A Few Words About That Harvard Black Mass…

A Few Words About That Harvard Black Mass… May 7, 2014

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad” – Matthew 5:11-12

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

“Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'” – John 18:11

EDIT: UGH. I jumped the gun. This hasn’t been confirmed yet. I am waiting for confirmation. EDIT 2: It looks real.

I really, really didn’t want to write about this. I didn’t want to write about this because it’s so stupid. I didn’t want to write about this because it’s clearly a publicity stunt. I didn’t want to write about this because I didn’t want to get drawn into culture war bullshit as a member of the Party of God.

But this changed when I found out that the Black Mass planned by a Harvard club would use a consecrated host.

This literally changes everything. I don’t know if the organizers of this Black Mass are aware of it, but Catholics believe–yes, against all empirical evidence to the contrary–that the consecrated bread and wine of Mass literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, whom we believe to be the Son of God and savior of humanity. I know it seems crazy, but this is what Catholics believe.

So to the organizers of the Black Mass: I would say that if you use a consecrated host in your ceremony, you won’t do something that is simply “offensive” at a superficial level. You will do something that, in the eyes of faithful Catholics everywhere, will be sacrilegious to the highest extent–will literally hurt in his very flesh the person we love most. You may think this belief is ridiculous, and I don’t blame you, but I would ask you to think like human beings for one second and reconsider doing something that would be genuinely hurtful and scandalous to countless people. How will you feel about this ten years from now? This might be trite, but–how would your mother feel about this? We all do things we later regret, but there’s a difference between getting stupid drunk at a party, and getting stupid drunk at a party and driving home and hitting a pedestrian. “I was just young and stupid” is a much less valid excuse for the latter than the former.

Honestly: I don’t care what you do. Have Black Masses, have Satanic rituals, go running around naked under the moon. Say that Christianity and Catholicism are ridiculous, and offensive, and evil. Really. Be my guest. But please don’t desecrate a consecrated host. You can have the exact same Black Mass if you return the consecrated host–which, in all likelihood, you stole, so, you know, kudos for that–and use an unconsecrated host (you can buy them on the internet). It will have the same “cultural value”, since that is the reason you represent for holding the event.

I am genuinely, and sincerely appealing to our common humanity and decency and asking you to refrain from doing something genuinely hurtful.

To the Catholics and Christians reading me, I say this: rejoice! This is what Jesus asks us to do when things like this happen. This is not a new battle in the culture wars. If it happens, it will be a new crucifixion–literally. But the crucifixion, felix culpa, is how death was destroyed. And Jesus responded to his tormenters with loving-kindness and commanded his disciples to eschew violence. In all things, remember that Jesus Christ is Lord and has defeated death and sin, and that all eyes will behold His glory and all lips proclaim that He is Lord.

By all means, use non-violent means to prevent this from occurring with the consecrated host. But let them put together this show, this parody. Let them demonstrate better than we could how the radiance of the Gospel contrasts with hatred.

My suggestion would be, if this does go through, and if Christians want to respond somehow, to do it not with protests, but with standing outside and singing hymns–hymns of joy, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness. I’m serious. Bring tambourines. Dance. They who have eyes, they will see.

Oh, and I look forward to the next event, when a Harvard club will make images of the Prophet Muhammad and deface them. … Oh? What’s that? … Yeah, I thought so.

Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus.


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  • Kasoy

    Jesus is crucified once more whenever a consecrated host is desecrated either with willful intent by non-believers (Black Mass) or by Catholics who receive Jesus in the state of mortal sin according to a revelation to Sister Josefa Menendez (The Way of Divine Love). I agree with PEG that the Black Mass should not be met with violent (verbal or physical) reactions. Instead of condemnation, let us imitate Jesus by showing compassion to the “perpetuators” of sacrilegious acts through firm but gentle correction (eg, through the media) and/or through prayers and sacrifices for their conversion.

    Perhaps we can have Mass celebrated in our parish with the intention of reparation for the sacrileges committed throughout the world against the Most Precious Body, Blood, Divinity, and Soul of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by non-believers as well as Christians. Jesus also told Josefa that one simple act of love esp by one of His consecrated priests or nuns makes up for the sins of many.

    • Veritas81

      I disagree. This is one of the few situations in which I think violent resistance is allowable. Start flippin’ tables…

      • Kasoy

        John 18:11 – Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.11Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

        Here, Peter, a man, was restrained from further violent actions.

        Of course, you may quote: Matthew 21:12 – Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He — overturned the tables — of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

        Here, it is the Son of God who turned over the tables.

        I’d rather have Jesus start flippin’ tables Himself… 😎

      • Dan13

        As Kasoy said below, Jesus rebuked Peter for violent resistance.

        Essentially the whole reason they are doing this (if they are actually doing this instead of just lying about it) is to make us distressed and angry. They take perverse pleasure from the attention.

        Personally, I don’t know the proper reaction (other than I don’t believe violence is the answer). I would simply be unable to interact with anyone who would be a part of something like this.

  • JohnMcG


    I can imagine one of the organizers of the Black Mass reading this and thinking, “Well, this gives Catholics an opportunity for martyrdom and to display their joy in suffering! Sounds like a win/win to me! Why shouldn’t we go ahead?”

    There’s an obvious tension in making it clear that the suffering is real with the truth that our redemption comes through suffering. Yes, we should rejoice when we are persecuted, and our sadness is at the damage those doing the persecuting are doing to their own souls. We want to make them aware of what they’re doing and give them the opportunity to stop, while maintaining the knowledge that this will not destroy us.

    It’s a tricky line to walk.

  • Kathleen Worthington

    Ignore this. The children want to create a spectacle and see the adults fume. Pray for their souls and move on.

    However, the real action item is for parishes in the area to have a meeting with EMs and ushers. A consecrated Host should never have made it out of the building. You receive, you consume; or, return to reception on the tongue. Our own lack of seriousness toward Our Lord is responsible for this offense.

    • JohnMcG

      I’m not really excited about turning our Church vestibules into a security theatre, or about deputizing EMs and ushers as cops, and I don’t think it betrays a lack of seriousness that is is possible for a bad actor to steal a quarter-sized host.

      And, my recollection is that PZ Myers’s stunt from several years ago was triggered by a zealous lay minister grabbing someone who did not immediately consume a host.

  • On the other hand, I take this as the highest honor. They don’t steal consecrated hosts from your local protestant megachurch for a reason.

    And yes, Satanists are well aware of what a consecrated host means, many go so far as to brag that they can tell the difference between a consecrated and an unconsecrated host. They know the reality far better than our Protestant brethren do, sometimes better than our Cafeteria Catholic brethren do.

    • arensb

      many go so far as to brag that they can tell the difference between a consecrated and an unconsecrated host.

      Can they? Or is this just empty boasting? How does one tell the difference between a consecrated and unconsecrated host, anyway?

      • I wish I had time to find the link for you. But not today.

        Apparently, the method is a mixture of a very Catholic belief in the Real Presence, combined with a burning hatred for that presence.

        • arensb

          But the upshot is that one could do a double-blind test and distinguish consecrated from non-consecrated hosts at a rate better than chance, right?
          Has anyone performed this experiment? If not, why not? It seems like it would be a powerful apologetic tool. And if yes, where’s the write-up?

          • Right. Except for one problem: It’s an anti-apologetic tool. It requires the intense hatred of a truly believing Satanist.

            Who isn’t likely to cooperate with the experiment.

          • arensb

            I mean that it would be empirical evidence to support the Catholic church’s claims. So has anyone run this test? And anyway, I’m not sure the Satanist wouldn’t cooperate: he has just as much of a desire to show the world that he’s not just blowing smoke as the Catholic church does.

          • “I mean that it would be empirical evidence to support the Catholic church’s claims. ”

            Satanism would not be considered empirical evidence. The study would be tainted and ridiculed by those who consider *any* hint of the supernatural to be impossible.

          • arensb

            Satanism would not be considered empirical evidence.

            Not Satanism itself. But Catholics say that an unconsecrated host is just a piece of bread, while a consecrated one is Jesus. And you say a Satanist can somehow — it doesn’t matter how — detect this difference.

            The study would be tainted and ridiculed by those who consider *any* hint of the supernatural to be impossible.

            So what? Consult some scientists and philosophers of science, and possibly the James Randi Educational Foundation, and make sure that your experiment is set up correctly. They should also be able to help you overcome problems in methodology, like the fact that you suspect the Satanist is likely to lie to you.
            Make sure your experiment is set up correctly, and really will demonstrate what you think it will demonstrate. Collect your data carefully. Publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal. Help others replicate your results.
            Yes, it’s a lot of work. But if it pans out, you’ll be able to say that yes, there’s a real difference between a piece of bread and a Eucharist. And isn’t that worth it?

          • To an atheist though, a Satanist is just another order within Catholicism.

            Hmm, if I knew any Satanists personally, it would sure be nice to take this on though. If for no other reason than debunking the satanism.

            Might be a bit hard to get my Archbishop’s permission though.

          • arensb

            To an atheist though, a Satanist is just another order within Catholicism.

            What? No, from what I’ve seen, a lot of people who call themselves Satanists don’t believe in any gods. That makes them atheists.

            But yeah, Satan is a character in the Christian mythos, so if anyone worships that character, they have a lot more in common with a Catholic than, say, a Jain.

            Might be a bit hard to get my Archbishop’s permission though.

            You won’t know until you try. Let me know how it goes.

          • “What? No, from what I’ve seen, a lot of people who call themselves Satanists don’t believe in any gods. That makes them atheists.”

            Wrong type to detect a consecrated host then. The whole reason a Satanist- a real one- knows the difference is because of his hatred of Christ. You can’t hate what you don’t believe in.

          • arensb

            You can’t hate what you don’t believe in.

            If you could repeat that to the next person you meet who says that atheists hate God, I’d be grateful.
            Anyway, does the proper host-detecting kind of Satanist actually exist? I’ve never met any, and I suspect that maybe they were just invented by the Inquisition, or by anti-D&D preachers in the 80s (see “Dark Dungeons” by Jack Chick).
            But if you manage to get your hands on the right kind of Satanist, I strongly urge you to contact the James Randi Educational Foundation. They have decades of experience setting up experiments to detect the supernatural, and should be able to advise you on how to do it correctly.

          • Once again, too busy to find you the link on a day when the first 800 results all refer to the Harvard Mass. But I’ve read accounts, both by ex Satanist converts and Satanists themselves, about this from time to time. Never met a single one of them in person though.

            I’m well familiar with James Randi’s methodology though. I’d need not only the Satanist, but a few Catholics (both believing in the Real Presence or not) two identical monstrances, and a puppet stage. And an atheist or three to just prove that they can’t tell the difference.

            Might be interesting to include a Leveyan wannabe Satanist as well.

            Oh, and both a consecrated and unconsecrated host, of course.

          • arensb

            Cool. I look forward to reading your results.

  • arcadius

    I’m sorry but what is Pilate holding in his hand in that painting? A chicken bone? It’s really bothering me for some reason.

  • matt

    Desecrating a consecrated host, a favorite tactic of trolls everywhere:


  • Becky

    I would like to point out that this is part of Harvard’s extension school. The extension school is a program whereby those with money to burn can take classes that don’t lead toward actual degrees. It’s not selective — it’s just a way for Harvard to make money off of its name. We’re not talking about the cream of the crop at Harvard, here. It’s still appalling, but I’d be more concerned if this were being organized by “real” Harvard students, most of whom would probably view this with as much disdain as we do.

  • feckless

    How many “Satanists” by percentage or number are pedophiles?

    How many catholic priests are?
    Were those host wafers consecrated by a pedophile?
    The pope personally signs off on any priest dismissed from the priesthood for raping children, but each diocese is it’s own “independent” corporation that can cheat their victims by hiding behind the secular bankruptcy law.

    Your children are much more likely to be raped by a catholic priest than by a supposed satanist, or a muslim.

    You people are disgusting hypocrits who rail against imaginary satanism, but spit on the poor and the oppressed.

    Maybe Cardinal Law will return to Boston to fight the Satanists by covering up the Boston catholic pedophila rings, and then flee back to his masters at the vatican.

    The vatican was established by Mussolini, should Harvard allow other fascist allied organizations to keep facilities on campus?

    Tolerate other religions or get no tolerance yourselves.

    Did I mention that 70% of catholic community services is paid for by my secular tax money? Why is planned parenthood (a constitutional right) banned from federal money but the pedophile express can spend hundreds of millions lobbying against my freedom, using my tax money.

  • arensb

    Oh, and I look forward to the next event, when a Harvard club will make
    images of the Prophet Muhammad and deface them. … Oh? What’s that? …
    Yeah, I thought so.

    Yes, Catholics are better than extremist Muslims in that they no longer kill people for disrespecting their religion. But that’s setting the bar awfully low, IMHO.

  • Darren

    Seems like the sporting thing would have been for the Satanists to return the consecrated host to the church and, as you suggested, use an unconsecrated one instead.
    Cardinal O’Malley just pops round and picks the consecrated one (belonging to the Church anyways) out of the box of unconsecrated ones (bought off ebay and owned by the Sataninsts) and everyone is happy…