Harvard Defends Choice to Allow 'Black Mass' Re-enactment

University President to Attend Eucharistic Adoration in Solidarity

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The president of Harvard University has defended the decision to allow the re-enactment of a “black mass” on campus in the name of “free expression,» while acknowledging that it is “highly offensive” to members of the Catholic Church.

The “black mass,» which is being organized by a student group affiliated with the Harvard Extension School, is due to take place this evening. In response, the Campus Ministry of the Archdiocese of Boston has organized a Eucharistic Procession through the streets of Cambridge, concluding with Eucharistic Adoration at St. Paul’s at 8pm ET.

Harvard president Drew Faust acknowledged that “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.»

She went on to say that the decision of the student club to sponsor the “black mass” was “abhorrent,» adding that “it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community.»

“It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory,» she said.

Faust’s statement comes several days after the Archdiocese of Boston released its statement expressing «deep sadness and strong opposition” to the event. The statement says that satanic worship “separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.»

However, while Harvard University “will vigorously protect the right of others to respond,” Faust said that, “consistent with the University’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us,» the decision to go ahead with the “black mass” belongs to the students who are organizing it.

She argues that “the re-enactment of a ‘black mass’ … 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. 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.»

Faust concluded that she is planning to attend the evening Holy Hour and Benediction “in order 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.»

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