The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club invited the Satanic Temple of New York City to conduct a Black Mass on the Harvard Campus.
The announcement of the event prompted widespread opposition at Harvard and throughout the Boston metropolitan area. More than 60,000 Harvard faculty, staff, students, alumni, and “friends” signed an online petition asking that the event be canceled. Cardinal O’Malley, the leader of the Boston Archdiocese, vehemently opposed the university’s sanctioning of the event, and hundreds of people participated in a march from the MIT campus to St. Paul Church on Harvard Square, where about 1,500 people met for an hour of special prayer. The Catholic Church views the Black Mass as a hateful parody of the Catholic liturgy.
Ironically, much of the most strongly expressed opposition to the Black Mass was essentially “hate mail” directed as much at the Cultural Studies Club as at the Satanists.
Initially, Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, had opposed the attempts to force the cancellation of the event. According to the Boston Globe, she “called the student group’s sponsorship of the black mass ‘abhorrent,’ but said she must protect the group’s right to free speech.” More specifically, she argued, “’Vigorous and open discussion and debate are essential to the pursuit of knowledge, and we must uphold these values even in the face of controversy.” But, ultimately, Faust did not prevent lower-level administrative pressure from being exerted on the Cultural Studies Club, and she personally attended the hour of prayer.
The Cultural Studies Club bowed to pressure to move the event off campus, but after the Middle East Club rescinded its offer to host the event (a wise decision, I think; imagine what the Far Right would have done with that turn of events), the Cultural Studies Club cancelled its sponsorship but issued this statement:
“The Satanic Temple has informed us that they will stage their own black mass ceremony at an undisclosed private location to ‘reaffirm their respect for the Satanic faith and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is to shame those who marginalize others by letting their own words and actions speak for themselves.’”
When the Boston Globe called the Hong Kong Club, a “lounge employee” identified only as Fred said “that temple members were drinking at the bar, but he did not believe they were performing any rituals. ‘I haven’t heard any complaining,’ he said.”
The Boston Globe article from which I have quoted is available at: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/05/12/cardinal-sean-malley-expresses-disappointment-harvard-decision-allow-black-mass-campus/tUjYx2817C65LAHousRIeP/story.html