Satan is in the news once again, according to Business Week on May 12. The Cultural Studies Club at Harvard University will stage a "satanic black mass" despite the opposition of Harvard President Drew Faust and over 60,000 signatures of students, faculty and alumni. The black mass is scheduled for the Queen's Head Pub in the basement of Memorial Hall.
Robert Neugeboren, Harvard Extension School Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs, claims that the Cultural Studies Club is holding the black mass to explore other cultures. As one would expect, it has caused quite a firestorm on campus.
But despite over 60,000 signatures of Harvard students, faculty and alumni against, the mass will go on. The Cultural Studies Club has Christopher Robichaud, a lecturer in ethics and public policy, fielding questions for them. Robichaud claims that the ritual is a jumping off point for discussions of political values such as free speech.
“What do we really think that religious freedom and free speech demands of us?” Robichaud said. “Does religious tolerance demand only tolerance of rituals that aren't offensive?”
Francis Clooney, a Roman Catholic priest and professor at Harvard Divinity School, said that there are limits to the school’s latitude. The Archdiocese of Boston, Harvard chaplains, many students and alumni are opposed to the staging of the ritual. Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, although opposed to the ritual mass, issued this statement on the school’s web site.
“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. Freedom of expression, as Justice Holmes famously said long ago, protects not only free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
Fast has stated that she will attend a holy hour at St. Paul’s Church on Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Mass. to demonstrate her dissent.
It should be noted that no consecrated host, the sacramental wafer that’s been blessed by a priest and used in the Eucharist ceremony, will be used. The Cultural Studies Club was encouraged to reach out to Catholic student organizations for guidance and feedback.
Robert Neugeboren had hoped that a different compromise could have been reached for the sake of more universal sensitivity. “The event is clearly disturbing to many and Harvard disagrees with the event. 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.”