The provocative “Black Mass” planned to take place at Harvard Extension School this week has been officially cancelled. The event had caused an outcry from Boston’s significant Catholic community.
According to a WCVB Boston report, the event has now been cancelled. Event organizers had reportedly been unable to find a venue to perform the Black Mass.
The Black Mass is a ritual of Catholic legend that is a perversion of the church’s Mass, which Catholics hold as sacred. No accounts of the specific ritual appeared before the mid-20th century, when the Black Mass began appearing in pulp novels.
The reenactment of a Black Mass was to be performed by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club as part of a performance series exploring cultural rituals. The event was originally to have taken place at the university’s Memorial Hall.
When the plan became widely known the local Catholic community began putting pressure on the University to cancel the event. The university’s Dean of Students, Robert Neugeboren, issued a statement saying that Harvard Extension School “does not endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization,” but also said it supports “the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely.”
"We do not agree with the… decision to stage an event that is so deeply disturbing and offensive to many…." http://t.co/hz7Dhs7ypr
— Harvard Extension (@HarvardEXT) May 10, 2014
Controversy over the event continued to escalate with Catholic leaders characterizing the Black Mass not as a cultural event but as simply a mockery of Catholic beliefs. Harvard President Drew Faust stepped into the issue on Monday, releasing a statement condemning the Black Mass but backing the Cultural Studies Club on free speech principles. From the statement:
But even as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree. 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. 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. 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.
According to WCVB, the event had been moved off-campus at the last minute. The Black Mass was to have taken place at an off-campus restaurant before the restaurant’s management declined to host. The event was cancelled after the club’s organizers were unable to find a suitable venue.
Image via Wikimedia Commons