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In re: Harvard and Satanism Print E-mail
By William Edmund Fahey   
Tuesday, 13 May 2014

May 12th, 2014

 
Drew Gilpin Faust, Ph.D.
Office of the President
Harvard University
Massachusetts Hall
Cambridge, MA 02138
 
Dear President Faust,
 
I write today in unison with those who have requested that you intervene to cancel the “Black Mass” which is still scheduled to take place in Memorial Hall this evening.
 
As a College President, I am stunned that, under your leadership, Harvard University is hosting an event so injurious to a significant portion of the academic community. 
 
As a Roman Catholic, I am equally shocked that you would sponsor an event which so clearly insults the beliefs and jeopardizes the well-being of every Catholic student, professor, and employee of Harvard University.  Indeed, I would argue that the well-being and beliefs of every member of the Harvard community are harmed.  Can we pretend that even a single lie or act of hatred does not tear at the unseen fabric of a community?
 
Dean Robert Neugeboren’s public statement regarding the event is deeply disturbing for its utter confusion, if not duplicity.  How can an event be both repugnant to the University’s leadership, yet also worthy of support and encouragement?   
 
Dean Neugeboren claims that he is supporting the Black “Mass” as “part of a student-led effort to explore different cultures.”  Which culture would this be? The only “culture” the Black “Mass” participates in is a culture of hatred:  hatred of Catholics, hatred of their religious liturgy, and hatred of the Christian God. Such hatred should find no place on Harvard’s campus. 
 
The Dean further suggests that the event is taking place because the administration supports “the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely.”  To be sure, such a right is a cornerstone of most modern universities.  But do you honestly believe, President Faust, that this is a case of free assembly and academic freedom? Is there a regular worship site for Satanists?  Has one been called for?  What research on the Black “Mass” is underway in the Extension School?
 
Harvard representatives have described this Black “Mass” as similar to other Extension Club events, such as a presentation on Buddhist Meditation or a Shinto Tea Ceremony.  This comparison is outrageous, and an insult to these rich and established religious traditions and cultural practices. They simply bear no resemblance to a Black “Mass,”—largely a modern invention and a self-described blasphemy of Catholic worship—which has as its fundamental premise the denigration of the central religious act of Roman Catholicism.
 
It is sheer intellectual dishonesty to pretend that a Satanic sacrifice is, in any way, an exploration of history or an educational introduction to humanity’s religious heritage.  Error has no rights.  Bigotry is not a form of academic freedom.
 
The entire ritual is intended to mock and blaspheme the Christian God, and to call upon and pay homage to powers of darkness which are, as all Satanic worshippers will acknowledge, openly and strongly antagonistic toward Roman Catholics. Rather than foster religious “dialogue” or provide cultural illumination, such a “re-enactment” is in grave danger of inciting feelings of animosity toward the very Roman Catholics whose worship the service mocks and denigrates. 
 
In its section on “Religion,” the Harvard Handbook for Students states that certain religious events at Harvard would be “prohibited when the educational and work environment of an individual or the community is jeopardized.”  The sponsorship of a Black “Mass” seems clearly to fall in this category.
 
I recently read these words by one of your students writing in the Harvard Crimson in defense of the university’s hate speech codes:
 
When our freedom to speak our mind impinges on someone’s freedom from fear, or on someone’s right to feel safe in their community, then that freedom should not stand unregulated in any group that wishes to create a safe and respectful society for its members. (Reed McConnell, “Why Harvard’s Hate Speech Policies are Necessary,” Harvard Crimson, April 18, 2012)
 
We could debate the desirability of hate speech policies. But have you given any consideration to the prospect that if you allow this event to go forward—an event in which the fundamental religious rituals of the Catholic faith are inverted, parodied, mocked and blasphemed—you are sanctioning an environment in which Catholics will no longer feel safe or welcome on Harvard’s campus?
 
I trust that you understand the centrality of the Mass for a Roman Catholic—it is the singular religious and spiritual act of the Catholic Faith.  While Dean Neugeboren’s office has stated that “no consecrated hosts will be used” in the Black “Mass,” Lucien Greaves, the representative of the Satanic Temple, has been less convincing.   He has simply stated that the Temple Satanists have “gone to no effort to obtain a consecrated host.”  There is a serious difference in those two statements.  The first is definitive; the latter, provided by the actual organizers of the event, smacks of carefully-worded mental reservation, and is hardly reassuring.  
 
In many respects, our two institutions could not be more removed.  Mine is a small Catholic liberal arts college; yours is a prestigious Ivy League university. And yet our work is not so radically different.  We and our institutions ought both dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom and preparing our students for some noble purposes which—it is hoped—they will discern during the years they spend with us.  These two goals presume that there is something beyond the individuals who pass through the classrooms or the individuals who, for a time, hold the offices of our institutions—some enduring principles above the change that we experience. 
 
Your remarks this past September at Morning Prayer highlight this challenge: the challenge of navigating change while maintaining some orientation towards truth and tradition.  You spoke, referencing Ecclesiastes, to that autumnal moment we both know, when a College must “renew its purposes under Heaven.” 
 
President Faust, I would urge you for a moment to consider the scheduled event at the Extension School in the face of what is beyond change, what is above the little dramas which take place at Harvard year after year “under Heaven.”  Is that Heaven so remote, so neutral, or so careless of our affairs?  The author of Ecclesiastes did not think so.
 
I have great sympathy for any college or university president faced with personal accountability for what is happening at all levels of his or her institution.  I highly doubt that you knew anything of this event until very recently.  Today, however, the matter is different. 
 
Prominent Roman Catholics, including those from the Archdiocese of Boston, have urged you to cancel this event.  Trusted alumni and current students have done the same. Thousands have signed petitions and written letters. I add my voice to this pleading chorus. As President of Harvard University, you have the ability to cancel this outrageously reckless and dangerous event. I respectfully and urgently request that you do so.
 
Sincerely,
 
William Edmund Fahey, Ph.D.
President
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
6 Manchester Street
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054
 
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