According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in common usage the term “black mass” refers to “a blasphemous and usually obscene burlesque of the true [Roman Catholic] mass performed by satanic cults. The naked back of a woman often serves as an altar, and a validly consecrated host is generally used to intensify the mockery. The rite commonly incorporates other elements of satanic magic such as philtres [magic potion] or abortifacients.”

Below is a publicity flyer from a student group called the Cultural Studies Club at Harvard University’s Extension School, announcing “a reenactment of a satanic black mass” two evenings from today, on May 12, 2014.

The satanic black mass will be “performed” in Harvard University’s college bar, Cambridge Queen’s Head, “voted one of the 31 best college bars by Business Insider.”

Harvard Black MassPhoto source: Campus Reform

In an email, the Harvard Exchange “Cultural Studies Club” states:

We are hosting a reenactment of a historical event known as a Black Mass. The performance is designed to be educational and is preceded by a lecture that provides the history, context, and origin of the Black Mass. While a piece of bread is used in the reenactment, the performance unequivocally does not include a consecrated host. Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.

But Elizabeth Scalia reports for Patheos, May 7, 2014, that Priya Dua, PR director for the New York-based Satanic Temple, confirmed that they have obtained and will use a Consecrated Host during the black mass.

This is the same Satanic Temple that wants prayer in public schools to the Devil and is building a 7-ft tall statue of Satan to be placed next to the Ten Commandments outside the state capitol building in Oklahoma City.

The Archdiocese of Boston issued this official statement about the black mass:

The Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Boston expresses its deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a “black mass” on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.

For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the Church provides clear teaching concerning Satanic worship. 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.

In a recent statement, Pope Francis warned of the danger of being naïve about or underestimating the power of Satan, whose evil is too often tragically present in our midst. We call upon all believers and people of good will to join us in prayer for those who are involved in this event, that they may come to appreciate the gravity of their actions, and in asking Harvard to disassociate itself from this activity.

Despite the Boston Archdiocese’s request that Harvard University “disassociate itself” from the planned satanic mass, on May 9, Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs at Harvard Extension School, issued this mealymouthed “official response”:

Students at the Harvard Extension School, like students at colleges across the nation, organize and operate a number of independent student organizations, representing a wide range of student interests. The Harvard Extension School does not endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization. But we do support the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely.

In this case, we understand that this independent student organization, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, is hosting a series of events—including the reenactment of a “Black Mass”—as part of a student-led effort to explore different cultures.

We do not agree with the student group’s decision to stage an event that is so deeply disturbing and offensive to many in the Harvard community and beyond. 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.

To that end, the Harvard Extension School has worked with the club’s student leaders to address specific concerns that have been expressed. For instance, we have ensured that no consecrated host will be used as part of the reenactment. Also, in an effort to help broaden the educational nature of this series, the Harvard Extension School has urged the Cultural Studies Club’s student leaders to reach out to Catholic student organizations on campus to foster a positive dialogue about the Catholic faith. The club’s student leaders have agreed to this proposal.

We hope these efforts and this dialogue will help address some of the most severe concerns about the event, while also helping students in the Cultural Studies Club better understand the perspective of many Catholics on these and other issues.

Questions about the event should be directed to the Cultural Studies Club at [email protected].

I don’t, even for a second, believe that Harvard Extension School would be so tolerant (“we do support the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely”) if the Cultural Studies Club were to hold an event that Muslims find offensive.



Dr. Eowyn’s article first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.