’s eyes. Terrified, he hauled up his Santa sack and scrambled for safety, away from the Lord’s whip. To his left another money lender with a fine mustache takes time from the violence to observe a comely young ladies breast as it peaks over her robe. Sheep bleat and men scream as the chaos roars and the Lord Jesus Christ beats the holy living shit out of the bankers and their whores and livestock. They should have given Jesus that loan.

          May 12, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
  3. cheezfan

    Harvard Extension School, folks. Nothing to see here, move along, move along...

    May 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
  4. Concert in an Egg

    Hey world reflection;
    Whipped misery gardener.

    Flowers; evil children.
    Cain disengaged.

    Murderers breaking ground;
    Disposable nobodies.

    God hard gun; dead dreams.
    Tainted dreams; dope dreams.

    Personal; beautiful God.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
  5. Concert in an Egg

    The Pope drops a hand grenade into a sea of Catholics and then watches their dead bodies float to the surface. A sturdy net gathers in today’s catch and dinner is assured. Once we have the wine (both a red and a white) we can eat. A good chef can cook on a hot plate.

    The gravy is red and viscous with a sickening sweet aroma that arouses the Pope and his cronies. Mouths watering at the ready, the meal is prepared and the nightly feast of the masses can begin, but first a prayer.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
  6. quacknduck

    I like that the president of the school is named Faust

    May 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
  7. bvilleyellowdog

    Well boo hooo hoo.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
  8. derricknorth

    Someone should tell them that Harvard rejected Jesus Christ. Google "On Harvard Time Dean Fitzsimmons Interview" to see.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
  9. therealwanderingcrow

    seems like a whole lot of people arguing about invisible friends, so this could be the funniest story this year........ there's no bronze aged light and dark jedi and sith forces , no bronze age sky fairies.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
  10. rafterman11

    Catholics are angry about something.

    Stop the presses.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
  11. laswain

    I will just bet that these idiots won't make fun of Mohammed. Where's the equal time for all?

    May 12, 2014 at 7:17 pm |
    • bostontola

      What does equal time have to do with this? Is the Govt performing the Black Mass?

      May 12, 2014 at 7:19 pm |
    • seedenbetter

      It's you frothing at the mouth talibangelical Christians who are the greatest threat to the US who should be laughed at. You Christians cause 99% of the damage so you should be fought against.

      May 12, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
  12. sirhuxley

    "Sacrilegous" ??

    Its "Sacrilegous" to who? Not to me.

    I really don't give a rats ass what people believe until it comes to my Tax Dollars or the use of government property.

    I don't want either one used to promote Christianity, period. No Nativity Scenes, No 10 Commandments in courthouses, No Bibles for swearing in, No Intelligent Design or Creationism taught in schools.

    These kids having the black mass are simply throwing a mirror up in the face of the Christian Right who don't like it.

    When they stop, we will stop, and we will win, we always win....

    May 12, 2014 at 7:14 pm |
  13. bostontola

    "At its best," the black Mass "is a declaration of personal independence from what some see as counterproductive cultural programming,” said Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves.
    But some Catholics say the "black Mass" is more sacrilegious than satirical.

    Why? If this was a send up on Wiccan ritual or Hindu ritual, the Church probably wouldn't say that was disrespectful. Calling something sacrilegious is arrogant. It assumes that your rules apply to all. They don't.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
  14. johnlev123

    Oh, NOW the church is worried about offending people, eh? What about all the women, gays, parents of gays, non-catholics, atheists, children, etc that they've offended over the yrs???? Sorry. You don't get a pass simply because you believe in non-provable fables. This is what living in a free country is about. You don't get to tell the king to cut of the head of those who insult you. I know for centuries you had that power but not anymore.

    May 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
    • gladiator1115

      So it is ok to offend Catholics. I am guessing you probably stand by the destruction of the People's cultures because they believe in "the non-provable fables" of mother earth. I also bet that you think that the Evolutionary THEORY is provable. As a mathematician I can state with complete and utter certainty that it can't be proven with out some questionable hypotheses. That is why it is called a theory. Learn your PROVEN facts before you start throwing around terms that you don't actually know.
      Everything that we believe in as a culture have accepted premises that change with time, so if you are going to stand by diversity, please avoid being a hypocrite and actually protect everyone's rights. Black face, racial profiling and the black mass have no place in a politically correct society. So either stand for political correctness or accept prejudice. We can't pick and choose who we can be prejudice against.

      May 12, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        If you knew anything about science you might know that science doesn't deal in "proofs" unlike math. However, a scientific theory, such as evolution, is a well substantiated explanation of how the world works. And while science is ultimately always tentative, evolution is one of the most solid theories in science.

        May 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
      • dawshoss

        Being a mathematician doesn't make you immune to logical fallacies...namely the lottery fallacy. Heck top mathematicians disagreed about the Monty Hall problem, when really all you needed was 2 minutes of real life testing to confirm the numbers. (ie play with a program you can google online) This is a classic example of how science trumps mathematics when it comes to finding the reality of things.

        May 12, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
      • bvilleyellowdog


        May 12, 2014 at 8:16 pm |
      • johnlev123

        //I am guessing you probably stand by the destruction of the People's cultures because they believe in "the non-provable fables" of mother earth.// – Cultures come and go and when a culture is detrimental to society, it's time to give that society an enema.

        // I also bet that you think that the Evolutionary THEORY is provable.// – It's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

        // As a mathematician I can state with complete and utter certainty that it can't be proven with out some questionable hypotheses.// – And as an professionally licensed engineer w/ a minor in math, I can say that NOTHING can be proven w/o SOME sort of questionable hypotheses. Thats why we go w/ reasonable certainty rather that absolute certainty.

        //That is why it is called a theory. Learn your PROVEN facts before you start throwing around terms that you don't actually know.// – For someone who claims to have a STEM background, your ignorance astounds me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory And as far as my statement concerning "fables", yes...I've looked into it. Noah's ark, Genesis, Where the NT comes from and who wrote it, etc....Fables is a correct term.

        //please avoid being a hypocrite and actually protect everyone's rights.// – I most certainly do advocate for people's rights. They have the right to believe whatever nonsense they want. HOWEVER, I will not support their right to demand respect for those beliefs.

        // Black face, racial profiling and the black mass have no place in a politically correct society. // – Apples-oranges. People do not choose what race they belong to. People do choose what faith they want to participate in. In addition, I'm willing to bet there's no shortage of churches one can attend around the local campus. Being exposed to different idea's is what college is about. This club is correct to put this on so others can witness what it entails. If catholics are so frail that they cannot stand to have this happen, what's that say about them? I took a cultural diversity class in college. They had a neo-nazi skinhead come in one day to talk about his views and he certainly ticked off the minority students but they learned alot by listening to him. They also had a black panther come in as well. We were exposed to a number of people w/ views all over the map. I learned a lot. The religious in this country need to be exposed to other views and realize that they have to share the country.

        May 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm |
    • dawshoss

      Yeah where were they when we had that greece, NY prayer ruling a couple weeks ago? I guess that was okay because it would be primarily christian prayers....

      May 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
  15. multiversatile

    Is it medieval in here, or is it just me?

    May 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm |
    • redzoa

      That sounds like witch speak!!

      May 12, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
  16. jkiler1

    Funny – seeing as how Catholicism mocks logic and reason. Freedom of religion, so long as Catholics approve?

    May 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm |
    • ajk1968

      Catholicism has never mocked reason or logic. In fact, most of the development of this notion as you understand it is due to Catholic priests, monks, etc.

      Science began under Catholicism because Catholicism holds that creation by a rational Being results in a rational creation – governed by principles accessible to the intellect. Therefore, we can do experiments and expect the same results each time. This contrasts to primitive beliefs which attribute many physical phenomena to divine intervention.

      May 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        "Catholicism has never mocked reason or logic."


        May 12, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        The joyful myth and eager messenger;

        Stained glass soars to the rafters;

        Surely God is here, and yet this house is empty;

        No salesman can close;

        Lovely building full of lies, heard less prayers than cries;

        Sacred this and sacred that;

        Babies raped and priests zipping up their pants;

        No leads to follow;

        This is what Jesus witnesses from His lofty perch in that glass;

        Abuse the sheep and pay the tithe;

        Fill the tray and please don’t stay;

        Such a lovely cathedral, such a vile torture chamber.

        May 12, 2014 at 7:47 pm |
      • cheezfan

        Most of the development of what notion?!

        May 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm |
      • jobu282

        HINT: Do Google research on a guy named, "Coppernicus".

        On Friday we'll have a quiz on who threatened Coppernicus ON PAIN OF DEATH if he didn't retract his "heresies".

        Try reading a book every once in a while...

        May 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm |
  17. wowzers68

    Freedom to believe in fantasy is your Godzilla given right!

    May 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
    • jhg45

      I used to ride a horse named Wowzer in the 60s.

      May 12, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
  18. cruzin4irony

    dear soundoff – I was wondering if anyone else picked up on the humor of someone named "Faust" calling a Black Mass abhorrent! Good catch!

    May 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
  19. sburns54

    I wonder if the harvard head is a doctor...he'd be Doctor Faust, the man who made a pact with the devil in German folklore, star of the classic F.W. Murnau movie. Pretty funny if you're a nerd like me.

    May 12, 2014 at 6:37 pm |
    • Bill

      Not that nerdy if you think that Drew Faust is a man.

      May 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
      • cheezfan

        Nailed it.

        May 12, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
  20. janetmermaid

    Boo hoo. Freedom of religion means ALL (or no) religion. So as they say, what's good for the goose...

    May 12, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.