Can Harvard Handle Real Religious Faith?

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

There’s a good piece in the Crimson today from a religion professor there: 

this event raises a larger issue: As a university community we need to do better in handling matters of religious import. It is not enough to say that Harvard is a secular institution, as if living faith and practice matter only off campus or in private. We need to have, on occasion, difficult discussions that necessarily involve matters of faith and faithful practice. Sometimes these discussions will unsettle the University’s ordinary and smooth manner of proceeding. After the lawyers have spoken and free speech has been reaffirmed, and after we all agree that much is to be learned from the history of our religions, we still need to be able to talk together about the sometimes difficult reality of living religion at Harvard.

Not only is our humane and spiritual sensitivity at stake, but also our intellectual credibility. Shall we not see this event of a black mass on campus as a reason to convene a new and deeper conversation on how religions are alive, vocal, and unruly even at secular Harvard?

Or, to paraphrase Jonah earlier today, how about a little sanity, decency and intellectual courage?

And of course “secular Harvard” wasn’t always the bastion of hostility to the sacred it is tonight. As a friend of mine writes of his alma mater: 

 The Founders of Harvard would, I think, be ashamed that a school to which they gave the motto Veritas: Christo et Ecclesiae would allow itself to be used in any way whatsoever as the staging for Satanic worship.

Yesterday I was asked by about two dozen people about what my alma mater was doing in allowing this mockery of Catholicism and this acquiescence in the conjuring of evil. I replied that I can’t fathom how this “dear mother” would have lost its capacity to see clearly and promptly how outrageous this is and that for the first time in my life I’m really embarrassed to be associated with Harvard. I’m sure there are many other alumni who are similarly ashamed.

The good news in the story comes up in President Drew Faust’s statement:

I plan to attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction at St. Paul’s Church on our campus on Monday evening 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.

The Black Mass stunt is hateful and dangerous. As the Boston archdiocese put it in a statement announcing tonight’s holy hour, satanic worship is a damaging evil. If any of that happens tonight or anyone is made immune to the power of evil, that’s more than an offense. It’s diabolical. It “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.”

Catholics are still celebrating Easter, which is, of course, about victory over evil. And the official response of Catholics in Boston is to adore the Eucharistic Lord. And I’m certainly grateful knees will bend on campus to that transforming reality. To be Christian is to believe the power of God vanquishes hate in the end — that that victory has been won by Christ on the Cross, by his Resurrection. Thanks be to God – is the overpowering message of Catholics and those who stand — or bow – with them in solidarity tonight.


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