Under threat of satanic ritual, Church counters with prayer

Let’s face it: Keeping up with the news can be a depressing job. (I say this as someone addicted to Twitter, public radio and “CBS This Morning.”)

If it’s not a natural disaster, it’s a shooting; if it’s not a shooting, it’s a plane crash; if it’s not a plane crash, it’s a ... black mass?

Yes, a black mass — a ritual in which people come together specifically to mock Catholicism and celebrate Satan. Now we’ve passed depressing and advanced to terrifying, without passing Go or collecting $200.

The story broke in early May: A group affiliated with Harvard University announced its plans to host a black mass on the campus of the institution. Along the way, the organizers — known as the Satanic Temple — wavered back and forth about whether or not they were going to be using a consecrated host during the event. The Catholic blogosphere, led by the bloodhound Elizabeth Scalia, exploded in protest.

Harvard, though it didn’t endorse the event, didn’t do anything to stop it.

And then some interesting things happened.

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The Archdiocese of Boston rallied, denounced the black mass and countered by announcing it would hold a Eucharistic procession from the chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge to St. Paul Church in Harvard Square. There, a holy hour would take place.

Word got out. The protest grew. Nearly 60,000 Harvard students, faculty and alumni signed a petition against hosting the black mass on campus.

Harvard President Drew Faust issued a statement the morning of May 12 calling the decision to host the event “abhorrent.”

“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 statement said. “The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual ... represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community.”

She added — to the surprise of many — that she would be attending the holy hour. By the time evening rolled around, it was clear she was going to be in good company.

An estimated 1,500 faithful packed the small Boston church to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Many more joined in from afar.

And then the announcement came that the black mass had been moved off campus and finally canceled. (Reports later suggested a “scaled-down” version continued off campus, but this hasn’t been confirmed.)

A cry of relief went up from the Catholic community, and the next morning, media sites posted photos of a long adoration procession through Boston’s streets and a crowded little church filled with people on their knees and hands clasped.

Now that’s some news I could get used to seeing.