Fr. Roger J. Landry
Catholic Herald (London)
September 12, 2014
Two recent “Black Mass” controversies in the United States have awakened Catholics from spiritual somnolence with regard to the reality of Satanic worship and Eucharistic desecration.
The first happened on the campus of Harvard University in May, when New York’s Satanic Temple, in conjunction with a cultural club at Harvard’s Extension School, sought to stage what they dubbed the re-enactment of a Satanic Mass on campus.
With only four days to mobilise, intrepid Catholic students at Harvard were assisted by colleagues on other campuses, priests at the Harvard Catholic Center, faculty, alumni, 70,000 people who signed petitions, and scores of parishes and convents around the world all praying and working together to shut it down.
The massive joint effort succeeded. Harvard president Drew Faust condemned the Satanic Mass, set in motion the chain of events that killed it on campus, and attended a packed Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration and reparation with Catholic students the night the re-enactment was scheduled to take place.
The second Satanic liturgy is supposed to happen in Oklahoma City on September 21 at the Civic Center Music Hall. The Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, a group that worships Satan as the destroyer, has paid $420 (£255) to rent a theatre to conduct a public Black Mass.
On its website, it describes plainly what happens in such a Satanic liturgy. “The modern form of the Black Mass” celebrates the “perversion of the Catholic Mass.” A consecrated host is “corrupted by sexual fluids” to “mock the Catholic Mass” and “deprogramme people from their Christian background”. Normally the “altar” used is a naked woman.
The Dakhma says that it has “toned down” what members intend to do on September 21 so they won’t break state and civic laws against “nudity, public urination and sex acts”, which are a routine part of Satanic worship.
The consecrated Host that the Dakhma’s high priest Adam Daniels claimed he had obtained from a Catholic priest in Turkey to desecrate in the ceremony was returned to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City on August 21, the day after it filed a lawsuit claiming that the stolen consecrated Host, obtained under false pretences, was the property of the Catholic Church. Daniels says, however, that the Satanic Mass will still take place with his substituting “black bread” for a consecrated Host in the hope that the mockery of the Catholic Mass will still help them, as the Dakhma’s website says, “receive a ‘blessing’ from the Devil”.
All efforts by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma and many other interested parties to persuade Oklahoma City leaders and members of the Board of Directors of the Civic Center to shut down the event as a violation of state laws against blasphemy and local laws against degrading any individual’s religion or vandalising religious property have up until now failed.
What lessons have we learned from these controversies?
The first is about the way Catholic bashing is treated in contrast to other forms of offences. Episcopalian author Philip Jenkins has called anti-Catholicism the “last acceptable prejudice”.
In a letter I wrote as a Harvard alumnus to Harvard president Drew Faust in May, I argued that the university would never provide a venue to a group that wanted to burn a copy of the Koran or the Torah, engage in a neo-Nazi séance of Hitler’s spirit, re-enact the lynching of black people, or positively portray violence against gays or women. Why, I asked, would it permit at all – not to mention sanction – a ceremony invoking Satan, mocking the Catholic Mass and intending to desecrate a Host?
In the Oklahoma City situation, if the same group were trying to rent the Civic Center next April to “celebrate” the 20th anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s terrorist attack on Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people, the Civic Center would certainly find the will to refuse the event and defend itself against a potentially frivolous lawsuit.
Many political and cultural leaders, however, fail to take anti-Catholic bigotry as seriously as they do offensive actions against Muslims, Jews, blacks, gay people and grieving family members.
The second lesson is about the reality of Satan worship and black Masses. The two events in Cambridge and Oklahoma City are somewhat anomalous because they were staged by notorious publicity-hounding Satanic groups. Most diabolical worship, on the other hand, happens by committed believers in the Devil who don’t send out press releases and whose clandestine Black Masses always feature stolen consecrated Hosts.
In the early days of Black Masses, rebellious clerics consecrated the Eucharist during the ceremony before defiling the Host with spit, blood, urine, excrement, sexual fluids and blasphemies. Since renegade ex-priests willing to debase what they once adored are hard to find, however, Satan worshippers eventually began to resort to stealing consecrated hosts by breaking into church tabernacles or taking them from Mass.
Several years ago when I was a pastor in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a young woman approached me after Mass informing me that she used to participate in Satanic Masses in the nearby woods with Hosts she had stolen from Catholic parishes in the city. After listening to minute details of parishes, looting techniques and Black Mass specifics, not to mention witnessing her intense sorrow for what she had done, I concluded she was credible. She implored me to do something about how easy it is in many parishes to rip off consecrated Hosts.
The reality of Black Masses require Catholics to become as reverentially protective of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as Satan worshippers are irreverently intent on profaning Him. One of the consequences of the indult to receive Holy Communion in the hand is that it has unintentionally made pilfering consecrated hosts from inattentive ministers easy. Many parish priests tell horror stories about finding Hosts in pews and missalettes.
Priests and deacons, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and, indeed, all the faithful must become more vigilant to ensure Jesus in the Eucharist isn’t shoplifted, by ensuring that he is consumed immediately upon reception, especially when someone receives holy Communion in the hand.
I’ve occasionally heard people say in opposition to this elementary religious duty to protect the Eucharist: “The Lord can take care of himself.” But that perspective, frankly, is one of Judas Iscariot and not Mary of Nazareth.
Perhaps the most important lesson is about routine Eucharistic desecration. The Devil’s main guise is not to get people to dress in goat heads, facial makeup, black clothing and amulets, but rather to get us to distrust and disobey God. His stratagem is not to seduce multitudes to participate in occult rituals of Eucharistic sacrilege, but to entice us to receive Holy Communion unworthily or not at all.
Our response to the reality of Black Masses, therefore, can’t be just to remain hyper-vigilant about Satanists’ pilfering Hosts but to become vigilant about the far more common forms of sacrilege and the widespread nonchalance by which Catholics neglect their Eucharistic Lord altogether. While few ritually worship Satan, many unwittingly follow him. How pleased Satan must be that on any given Sunday the vast majority of Catholics have been hoodwinked into believing something else is more important than coming to be with Jesus at Mass.
But if the Devil sniggers over his success in duping people to disregard the privilege of encountering Jesus in the Mass, he’s probably even happier in having hornswoggled so many of those who still practise into treating receiving Jesus in Holy Communion unworthily.
Many now believe that, no matter the state of their soul, they’re “entitled” to receive Holy Communion as a sign of Christian hospitality. No Confession needed. No conversion needed. No communion of life needed. In short, the Father of Lies has convinced many faithful and clergy to believe that James Joyce’s famous witticism about the Catholic Church – “Here comes everybody!” – is meant to apply to the communion line.
In reaction to the proposed Black Mass at Harvard and in Oklahoma City, we’ve witnessed an astounding response of Adoration, prayer and reparation from Catholics in parishes and convents across the world. In reply to the more subtle and stock Satanic subterfuges, there needs to be a rebirth of taking Jesus in the Eucharist seriously, by showing up to be in his presence each Lord’s day and by ensuring that one and others are receiving Him in a true communion of life and love.