A Harvard student group's plans to hold a re-enactment of a satanic black mass were offensive, according to the university president, but were allowed to proceed for the sake of free expression, reports the Catholic News Agency.
'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,' university president Drew Faust said in a statement yesterday.
'The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community,' she continued.
'It is deeply regrettable that the organisers of this event, well aware of the offence they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.'
However, the president continued, due to the university's 'commitment to free expression', the student group will be permitted to continue with its ceremony.
Faust said that she plans to attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction to be held by the Catholic community at St Paul's Church on the edge of campus, to coincide with the black mass. In doing so, Faust said that she hopes to 'join others in reaffirming our 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'.
The announcement that the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club was planning a May 12 re-enactment of a satanic black mass on campus has prompted a wave of complaint from the Harvard community and beyond.
A black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony structured as a parody of the Catholic Mass. Connected to witchcraft and demonic worship, it invokes Satan and demons, often in Latin.
The ceremony is centered around the desecration of the Eucharist, which is generally done by stealing a consecrated host from a Catholic Church and using it in a profane sexual ritual, or defecating and urinating on it.
FULL STORY Harvard president: satanic mass 'abhorrent' but may proceed