Harvard University president Drew Faust called a student group’s decision to host a “black mass” on campus on Monday night ”deeply regrettable” and “abhorrent,” but defended the students’ right to “free expression.”
“The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent,” Faust said in a statement. “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.” Nevertheless, she said that “the decision to proceed is and will remain” the prerogative of the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, the student group who invited members of the Satanic Temple to perform the ritual.
In a statement issued on Friday, Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs, similarly said that while Harvard “does not endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization,” it does “support the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely.”
A “black mass” is generally a Satanic ceremony intended to mock the mass and desecrate the Eucharist, though the student group has denied that the event is tied to the Eucharist.
“Satanists have a ritual that they perform for their own affirmative reasons” that “currently have absolutely nothing to do with Catholicism beyond the symbols themselves,” a club spokesman told the National Catholic Register.
The group said taking offense to the “black mass” is “anachronistic” and is “based on intolerance and ignorance” about Satanism.
A Satanic Temple spokesman said they have not tired to obtain a consecrated host because “it would make no difference to our ceremony” as “it’s [just] a piece of bread.”