Harvard University won’t suspend a “satanic black mass” planned by students at its extension school, despite President Drew Faust said she opposed to the event.
The black mass, an imitation of the Roman Catholic Mass, is planned for this evening in the Queen’s Head Pub in Memorial Hall’s basement, according to a posted announcement by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club. Attendance is full, club said in a statement posted website.
Religious leaders, include the Harvard students and faculty, to express their disappointment and opposition to the event. Faust joined their voices that she will attend a holy hour at St. Paul’s Church on Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to demonstrate her dissent.
Faust said on Harvard’s website: “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.”
Harvard Extension School Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs Robert Neugeboren said on May 9: The club is hosting the black mass as part of a series of events to explore other cultures.
The school’s administration, worked with students, to ensure that no consecrated host that would be blessed by a priest and is used in the Eucharistic ceremony, would be used to re-enact the black mass. He encourages them to reach out to Catholic student organizations for feedback.
In fact, the school disagrees with the decision to stage the event, which is disturbing to others, Neugeboren said in the statement.
“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,” he said.
About 60 thousand people signed the petitions online protesting the black mass and urging Harvard to stop it, said Aurora Griffin, a senior at college. The signatures were presented to Faust today, Griffin said in an e-mailed statement.
The Cultural Studies Club directed questions about the black mass to Christopher Robichaud, a lecturer in ethics and public policy that will be speaking at the event. The ritual is a useful point for beginning a discussion of political values such as free speech, as said on a telephone conversation.
Robichaud said: “What do we really think that religious freedom and free speech demands of us? Does religious tolerance demand only tolerance of rituals that aren’t offensive?”
The Archdiocese of Boston, a group of Harvard chaplains, and Harvard students and alumni have all opposed the staging of the ritual. However, Harvard is committed to the freedom of expression. It's clear that there are limits to its latitude, said Francis Clooney, a Roman Catholic priest and a professor in Harvard Divinity School.
Clooney’s telephone interview, said: “If this had been a re-enactment of a Nazi rally or a lynching, the university would have stepped in quickly and stopped it. I’d be concerned that the university is saying. We just allow student groups to do what they want.”