NEW YORK – Amid vigorous protest, a Harvard University student group rescinded its invitation to Satanists to hold a “black mass” on campus, although the ceremony, which mocks the Roman Catholic Eucharist, was held across the street from Harvard Yard at a restaurant Monday night.
“The fact the Satanists were driven off the campus to conduct their event is significant,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights headquartered in New York City told WND.
“In the ideal world, you wouldn’t have had these evil-minded people trying to insult Catholics in the first place,” he said. “But given the state of our culture today, it isn’t bad that these people were not permitted to carry out their antics on campus.”
After a day of tense negotiation, the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies withdrew its invitation to the Satanist Temple of New York.
University officials scrambled Monday to devise a way to stop the event from proceeding, while being careful to support what they argued was a First Amendment right.
Harvard University President Drew Faust spelled out the dilemma in a statement.
“The reenactment of a ‘black mass’ planned by a student group affiliated with the Harvard Extension School challenges us to reconcile the dedication to free expression at the heart of a university with our commitment to foster a community based on civility and mutual understanding,” she said.
About 50 Satanists held the ceremony at the Hong Kong Restaurant and Lounge on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, according to the student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson.
Donohue said Harvard’s position on the controversy evolved because Catholics had enough time to mobilize.
“Given from what I’ve seen of other college presidents around the United States, this is at least an improvement,” he said. “We typically get the ‘academic freedom’ answer, and then university officials walk away as if they had no moral responsibility to express outrage about these kinds of offensive events.”
Donohue said he was pleased Faust attended the Catholic prayer services held Monday night at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on the Harvard campus to protest the Satanist ceremony.
“Faust may have been able to do more, but to a large extent I’m pretty happy with the outcome,” Donohue said.
The restaurant owner, Paul Lee, told the Harvard Crimson in a phone interview Monday at about 11 p.m. that he was unaware the Satanist ceremony had been performed in his establishment.
WND was not able to reach Lee for comment.
Drew’s statement noted the historical origins of the “black mass” and why many Catholics find it offensive.
Still, Drew left the decision in the hands of the student group.
“Consistent with the university’s commitment to free speech, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs,” she said.
Faust said in her statement she planned to attend the Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on the Harvard campus to reaffirm her “respect for 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.”
After being notified by the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Group that the student organization had decided to cancel its sponsorship of the event, about 50 members of the Satanic Temple of New York were photographed demonstrating in Harvard Square, as seen in a photograph posted on the Satanic Temple’s Facebook page.
Then, at approximately 10 p.m. on Monday, the Satanic Temple posted a notice on the group’s Facebook page indicating the ceremony had been rescheduled for the Hong Kong restaurant.
“About 50 people, mostly dressed in black and some wearing face makeup, were present for the ceremony,” the Crimson reported.
“Four individuals in hoods and one man in a white suit, a cape, and a horned mask were active in the proceedings, as well as a woman revealed to be wearing only lingerie. The ceremony began with a narration on the history underlying Satanism and the black mass ritual.”
WCVB-TV in Boston confirmed the Satanic Temple moved the ceremony to the restaurant.
See WCVB’s report: